Games like Helltaker always grab my attention when I’m browsing the free to play titles on Steam.
As a fan of anime and graphic novels, an Indie title with a heavily drawn aesthetic checks a lot of my boxes.
Plus, Helltaker offers another bonus. This is a game that reminds me of those gyms from the Pokémon series. You know, the ones where you have to press buttons or slide around the ice in a certain order.
Challenges like those are annoying at first, but they’re oh-so-satisfying when you complete them.
Designed by Vanripper, and the only game the company has to its name on Steam right now, Helltaker is a title created for puzzle-heads.
This one-player game is all about traversing the path to hell and meeting several cute demon girls on the way.
Let’s take a closer look.
The Road to Hell is Paved with Cute Anime Girls
Helltaker starts with a suave dude, caught up in a dream. He’s imagining a world where he has a handful of demon girls at his beck and call.
I’m sure some of you have had similar fantasies before, right? Except, unlike your standard anime fan, this protagonist is determined to make his dream come true.
Your character decides to leave his world behind and venture into the bowels of hell. Fortunately, hell just happens to be packed full of gorgeous girls, and maze-style puzzles to overcome.
I’ll be honest, I found the “story” of the game, a bit basic. However, the gameplay itself is pretty fun, and the art style makes up for a lot. This isn’t exactly the next Skyrim, but it’s one of the more interesting ways to spend an afternoon if you just want to keep your mind busy.
To make the puzzles a bit more challenging, you only have a set number of moves to make it from one side of the maze to the other.
If you run out of will (basically stamina points), you’re thrown back to the beginning of the level to start again.
Every move you take uses a certain amount of will. For instance, you need double will to jump over a spike. There are stones to break, which take up energy too. Plus, you’ve got a bunch of enemies to battle if you want to reach the hot girl at the end of the path.
Solve the Riddle and Get the Girl
The purpose of Helltaker is simple enough. You complete a series of short movement puzzles to reach each potential demon bride. As the game progresses, the levels get tougher. Fortunately, Helltaker introduces you to each new mechanic in a way that’s smooth and simple.
The whole experience feels a lot like trying to complete a Rubik’s cube. Everything has its own time and place. The number of moves you get is just enough to reach the end of the room and nothing more. That means that there’s absolutely no room for error.
It might sound a little too challenging, and there will be times when you need to restart. However, the nature of the puzzles makes the whole experience feel a little more immersive. Another bonus? The complexity of some of the later puzzles will make the game feel a bit longer. There are only a handful of levels to explore, after all.
For the most part, the difficulty curve in this game is smooth and predictable. However, the final level is a much different experience. Without giving anything away, you’ll have to respond much faster to some turn-based events in this last room.
For most of the game (consisting of 10 levels in total), time is on your side. Sure, you only have a certain number of moves to use, but you don’t have to rush them. You can sit and think about your next step for as long as you want.
The final level, on the other hand, is something else entirely. Think about the kind of experience that you have facing Flowey at the end of Undertale, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
However, unlike with Undertale, you have a lot more control in this last boss battle. If you have the right reflexes and a little experience with bullet hell games, you’ll be fine.
Another bonus with Helltaker is that the game saves at each phase you encounter with the boss.
If you do die, then you don’t have to go through the entire fight over and over again.
Helltaker Review: Getting to Grips with Gameplay
Although you will get through the boss battle at the end of the game eventually, I found it to be quite a big shock compared to the rest of the game.
I would have liked a little more preparation. Maybe some more boss battles strewn throughout earlier levels would have helped things.
Still, even the sudden shock of the boss event didn’t put me off this title completely. Even with the slightly cringey story, and a sudden change of pace, Helltaker is a good game.
I liked the way it put my brain to the test, and the visuals are absolutely fantastic.
The movement style and animations reminded me of games like Super Meat Boy. Although the graphics are a bit simpler here.
Another excellent feature is the fun soundtrack. There’s a great chiptune style to the music to make you feel like you’re back in the arcade.
Probably the biggest complaint I have about Helltaker is that it’s unfortunately short. I was left wanting a few more levels at the end of everything.
However, you could definitely look at that as a positive sign.
Another interesting bonus is you can actually buy the digital artbook from Vanripper. It might seem a bit strange that the game itself is free, and the artbook costs money, but hey – to each their own.
Overall, I’d consider Helltaker to be a surprisingly charming game.
You don’t get the same depth as you would from other, similarly styled indie titles. But you do get a fun experience – and it comes for free.
If you’re looking for something short and sweet that will delight your eyes and your ears, Helltaker is a good choice.
Just remember to turn up the volume when you play. Oh, and prepare your fingers for that final boss battle.