by Jordan Helsley
reviewed on PC
Just another day at the office
Nate, the Demon of Bad Taste, is having a normal day at the office, until the phone rings. It’s Satan, and he’s dialled the wrong number. Like a true corporate overlord, he doesn’t seem to know who Nate is, care, or even consider that he's about to give him a task that is very much not in Nate's department. Satan needs his birthday pie, and it’s Nate's job now to ensure the chef delivers. The chef, of course, has forgotten all about the special event and is missing ingredients. The hospitable Nate agrees to help, lest he incurs the Devil Lord's wrath.
Running fetch quests in Hell might seem redundant, but that’s exactly the series of tasks at hand. As Nate, you venture to a series of worlds in search of the grotesque ingredients for the legendary pie. Along the way, you'll find a litany of minor characters, settings, and enemies that flesh out Hell Pie's version of the underworld. It comes together nicely with consistent art direction that shines even in a low-polygon, PS1-era form. The consistency here blends with the humour (or attempts at humour, depending on your sensibilities) to form a cohesive universe. The devilish characters seem to revel in a certain level of misery while being perturbed by normally innocuous events. It makes a majority of the characters feel a little oafish because of their misunderstanding of anything outside of Hell's tortures. This style rarely faults, but there are a few instances where it is hard to tell friend from foe. Best to just attack everything like the demon you are.
The gameplay is similarly late-90s. Despite the high resolution, it’s an experience that could fool you into thinking it’s something you missed on Sony’s first console. Another platformer from its predecessors' moulds. Out of that mould comes Nate, and a companion he gains early on: a cupid on a chain named Nugget. Nugget isn't just along for the ride, though. He's also your weapon, a traversal mechanic, a customizable character, and the source of most of the quips. Swinging him around on his chain allows you to attack enemies and boxes, while he can use his minimal flight capabilities to anchor in the air, allowing you to swing across gaps. Nugget is the star of the show. Without him, Nate would surely fail.
Nugget is also the beneficiary of most of the upgrades you can acquire to enhance your playtime. Like the games of old, you're going to be doing a significant amount of hunting and collecting to increase your abilities. None of those standard abilities are necessary, but they absolutely help. A separate collectible allows Nate to change out his horns for unique abilities. His standard horns provide a detective vision-like filter, giving you hints to locations you might find helpful. The first of several horns, however, gives you a set of rockets to increase run speed, and thus jump distance for long gaps. A few other helpful, but not required, horns are available if you fancy searching for the required currency.
It’s a fun game to explore, and, if you enjoy it, there are plenty of massive and distinct areas in which to do so. At first, they felt too large. Then, they became more manageable simply through experience. Last, they become cumbersome again. Hell Pie starts to wear out its welcome roughly halfway through. The large areas are pleasant, and they feature smaller dungeons to break up the gameplay, but the gameplay variety simply isn't there. It wasn't until the last act of the game, far beyond where I likely would have stopped under normal circumstances, that the formula shifted in a cool way. Points for sticking the landing, but it’s hard to get there.
Aside from a few instances where your landings become hard to calculate, this platformer that relies on jumping and movement puzzles largely comes together. I almost expected a game steeped in the depths of hell to be a bit more devilish to its players, but the parts of the game that work as intended are minimally challenging. That’s probably Hell Pie's biggest fault: it doesn't do enough to stand out. This genre of game is having quite the resurgence, and I'm afraid it won't stand the test of time. At the end of my experience, I enjoyed the game as a whole, but a large part of that depended on my need to finish it for review. I doubt it ends up on many game of the year lists come December, but Hell Pie puts forth a solid effort to rekindle the golden age of platformers.
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Well realized world, Humour isn’t too forced, Unique story and characters.
Overstays its welcome, Character upgrades are a bit underwhelming, More outdated than nostalgic