Developer: Medusa Head, Ratalaika Games
Genre(s): Arcade, Shooter
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on PC)
Age Rating: PEGI 18
Release Date: 15/July/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
As a horror lover, whenever I see a game with a dark-sounding name, I am always interested. As a title, Hell Pages was too intriguing for me to pass up. Going in blind, I loaded up the game and eagerly awaited the horrors.
Did this indie title deliver a fiendishly good time, or was it a torturous experience? Keep reading this rapid review to find out!
A Different Take on a Familiar Story
Hell Pages is a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up, or SHMUP, and supposedly takes place on an earth overrun by demons. The story goes that a ritual was performed in a secluded cabin that shattered the barriers between earth and hell. Demon hordes were unleashed upon the world. I won’t spoil the little story the game tells you, but don’t press A to skip the intro. Not only does it explain everything, but the story is a wonderful collection of classic horror cliches that deserves recognition.
Playing the game, you control Bael, a feared demon intent on spreading destruction. This isn’t so clear in the game, but I read it in the descriptions and on the publisher’s webpage for the game. Bael is intent on becoming the new ruler of the new demonic earth.
Rather than playing the game to save the world, you are instead playing as a demon intent on battling his way into domination. Hell Pages is a story of evil versus evil, which was a take I really enjoyed.
Imagination Run Wild
I really enjoyed the level design in Hell Pages. The different sprites were colourful and definitely fiendish in their construction. The game did a great job of taking the agony and despair of hell and painting it in a fun and vibrant way.
I have no doubt that if this game was made for a mature audience only, it could be a truly terrifying experience. The body horror, particularly on some of the bosses, was impressive, showcasing the creativity of the dev teams.
I played through the game a couple of times on different difficulties, and when you really take a moment to appreciate the details, there is so much to see and appreciate.
Not only were the different sprites interesting, but the backgrounds of each of the 10 levels were also entirely different, and each presented its own challenges that served to distract me from the enemy onslaught.
Short and Sweet
Hell Pages is not an overly long game. If you really focus on it, you can complete it in a couple of hours, certainly in easy mode. However, as a SHMUP title, that is no bad thing. Despite the fun level designs and the interesting sprites, the gameplay itself doesn’t change much. You fly from left to right while enemies come at you in all directions.
Oddly enough, I found the boss fights the easiest part of Hell Pages. I got through many of them first time of asking. However, the eyeball spaceship boss gave me quite some trouble.
There is limited scope for storytelling or game depth, but that is just how this genre works. I am no SHMUP expert, so I am sure there are exceptions to this.
You’ve Gotta Keep Moving
I am no SHMUP expert, but the first rule would always be never to stop moving. You can’t take your eye off the action for a second. One short lapse in concentration, and you’re dead. I liked that Hell Pages didn’t autosave. You have one life, and that’s it.
Unless you spend some of your coins to buy a save point at the end of each level.
At the end of each level, a buxom hell beauty offers you her wares. You can purchase up to five things with coins you collect from defeated enemies.
- Health: Your health stays the same, but you can replenish it at the end of each level.
- Magic: You can store up to three magic charges and can purchase a single charge at the end of each level. Others are found while playing.
- Scroll: Scrolls are a mandatory item to collect if you want to truly beat the game. After the ten main levels, your scrolls unlock to the actual final boss.
- Continue: Each level lets you purchase one continue and only one continue.
- Save point: Saves your game at that point, allowing you to jump back into the action without replaying the earlier levels.
Lacking in Weapon Upgrades and Choices
For everything that went into creating the environment and the sprites, I have to admit the game is sorely lacking when it comes to weapons and upgrades. In short, there don’t seem to be any. You have a weapon and a magical power, but these are not upgradeable or interchangeable.
As I was playing as one of the nastiest demons ever to wander the halls of hell, I would have expected a slightly better array of weapons. You have a sort of bubble gun and a magical power that showers the screen with blue balls, and that is it.
I wanted to see something more imaginative, especially for the ‘specials’ or magic moves. There could have been any number of weapon upgrades and special tricks that the king of demons pulls out of his hat, but no.
This does make the game a little repetitive, as there was no real sense of whether I should collect a certain weapon or not. All you had to do is hold down Y and move around.
You can also use A to change the direction two of your three guns fire in, so you can shoot behind you also. This is very handy in later levels. It would also be nice if the game told you this. There isn’t really any need for a tutorial, but a hint on the screen would have been nice. I happened to find it while looking through the game settings on the main menu.
A Hellacious Soundtrack
I loved the soundtrack to Hell Pages. Metal is exactly what you need as your ride the banging guitar riffs through the hellish world. Every level and screen has its own tune. Even better is that the game offers you access to the soundtrack outside of the game too. I am not normally one to be overly attentive to music in games, but Hell Pages, each song was a great choice, and the different tunes fit each level.
Final Thoughts on Hell Pages
Ultimately, Hell Pages is a fun game, but it’s not one you will be coming back to time and time again. SHMUPs are a genre that is booming right now, especially on the Switch. I’ve not played enough to say where Hell Pages would stand, but it would certainly be a fun title to have in a physical collection – not that it’s available.
If the game offered more in the way of weapons or maybe a couple of playable characters with different weapons and magic powers, there would be a little more longevity. Still, for the price, it is a great way to spend a lazy afternoon.
Rapid Reviews Rating
2.5 out of 5
You can buy your copy of Hell Pages from the Nintendo eShop today.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.