Switch version tested
Review code provided
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then Hellmut: The badass from Hell, is one boiled bunny away from having a restraining order placed on it. Hellmut, from developer Volcanicc, is the latest to indie to hit the Nintendo Switch sporting the roguelike, procedurally generated, twin-stick shooter moniker made famous by genre stalwarts The Binding of Isaac and Enter the Gungeon.
The setup has the player take on the role of a mad scientist who opens a portal to hell summoning Beelzebub to our realm. Upon the arrival of the demon, our protagonist requests the gift of immortality for opening the gateway. And like anytime you make a deal with the devil, monkey paw-esque results ensue. The scientist is reduced to a skull and leaky spinal cord who can live forever by possessing one of a handful of abominations known as mutations. Each of these mutations has their own base weapon and special attack like the Stitchmonster who throws hammers, that while not powerful slow the charging mobs. In addition, he can charge forward delivering a devastating tackle that can get you out of trouble quickly. Others like the Orc Fairy, a personal favourite, come locked and loaded with an anal rainbow firing cat that is a sight to behold. Underneath the humour and light horror dressing, Hellmut is at its a core a reskin of Enter the Gungeon. Levels are procedurally generated rooms that you traverse freely, only being locked in a few, looting dead enemies for coins, soul gems (blue or pink), perks and guns. The structure is set that there are two levels then a boss fight in repeating fashion. Each level has a shop where players can buy health packs, and gear. In addition, they can partake in a game of Hell Invaders (a clone of Space Invaders). Here you have the opportunity to earn additional loot but ultimately serves no real purpose. Each stage also presents a time challenge in the form of the Tome of KA-RA. Here players spend a specific number of the collected blue soul gems for a chance at unlocking a new mutation to use on their current playthrough. You are tasked with killing a set number of enemies in a specific amount of time. While not overly challenging, this is an important task to be undertaken as additional mutations are the same as extra lives in this game.
Hellmut being a roguelike means you will die a lot and often and each time you do, it’s back to the character select screen. While successful playthroughs result in additional base mutations to use, the initial selection is two characters, Stitchmonster and Rat King. When one is defeated you revert back to the base level of the floating skull. This is where grabbing additional mutations via the Tome challenges gives you a second or third chance as you can swap mutations on the fly…sort of. Unfortunately, the controls work against the player in this situation. With it being a twin-stick shooter the base controls all feel fine and responsive. Movement is handled with the left stick while aiming is mapped to the right. Firing is handled via ZR while ZL loads up your special. The issue arises when trying to switch mutations. Players must press X which brings up a mini menu. Once this is opened up you have to select your mutation using the right stick. In the heat of a battle, this is cumbersome and can result in death quickly as you are unable to attack when the menu activated. Weapons can be quickly swapped via L/R.
Visually, Hellmut is a retro-inspired pixel art game not dissimilar to others in the genre. The added gore elements are nice but certainly not as over the top as you would be lead to believe with it having an on/off toggle for gore in the options. Skeletons explode into a shower of the same generic bone all over the screen and the monstrosities die underwhelming deaths. The same is true for the player controlled mutations. The limited animation set for each character is very apparent as just standing still lets you see basically everything you’re going to see with your character. Some of the weapons and characters do not even hold their weapons as they appear to just be floating around their chest. The levels themselves lack any real personality and only show any real change every third stage. Once you’ve played through once you have seen everything that it has to offer as rooms feel familiar after a couple of sessions.
Audio-wise, Hellmut steps things up with some satisfyingly violent sounding weapons. The generic monster sounds are easily drowned out by the punchy bass backed sounds the weapons produce as you unload the masses. There is a real joy in finding or buying bigger and better guns, just to listen to them shred the enemies as you assert your dominance in this domain. The backing soundtrack is suitable and never feels out of place.
Hellmut: The Badass from Hell, is by all accounts, hoping players succeeded in killing the past in Gungeon. Almost every facet of the game looks and feels like a reskin of the perennial favourite roguelike shooter. Unfortunately, it does not expand upon the formula in any meaningful way that would help it stand out amongst the crowd. The wonderful sound design is hampered by the generic feel the rest of the game delivers. The lack of any real sense of progression save for unlocking base mutations from completing the game is disappointing. There is some fun to be had, but more to have elsewhere.
TBG Score: 6/10
Platform: Steam, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 03/05/2019
No. of Players: 1-2
Category: Shooter, Action, Arcade
Download link: eShop