Shout at the Devil
Considering I had my introduction to gaming at an early age when the third generation was in its prime and have been an avid gamer ever since, it’s slightly odd that one particular genre that is currently all the rage, took so long for me to gel with. I am of course talking about Roguelikes or Rogue-Lites, just for clarity, Roguelikes are described as a subgenre of RPG’s characterised by a mixture of dungeon crawling, procedurally generated levels, turn-based gameplay, grid-based movement and usually a permadeath mechanic. Rogue-Lites are generally much shorter games intended to be winnable within a single gaming session, in contrast to traditional roguelikes that are designed for multiple sessions of gameplay or that can be played indefinitely. These games thus may have a more narrative focus to tie into the shorter game.
In short, they are games that present a tough challenge but in a rewarding way that keeps players coming back for more until they meet with success, then make them want to do it all over again, the perfect arcade formula which granted, may not be everybody’s cup of tea. In recent years titles like The Binding of Issac, Downwell, Hades and Dead Cells have all dominated the review boards and sales charts by delivering well-crafted gameplay within amazing gaming worlds full of loot, monsters and intrigue. If you have ever wanted to try your hand at this genre then we have the perfect game for you in the form of a hellacious heavy metal romp through the depths of the underworld with Rising Hell.
A new level…of confidence…and power!
Rising Hell presents us with a simple task, escape the depths of hell by rising through its various levels, avoiding traps and slaying demons along the way. Rising Hell manages to stand apart from the competition in two key ways, first and most obvious, its vertical progression. Whereas most in the genre have you side-scrolling your way through environments, RH has us constantly heading up which makes perfect sense as many believe hell to be a realm that sits below us whereas others believe it’s trying to navigate the queuing system in an Aldi supermarket.
I found the vertical aspect added a much greater feeling of progression, fighting through the hordes of hell, slaying demonic bosses and making it to the next level, then the next and the next had a strong sense of “I will see the light at the end of the tunnel”. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for getting dressed up like king Arthurs lunchbox and venturing across landscapes swinging my sword at any who oppose me but it can sometimes be tricky to determine what type of progression is being made. Here all I needed to concern myself with was swinging my heavy metal hair and rising above the demons.
The second aspect was how simple the controls and set-up were. No over the top mechanics or fancy systems to learn here, just good old fashioned pick up and play action. Playing on Nintendo Switch B was for jump, Y to attack, X to interact and R1 provides a dash/dodge ability though, for personal preference and the benefit of my Gollum fingers, I remapped this to R2. Additional techniques include wall grabbing and a double jump, which if used correctly can result in grabbing enemies midair, tearing them apart and continuing your upwards momentum. There were times where I managed to clear an entire section of dangerous shafts filled with more spikes and hazardous things than Gene Simmons underwear draw without even touching the ground or walls which not only looked awesome but was a useful tool for the odd occasion where a level would have rising lava bubbling up underfoot.
Shoot to Thrill, Play to Kill
General combat is simplistic but by no means easy. There are three characters to choose from, two of which will need to be unlocked. Each character has their own stats and attack patterns to consider for your playstyle. Our first character, Arok, who looks like he should have been the mascot for old school WWF tag team Demolition, is a great all-rounder and a perfect starting point to get to grips with things. He has a good amount of base health and favours close combat with his fists. Along the way, temporary artefacts can be found and equipped which will drastically alter your combat. Some grant an electric shock that hits all on-screen enemies when you attack while others will provide a long whip that will lash a large area of the screen. These pickups helped keep things fresh and although there is a good range, there aren’t so many that it becomes a blind trial of how to effectively use each one allowing you to work their various powers into your combat flow at any time.
To keep you fighting fit and able to compete with the increasing difficulty Rising Hell offers a light progression system that features unlockables that can be equipped at the start of a run plus additional power-ups to accumulate along the way. The first of which stem from an XP system, during each run you will be awarded a rank and XP based on your prowess and success, this in turns levels up your overall rank and unlocks special items for you to purchase with blight coins, these are purple diamonds that are awarded for defeating bosses and some can also be found around the levels.
The second are Devil May Cry style orbs, as you slay enemies they will drop red souls which act as core currency for shop items that will be made available at the end of each area. You are presented with three options each time and tailoring these upgrades to your play style will be key. Choose whether to deal more damage when your health drops below a certain level, increase the soul drop rate by slain enemies or even have a one-time resurrection on death, the choices are varied and taking a moment to consider your options will make a big difference in your success ratio. As you rise higher and higher, accumulating more upgrades you will become more powerful than the demons of hell can possibly imagine.
Give me Fuel, Give me Fire
All of this combines to create a loud and proud rogue-lite that feels more like a badass action platformer coupled with some great visuals and a pretty awesome metal-inspired soundtrack. Overall performance is pleasing with responsive controls and fast loading times. The ability to skip animations such as purchasing items from the shop is a nice touch for those who may be in some kind of rush or looking to shave a second or two off a speedrun. As well as the core mode there is also an additional challenge mode if you really want to put your skills to the test and it will be interesting to see if additional characters will be added over time.
The graphics are really impressive with so much vibrancy and palette variation on hand which is impressive considering both the 16-Bit visual style and the hell themed level design. The only real issue I had with Rising Hell was the size of the text, most of the time I was playing in handheld mode but had to squint a bit to read it. This was partially due to the sizing but also the font style, it would be nice to see this addressed for those of us who used to sit too close to the television despite our parent’s warnings and are now paying for it.
Like every entry in this genre, Rising Hell won’t be for everyone, either because of the nature of the gameplay or the emphasis on hell and heavy metal. But if you do have a taste for Clive Barker aesthetics and have ever wanted to test the waters of this popular genre then this is certainly a good place to start, even more so as a handy free demo is available. Fast-paced action, pick up and play mechanics and some pretty badass BOSS BATTLES to conquer, it’s a great offering for the friendly price of $9.99/£7.99.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Nintendo, PlayStation
Release Date: 20/05/2021
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, Action, RPG
Developer: Tahoe Games
Publisher: Chorus Worldwide / Toge Productions
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop