I’d like to make a confession: I’ve only played two games in the increasingly popular roguelike genre, FTL: Faster Than Light and Enter the Gungeon. While fun, they reminded me too much of coin-op arcade games–built to be punishingly difficult in order to grub for more quarters. Today, though I see roguelike titles seem to gravitate toward players who work out the game metrics in order to have a good run. It’s all about going as far as you can and, ideally, getting a little bit farther than your last playthrough. I can see why players would love these kinds of titles, but I thought for some time that they weren’t for me. So imagine my surprise when Hellmut: The Badass from Hell, not only grabbed my attention, but also kept it for a good long time. Developed by the two-man Slovakian studio, Volcanicc, and published by Grindstone, Helmutt takes obvious cues from Enter the Gungeon, but brings a more arcade-style sensibility to create an accessible, yet still challenging experience.
You begin Hellmut as a floating skull, the last piece of a mad scientist who conjured up a demon from Hell in the hope of receiving immortality. After having both your body and hopes firmly dashed, you make a pact with a more otherworldly entity in order to exact your revenge.
As a floating skull, you’re pretty fast and you can shoot a small spread shot, but you’re also really fragile. To compensate, instead of acquiring a multitude of weapons, you acquire different creatures to transform into; first by collecting soul stones and then completing a timed challenge room. Each creature you transform into has a main weapon, a special ability, and a unique look created through some very well done pixel art.
Speaking of pixel art, Hellmut tackles the style very well. Everything from monsters, to bosses, to the look of your transformations, all stand out with some impressively fluid animation. It might not look as polished as other titles using pixel art, but it’s endearing.
The main focus of Hellmut is to shoot lots of demons and not die. This might look easy at first, as these procedurally generated stages will keep things open for you to move around and keep the hordes of demons at bay while you plink away at them with your weapon (and form) of choice. But soon the rooms gets tighter, the demons hordes come in greater waves, and before you know it the screen is filled with bullets and monsters. At Hellmut ‘s best you’ll be circle-strafing around room keeping one step ahead of charging demons, dodging bullets, and blasting at each fresh new wave. At its worst, later levels can be so swamped with enemies it’s hard to make out what’s going on. You can quickly lose several transformations before a fight is even over.
Hellmut is never stingy with temporary power ups, currency to spend at shops in each stage, and a collection of powerful weapons–which helps. Very easily a player can find the right form to take and give it several upgrades as they progress through each level. However, even with increased firepower and greater health, one solid demon swarm or one exploding barrel can destroy your cherried-out form, leaving you with lesser developed back up transformations to fall back on.
Despite the occasional bone thrown your way, Hellmut is a pretty brutal game. Though in comparison, it’s not as outright savage as some other titles in the roguelike genre. If you’re interested in playing roguelike games, Hellmut is a decent place to start. If you already love these kinds of challenges, Hellmut won’t disappoint.
Hellmut: The Badass from Hell is available now on Steam and on GOG.