One of my favorite things to do when gaming, especially in this age of games media saturation, is to pick up a title that I know next-to-nothing about, and see what it has to offer. This is exactly what happened with Hellmut: The Badass from Hell, which has recently released on Xbox One. Developed by Slovakian studio Volcanicc, Hellmut harks back to an era when games were tough, pixelated and gory, and brings that experience right into the modern day.
There’s a brief bit of story at the start of Hellmut, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s unimportant. Essentially, you play as a scientist who has opened a gate to hell, and in the process, has gained the ability to transform into various different creatures. Using this ability, you are given the objective of gunning down as many demons as you can, all the while collecting loot and unlocking further transformations that will increase your powers and give you new skills. Hellmut plays as a top-down twin-stick shooter with more than a dash of the Bullet Hell genre, and it will test both your aim and your reflexes.
Hellmut: The Badass from Hell is by no means an easy game, and though the combat is fast-paced and fluid, rushing into a fight will quickly leave you dead and staring at the restart screen. This is a game with permadeath, and though there are some persistent qualities, such as the transformations you unlock, the majority of your hard-earned gains are lost each time you die. This was a difficult lesson to learn, especially as I’m not particularly good at the game, and before I really settled into the rhythm of the experience, I found the constant cycle of deaths and restarts quite frustrating. However, once the game clicked, I was more than willing to give it just one more go to see if I could get myself that little bit further than my previous attempts.
Each playthrough of Hellmut is broken down into stages, with every third level bringing a boss fight. A successful playthrough can be completed in about half an hour if everything goes your way, and each completion unlocks a new transformation option for your next attempt. Each transformation has its own set of weapons and abilities, and it takes a little bit of experimentation with each one before you become comfortable with their strengths and weaknesses. Similarly, it takes time to recognize the various different enemy types and their attack patterns, meaning that you’re spending at least the early part of your time with Hellmut developing strategies and figuring out the best way to come out of a scenario unscathed.
Hellmut: The Badass from Hell isn’t a particularly long experience, and it also isn’t particularly deep. There are some optional paths to take, such as challenge rooms and a tournament mode, but for the most part you will be mainlining from point-A to point-B, trying to gun down as many enemies as you can. However, for all its brevity, it has a laser-focus on offering a tightly built, fast-paced experience with speedy load times and a general sense of loosely controlled chaos. This isn’t the kind of game that you’ll get home from a busy day and play to relax, but it is the kind of game that you’ll feel accomplished at when you do well. If you can handle getting your ass kicked on a regular basis, but can learn lessons from each mistake you make, then Hellmut: The Badass from Hell is well worth your time.