Your brave protagonist has descended into Hell to fight Pitchcorp, a cartoonishly evil syndicate. It’s an amoral company! It does drug running! It uses animals for pointless violence! Its members worship the devil, who may actually be the boss (excuse me, Bo$$) of the company! One guy is named Dr. Meth! You don’t need much justification or story to really fight Pitchcorp, because it’s a company of Saturday morning cartoon villains that is just begging to be destroyed.
High Hell is a game by Terri Vellmann and Doseone, and it is yet another flashy ultraviolence joint published under Devolver Digital. As previously established, you have to kill the Bo$$. That’s really kinda it? There are cutscenes that are playable minigames in between levels, but they don’t really convey any kind of story. I mean, there’s definitely anti-capitalist themes in trying to kill a company executive and burning money, but when it comes to the literal text it’s just kinda whatever.
Your gun has no ammo, so there’s nothing to worry about on your quest. Well, except for the hordes of gun toting goons. Sometimes these guys are standing guard, sometimes they’re just chilling in some break room or enjoying a company barbecue. However, they all share one thing and it’s being surprisingly effective at their jobs. A couple shots is enough to down you, and any enemies that are capable of reaching you will try to run after you if you hide. Walking into a room full of enemies without care or the ability to weave and strafe is pretty much a death sentence.
Each level has objectives to do, which is usually some cartoony crime nonsense like breaking property and killing specific weirdos. You actually don’t need to kill all the enemies on a level, but doing so does contributes to your score. There’s also a recurring side goal of burning all the piles of money on a level and there’s a hidden demon doll located on each level, which is not hard to seek out given the short length of the levels.
Every 5th level is a boss fight, which has some kinda basic puzzle element to it. Well, except for the fight against the three goat people, which super easy and anticlimactic as a result. In general though, going through these battles is quick as soon as you figure out what to do in them, so they don’t compromise on the game’s fast pacing.
High Hell is really short, and I say this as somebody that sucks shit at FPSes. I cleared it in almost 3 hours, but I remember taking a lunch break while the game was open, so my actual play time might not be that long. There are definitely some shitty Steam players that bought High Hell, finished, and refunded it within Steam’s refund period. Just complete garbage people. Probably the same kind of people that get pissed that Final Fantasy VII Remake is “only” 40 hours.
But much like a shmup, the game’s true length comes from its replayability. More specifically, High Hell is a game that encourages speedrunning, with achievements dedicated to doing so and your high score being dependent on how fast you can clear a level on top of other things. The lack of ammo concerns encourages just running and gunning and the level design – especially in later levels – encourages you to try to find more optimal routes to get through the game. The game even keeps track of the cumulative length of your best times across the levels, which I think is a nice statistic that needs to be used more in games.
Now, a casual player probably wouldn’t care too much about this stuff, but as someone that’s into watching speedruns and has recently attempted doing Streets of Rogue speedruns, I think that it’s neat to see a game geared toward that kind of player in mind, even if speedrunning an FPS isn’t my thing. Like hey, you know how Deltarune has an item specifically for speedrunners that speeds up text boxes? I’m not going to speedrun Deltarune, but there definitely is people that do that appreciate it.
The game’s music is by Doseone, who delivers an array of high energy electronic music underlined with catchy hip-hop beats to accompany your crusade to kill the Bo$$. More specifically, the game’s music falls into “satanicwave,” which is (clicks Bandcamp link)… an actual thing? Huh? Man, I really don’t know anything about music at all.
Surprisingly, every level seems to have its own track to give their own identity. However, while I love the vibes of the soundtrack, a lot of it actually blends together in my mind because a lot of the tracks are somewhat samey. It’s one of those soundtracks that I like listening to and I think it fits the game well, but I personally don’t find it particularly memorable, nor would I go out of my way to listen to it.
High Hell is alright, but people into speedrunning will get more value out of it than the average player. Like, if you’re a casual player that really cares about the amount of time they’re getting out of a game, I don’t think it’s for you. And honestly, in my opinion, not buying it is better than playing and refunding it like a scumbag.
[…] to a certain series cultivating an interest in Half-Life for me. In the indie sphere, I played High Hell – which was short but exhilarating – and Bunker Punks – which was just kinda […]