Today’s game feels like an amalgamation of a couple pretty niche games: a bit of Downwell and Blaster Master, wrapped into bite-sized, wave-clearing levels you might see on Mobile. Hell is Other Demons is a run-and-gun platformer with two fairly distinct modes: an arcade and a story. While the arcade mode is catered towards rogue-like fans and leaderboard chasers, the story mode eases you into the stage types, enemies, and bosses. While the game isn’t boasting a behemoth of a campaign, the controls and gameplay loops are pretty satisfying to master.
Let’s break down the story mode: there is an overworld map with branching levels that connect to normal levels, shops, or bosses. Each level supports up to three missions: kill all enemies via jumping, kill all enemies without taking damage, and kill all enemies without using a special move. Before you enter a mission, you can customize a loadout with one gun, one special move (often a screen killer), and a variety of passives/upgrades. You cannot equip everything; you are limited to a finite number of upgrade points to spread across your loadout.
Once you enter the level, things are fairly straightforward; you start off with a single jump which refreshes upon stomping and finishing off enemies, an invincible midair/grounded dash, and one of your guns which all have infinite ammo and different rates of fire and range. Survive up to five waves of enemies that spawn on each map: as you proceed, platforms will move, and spikes and lasers will assault you. The game is very streamlined; this can be seen as a blessing and a curse. I’ll start with some of the negatives: assuming you disregard the missions, you can quite easily breeze through the levels. Bosses, fortunately, are fairly threatening and offer differing experiences and attack patterns. In some bosses, and later levels, I experienced significant frame drops during handheld play sessions likely because of the increased enemies/bullets on screen. I sincerely hope the developers address this issue, as there were times where a sudden freeze would immediately end my run. As for positives: deftly outmaneuvering enemy spawns and lining up kills is very gratifying. I did find that the two-way shot was often seemingly the most effective weapon across the campaign, but I’ll get into weapons during arcade mode. The music is pretty catchy, the pixel art across the worlds is unique, and the varying enemy types do present new challenges for the player. For example, early on, staying on one side of the screen is an excellent strategy, but with tracer bullets and spinning lasers, it isn’t unstoppable. Overall, story mode presents handmade levels and a pretty great learning curve that hones your reflexes and your instincts.
The arcade mode contains rogue-like elements: every few stages you get a powerup, there are a number of characters to start with that have different stats and weapons, and you play until you die and reset. Alongside missions, I think the arcade mode is a fine way to showcase your mastery of the game’s mechanics. It takes a little while to unlock all the characters, and you are often forced to use different weapons throughout your run. It helps bolster the replayability of the game, and provides an endless source of new content.
Overall, Hell is Other Demons is a fun, fast-paced, 2D-shooter with tight controls and good map design. I implore you to try your hand at the missions, as it’s pretty interesting changing up your approach to compensate for your lack of a weapon. If you prefer a more traditional or meatier experience, this game might not be for you. But I think Hell is other Demons is a great game in short bursts with a simple premise, but rewarding gameplay.
Hell is other Demons was developed by Cuddle Monster Games
Available for $9.99 (Switch), $9.99 (PC)
A Switch review copy was provided by the developer.
Hellfirebam has awarded Hell is Other Demons The Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval.