Thursday, April 18

Review: Hell is Other Demons [Nintendo Switch eShop]


OK, so there are a whole lot of shooters on the eShop and I’ve come to the table championing a ton of them, though usually I find myself being partial to the twin-stick variety. We’ve got arcade, roguelikes, vertical, side-scrolling, bullet hell… is there still room for something more? While I initially wasn’t so sure about Hell is Other Demons, a pixel-art arcade platforming shooter, once the upgrades started to kick in I quickly became a fan.


In terms of core controls Hell keeps things simple on the surface, you have a double jump, a dash, your primary fire, and then an ultra weapon you can power up and use to do some major damage if you’re feeling overwhelmed. What you’ll learn quickly though is that you’re far more agile and capable than those basics would imply, as bouncing off enemy heads will reset your jump and holding down the jump button will allow you to glide down slowly. Throw in some terrific power-ups and you’ll find you can become quite capable and even formidable.


There are two ways to play the game and I’m actually a big fan of both. Where most indie shooters tend to have their primary mode and then another one or two that are there but don’t always differentiate each other well, in this case they’re very different experiences. In Campaign mode you’ll be working on slowly building up and pretty well crafting your character, completing stages, collecting jewels, and then purchasing and managing the loads of upgrades that become available to you the further into the map you get. By contrast, Arcade mode is pretty well a pure roguelike where new weapons will show up periodically for you to switch to (in order to keep you from sticking with one of the more powerful ones changing weapons will also replenish some of your health) and then as you level up you’ll get to choose between some random upgrades. This gets even more diverse as you unlock new classes that have different plusses and minuses to consider and help keep the mode fresh.


What really makes the game stand out are the weapons and how powerful you’ll become when you then pair them with smart and complimentary perks that either enhance their use or help to compensate for their weaknesses. In Arcade mode you don’t have much control over this so your runs will tend to vary in success, sometimes wildly if you happen to be blessed or cursed with great options. In Campaign mode you’ll always be managing upgrade slots that limit what you’re able to combine so you’ll need to find combinations that work for you or simply grind a little more to give you more slots to work with. This gives both modes their own distinct feel and charm, and really helps to elevate the package as a whole.


All things considered, Hell is Other Demons is a very good platforming shooter that plays smart, is challenging, and ultimately will support a wide variety of styles through its varied weapons and upgrades. While in docked mode the characters may look a bit chunky that means in handheld mode everything is very easy to see and helps make play on the go all the more viable. Each increasingly-powerful weapon you get to work with tends to encourage different styles of play and that keeps things consistently interesting and exciting. This is yet another shooter deserving of your time and attention and it deserves a place among the top tier of titles in the genre on Switch.

Score: 9

Pros:
  • The Campaign and Arcade modes play very differently and deliver both a challenge and fun
  • Variety is the name of the game when it comes to weapons and perks, which then sets the stage for people putting together their own combinations that will best suit their style
  • Looks and plays great in handheld mode

Cons:
  • Until you get the hang of things and begin to upgrade it can feel a bit more flat
  • The scale of everything, though it works great when playing handheld, can feel a bit claustrophobic and opens the door to issues where you can be shot by enemies just out of your view