Review: High Hell


Corporate greed meets murderous speed

A woman, clad in a baseball jacket and a creepy mask (or is it?), kicks down the door of a crime-lord's penthouse office. Righteous light blazes, gunshots ring out, flames ignite, bodies fly across the room with reckless abandon and then, in the blink of an eye, she leaps from a nearby thirty-story window, parachuting to safety, leaving in her wake wanton carnage, twitching bodies and burning drug money.

This whole act took her eleven seconds.

That is, more or less, how stages play out in Devolver Digital's new frenzied first-person shooter High Hell, developed by Terri Vellman of Heavy Bullets fame, and scored by Doseone, responsible for the equally ballistic soundtrack for Enter the Gungeon. High Hell is a shooter where speed, precision, and split-second efficiency reward the player with a mind-melting experience, taking them to the very edge of a wretched corporate inferno.

High Hell (PC)
Developer: Terri Vellman, Doseone
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Released: October 23, 2017
MSRP: $9.99

High Hell is a very short, very simple, but incredibly intense speed-shooter. The player assaults twenty missions in rapid-fire succession, taking out the henchmen of the "Pitchcorp." company's many offices. We don't know why our hero is on these homicidal assaults, we aren't exactly sure what Pitchcorp. does, or what relevance it has to her. All we know is she is on a one-woman crusade to burn the sleazy conglomerate to the ground, sabotaging its plans, massacring its employees, and saving its menagerie of chimps and goats, before facing off with the head honcho: Bo$$.

While the game is a standard first-person shooter in theory, the genre has been stripped right back to its basics: One weapon, no reloading, run, jump, and crouch, with the left trigger activating a zoom for long-distance aiming. Our girl can only take a few hits, and very few levels have health pickups. The intent is for the player to clear out the level at blistering speed, completing side-missions, utilising dead-aim accuracy, then making a daring parachute escape once complete.

Though you can edge gently through each level, cheap-shotting enemies from around corners, it essentially defeats the object of High Hell which clearly, clearly, fancies itself as a speedrunner's dream shooter. Run 'n' Gun is the modus operandi here; Shoot fast. Shoot first. Don't get shot.

The game has a distinctive aesthetic style, all fat shapes, insane ragdoll physics, and eye-meltingly harsh tones. The whole image itself has a hazy "colour-bleeding" effect to it, giving the impression of a nightmare or some other ethereal atmosphere. Sound is punchy, with the game backed by an excellent, angry, and pulse-pounding soundtrack by Doseone. This is a game intended to be played LOUD.

High Hell takes its challenge seriously. Mouse and Keyboard controls only (no gamepad support) to encourage precision aiming and frame-perfect platform jumping. There are also a few tricky boss fights and some particularly nasty enemies in the latter stages. Though most players will topple Pitchcorp. eventually, few will truly master the game's open approach to level negotiation.

The whole game can be completed in around two hours, but with practice, the intent is for you to get it under fifteen minutes. Shaving valuable seconds off of your record with each subsequent run, while also uncovering new routes, and completing each stage's sidequests as you replay them over and again.

Mention must also be made of the game's mysterious metaphorical narrative. All the pieces are there, you just have to put the story together yourself. The nihilism and chaos of the universe is also reflected in bizarre mini-games played during the load screens, which involve gorging on wieners, throwing corpses into a ball-pool, and scaring a room full of hapless goats with an air horn.

High Hell is a challenging, cathartic, and unique shooter. There is beauty in its obnoxious aesthetics, and satisfaction in its fast-moving, mouse-mashing violence. It is a very short game, but one I expect to see become a darling of speedrun weekends and Twitch streams. High Hell is an anarchic injection of neon-pink adrenaline, made with a dirty needle. At only ten bucks, it's a dang cheap way to stick it to The Man.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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High Hell reviewed by Chris Moyse



Impressive effort with a few noticeable problems holding it back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.
How we score:  The Destructoid reviews guide


Chris Moyse
Chris MoyseSenior Editor   gamer profile

Chris has been playing video games since video games began... still terrible at them. Former Saturday Night Slam Master, rambles nostalgically like Abe Simpson. I ain't here to fight, so let's no... more + disclosures



Also on Destructoid: High Hell   (1)   From our database:

  • Review: High Hell - Chris Moyse
  • Kick the cocaine, save the monkeys, burn the cash in High Hell - Brett Makedonski
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    Filed under... #Action #Devolver Digital #First-person shooter #Indie #PC #reviews #Speedruns #Steam



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