Video games are art now, don’t you know? Our betters decided this a decade or so ago. If it were possible, every game would be a walking simulator, a sad-’em-up or an emotional experience where you play as someone’s dad or dad-analogue; ideally you’d play a Dad doing sad things in a game without any combat. There’s some quality 5/5 Editor’s Choice Game of the Year million-dollar Kickstarter material right there.
Sadly, money’s still necessary to keep the industry afloat, so cretins like you and I are only allowed to enjoy the odd fun game every now and again, but only if we’re not too loud about it while the adults are crying about Sad Dad: A Narrative Experience.
Today, Hellbound is that game. No, not Sad Dad. The fun kind where you control Hellgore, a 90s-style take on Hellboy (who’s probably not a dad) where you’ll run around blasting countless demons with giant guns while platforming and searching for secrets. When you need health, you pick up a health pack rather than waiting for regeneration. Hellgore swears like a sailor the entire time. At no point does the game try to make you feel bad about any of it. It’s all very 1990s. There’s probably a plot, but who cares? Our betters are holding their noses as we speak.
Harkening back to times of old is a pretty common refuge for smaller developers; you don’t have to worry too much about innovation if you’re following a years-old template, after all, and this allows you to focus a little more on polishing up your gameplay experience. That’s where Hellbound shines. It really does end up feeling like a game from the days of yore; most people say it’s copying DOOM, but it’s really closer to the original Quake or maybe Serious Sam with its focus on vertical carnage and punishing monster damage.
Your weapon selection includes a rifle, a shotgun, a minigun and so on, basically hitting all the classic notes you used to love, and they all feel great to use against the generic demonic foes that Hellbound will pit you against. Meanwhile, they all hit pretty hard and poor play gets you killed, just like the classics.
Either way you won’t be pit against them for very long. Unlike its inspirations, Hellbound only lasts a few short hours, though it’s also got a score-based survival mode to stretch the experience a little bit longer. You won’t be the one holding your nose at the price, though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up bundled in a value package sooner than later; fifteen bucks is a steal for a solid shooter.
You’re getting a little more than what you pay for, particularly given how Hellbound looks and plays pretty well even on less powerful hardware. Again, I’m reminded of a modern version of the older Quake games, in all their polygonal glory. It’s nice.
And “nice” sums up Hellbound pretty well, ironically enough given its protagonist and overall mood. It’s a fun, hyper-gory throwback shooter that never overstays its welcome and won’t break the bank. It doesn’t involve dads or sads and if you’re walking you’re moving too slow. You don’t have to worry about melodramatic and overlong cutscenes, there’s no microtransactions and it’s not going to try to teach you anything. Except how to splatter demons. That the world is still allowed to produce games like this is both pleasant and surprising. Hellbound is certainly worth a look.