The overwhelming popularity of speedrunning has never really made a lot of sense to me, I admit, but that probably has more to do with my tendency to play a whole lot of games rather than focusing on perfection in any single title. There’s no question that it’s got some widespread appeal; plenty of folks seem to want to Git Gud. We’ve got games like Super Meat Boy, Speedrunners (of course), Dustforce and today’s subject SEUM: Speedrunners from Hell for exactly that kind of person.
There’s a plot here, but it’s about the most throwaway thing you can imagine: a demon’s ripped off your arm and stolen your beer! Good thing you stole his arm in return, so now you’ve got a sick demon arm! Better get into Hell and get all your beer back! You know what? I’m fine with all that. I can appreciate the motivation here, certainly I’d want to get my beer back. Anyway, that’s what we’ve got, time to get through Hell.
Hell, naturally, is a series of first-person platforming puzzles that you need to get through within a given par time to make progress. The truly ambitious can reach for Domination times, which are more stringent and seem to represent the intended goal on each level. Your moveset starts out fairly basic – run around, jump, shoot fireballs to activate switches – and expands over time via powerups that you can collect in each level. These include teleportation, flight and a sort of recall ability. Your arsenal never feels overwhelming and the point of the game seems to be more about using what you have efficiently rather than remembering what esoteric power can solve which puzzle.
SEUM, as the name might suggest, is all about speedrunning through Hell, so your goal is to get things done as quickly as possible. That means you’re going to spend a lot of time replaying levels to figure out the perfect lines; you’ll then replay them even more to really nail the execution on those lines and get everything just right. Some levels even have multiple lines you could follow, so you’ll need to spend time replaying those to determine which is the “right” answer to the puzzle.
Presentation-wise, well…it’s a traditional DOOM style take on Hell. There’s lots of blood, skulls, scary stone carvings and so on. You’ll probably be more interested in the location and position of the next precarious platform that you’re trying to jump to, but the game does look decent enough if you’re willing to throw a run away to look around a bit. Meanwhile the music and sound design consists heavy metal and lowbrow one-liners, which is absolutely a-OK and probably something the industry could use more of. It also needs to be mentioned that we’re specifically talking about the Xbox One version today, which means that you’ll be controlling SEUM with a gamepad. Having also played the PC version, I found mouse and keyboard controls vastly superior given the precision this game demands, but doing well with a controller is certainly possible.
If you’ve played games like Super Meat Boy and the thousands of me-too clones that followed that game, you’ve got the idea of what SEUM: Speedrunners from Hell is about – a frustration platformer but with a timing aspect added on. That’s going to really appeal to a certain subset of players but certainly not to everyone; make sure you’ve got the vast reserves of patience needed to stick with this game before you pick it up. Hell, as it turns out, isn’t for the weak or the easily irritated.