A Devilish Gem

HIGH Such dark humor is rare in the industry.

LOW The combat is underwhelming.

WTF Is speaking forbidden in hell?

Hell Pie is a third-person platforming adventure about the difficulties of being a nine-to-five worker in hell. Initial impressions are that it’s just cute, but there are deeper and creepier elements here.

Hell Pie tells the story of Nate, the “Demon of Bad Taste”. Nate is a pencil pusher in hell’s offices, but things take an unlikely turn when he’s tasked with finding ingredients to make a birthday cake for the prince of hell himself. To that end (and before Satan turns things excruciating for our protagonist) Nate embarks on this shopping-themed journey.

Nate is accompanied by a pet angel on this adventure. The poor thing is chained to Nate’s horn and used as both a melee weapon during combat and as a grappling hook of sorts that allows Nate to swing across platforms. Players can upgrade Nate’s abilities by finding food cans for the angel and he can also switch between demonic horns — each has a specific power, such as lighting up dark places or destroying obstacles.

The combat in Hell Pie is… too simple. Though there are different types of enemies, most can be vanquished with a single hit. Therefore, there is no need for strategy when facing enemies, and that turns the combat into meaningless button-mashing.

On the other hand, the platforming and exploration are where the focus of Hell Pie lies. The swinging mechanic plus other standard acrobatics such as double jumps and an air dash allows the player to reach nearly anywhere. Knowing this, the developers have added tons of verticality. Even one-off rooms in some random sub-level may contain a collectible or item near the ceiling or in other another equally hard-to-reach place.

Speaking of collectibles, no platformer is complete without them and Hell Pie is no exception. There are different types in hell, each serving a different purpose. Besides the angel’s food cans, there are purple crystals that can be exchanged for skins and cosmetics, unilambs (lambs with a horn) that can be brutally sacrificed to unlock new horns, and golden cats that can be sold to gain access to a special room filled with premium stuff. These are all fine adds that make it more enjoyable to explore each finely-designed world.

One distinctive feature of Hell Pie is its darkly comedic sense of humor that comments on a variety of social and political subjects. Each world in hell is populated with inhabitants dealing with important issues in their daily life. For example, 400,000 people are waiting in a hospital emergency room. In another, there’s a sushi bar operating inside a stranded whale on top of a mountain. Customers are eating the whale from the inside while animal rights activists are protesting from outside, demanding the beast’s return to hell’s oceans.

Although Hell Pie provides no choices or player agency to solve such scenarios, the harsh and dark sensibilities of the writers and their indirect comments on issues creates a thought-provoking experience. Unfortunately, there’s no voice acting! All dialogue is text-based and reading comments or conversations that sometimes pop up while swinging above deadly pits is usually impossible.

Overall, Hell Pie is innovative in the platforming space, both in narrative and the verticality and mobility of its mechanical design. It might be flying under most radars, but to me this was one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had all year.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Sluggerfly and published by Headup. It is currently available on PC, XBO, XBSX/S, PS5, PS4 and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and was reviewed on PC. Approximately 8 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: The ESRB rating is M. There is Blood and Gore, Cartoonish Violence and Mild Sexual Themes. Definitely not for kids here, it’s filled with violent combat and gore, including scenes of torture.

Colorblind Modes: There are colorblind modes.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game has subtitles and they cannot be resized or altered. There are no audio cues in the gameplay, and the game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game’s controls are remappable.

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