Hell Is Other People (And Demons, I Suppose)

HIGH Sending an army of hacked drones and combat robots to do my bidding.

LOW Getting too cocky and being blown to smithereens because of it.

WTF This base sounded like a nightmare before all Hell broke loose…

Stop me if this seems familiar —  A space marine’s ship goes down near Jupiter’s moons.  Upon landing, he discovers the zombified remains of his former compatriots, and demons/monsters running amok. Arming himself with shotguns, pistols, a chainsaw, and anything else he can find, he tries to piece together what happened and sends those beasties back to Hell.

Jupiter Hell began life as a turn-based, roguelike homage to a certain well-known space marine franchise, but has now been reborn with a new (if not necessarily original) storyline featuring familiar (yet different!) enemies and weapons, and a shiny new 3D upgrade.  It deftly manages to feel fast-paced while allowing a player time to think before every movement or action. 

The game tells its sparse story through the use of a few well-animated cut-scenes, but primarily through text in the form of emails in terminals found throughout various levels.  Most of these communiques provide a few tidbits of useful information (such as the location of caches of weapons) along with a fair amount of world-building, establishing the local forces as nasty, sneaky, and downright homicidal… and that’s before the demons take over. The solid writing is a nice bonus and provides an interesting glimpse into the universe of Jupiter Hell.  Also, after slaughtering numerous foes, our hero periodically tosses off ’80s-flavored one-liners (which can be turned off) which add to the camp factor, and I found them entertaining, or at least inoffensive.

Played from a isometric-3D perspective with a slightly angled camera view, Jupiter Hell sees players controlling the protagonist on a turn-by-turn basis where time moves only when an input is entered.  While this means that Jupiter Hell can be played slowly and deliberately, the sometimes-cavernous levels are often sparse enough to encourage faster decision making, but the important thing to note is that if one decides to move quickly down a hallway or through a room, everything pauses when an enemy appears. This pause allows for taking advantage of available cover, or perhaps firing a few rounds into a conveniently-placed explosive barrel.

Jupiter Hell allows players to customize their experience via character upgrades and unlockable perks/feats. Initially, players have a choice of a combat-heavy marine, a scout with abilities based on locating map exits immediately (every level is obscured via fog-of-war until explored) and my personal favorite, the technician who starts with a few multitools to hack security drones and fix broken equipment. As players gain levels both by killing enemies and accomplishing other tasks, points are awarded which may be spent on enhancements. I chose to make my technician an unstoppable mega-hacker capable of taking over all drones simply by walking into an area. 

Regardless of any upgrades, prepare to be killed early and often.  Even on Easy, Jupiter Hell is ready to pounce on mistakes and it absolutely punishes hubris.  I felt fairly invincible on more than one occasion with my army of drones, only to be annihilated by a swarm of higher-level baddies I wasn’t expecting. However, while difficult, it doesn’t feel unfair.  My character’s untimely demise was always my fault, and the result of a bad decision.

As enjoyable as it is (and it is a blast!) there are a few drawbacks to Juipter Hell that prevent it from being better. 

First, it tends to overwhelm players with information. There are lengthy descriptions of various actions, weapons statistics and modifications, character upgrades, and status effects that took me several runs to feel fully comfortable with.  It also locks pertinent information behind several sub-menus.  For example, I picked up a shotgun with the “Cleanup” ability.  While I knew it was superior to my current weapon, it took too much investigation work to determine exactly what the perk did. 

Similarly, there are several types of elevators, some of which may lead to superior loot, but I had difficulty keeping track of the color coding.  While there is a full tutorial, I would appreciate a more streamlined UI and more readily-accessible information that can be seen at a glance.  A minor nitpick is that at the default camera zoom level, it’s almost impossible to see enemies clearly as they’re so far away, but zooming in prevents players from seeing enough of the map to safely navigate. 

With its fast pace and emphasis on explosive action, Jupiter Hell is a more-than-welcome addition to the ranks of the roguelike genre. Even without the nods to its better-known brethren, it still packs quite a wallop. It isn’t perfect, but I loved blasting demons and zombified minions too much to care. Now, where is that chainsaw?

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by ChaosForge and published by Hyperstrange. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 7 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, representing numerous failed runs.  The game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: This game is not rated by the ESRB. The developers describe it as follows: This game may contain content not appropriate for all ages, or may not be appropriate for viewing at work: Frequent Violence or Gore, Strong Language and General Mature Content.”  The game is graphically violent featuring repeated murders of both human and non-human foes.  It is common to see fairly realistic blood splatter and seeing enemies explode into meaty pieces.  There is no option to turn off gore effects.  The game can also be extremely profane, featuring multiple varieties of the F-word and similar coarse language.  The frequency of this profanity can be adjusted (or eliminated) in the game’s settings.   

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

 Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. All dialogue is both fully voiced and fully subtitled.  There are audio cues that do not have a visual component (moans from humanoid enemies, beeps/mechanical whirring from electronics).  I cannot determine if these cues represent actual gameplay elements or if they are meant to merely be atmospheric.  They offer no gameplay advantage as no off-screen attacks are possible.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.

Jeff Ortloff
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