Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
I’m still reeling from last week’s big-budget blowout that brought us Super Mario Odyssey, Wolfenstein II, and Assassin’s Creed Origins, but I somehow managed to squeeze one more game into my rotation. Devolver Digital, the boutique publisher of off-kilter indies, teamed back up with Terri Vellmann to put out his latest first-person shooter, a wild, ultra-hard head rush of a game called High Hell. Vellmann’s last release was Heavy Bullets, a clever, underplayed FPS roguelike that was all about inching your way through an always changing dungeon. High Hell is the polar opposite, a blazing fast throwback to classic shooters with short, static levels that need to be deciphered and dedicated to memory if you stand a chance of surviving them. Oh, and the game has a bizarre sense of style that’s an absolute riot.
As far as I can tell, you’re an agent—whether of justice or some rival organization—who has been sent to infiltrate and tear down a drug cartel run by the devil himself. Every level is an assemblage of rooftops and catwalks and tiny rooms filled with gun-toting lesser demons and their drug ring paraphernalia. You sprint through the bricks of coke and stacks of money, kicking in doors and blasting demons while searching out your objectives, and once the work is done, you finish the level by jumping off the building. It’s a perfectly ridiculous way to cap off the manic, adrenaline-generating action in each stage.
The speed, simplicity, and high difficulty keep High Hell compulsively playable, but its oddball personality is just as engaging. Beyond all the suited-up demon thugs, you’ll have to contend with dog-headed enforcers, anthropomorphic goat managers, brainwashed chimps, and a man known only as “Professor Meth.” You can pull out a lighter and burn all the dirty money you see lying around, for no real reason other than to bump up your score, and between each stage is a unique interactive loading screen that lets you screw around with the game’s objects and characters. One might have you flinging sausages and the occasional cigarette butt onto a grill; another has each click of the mouse summon something you can watch fall down a flight of stairs—and those are some of the tamest examples. And of course, a big draw is the great electronica soundtrack composed by former cLOUDDEAD member Adam “doseone” Drucker, who’s also provided music for Heavy Bullets, Enter The Gungeon, and Samurai Gunn.