Rising Hell Review
It is quite possible that you’ve never heard of Rising Hell before. This game flew mostly under the radar, being overshadowed by some of the bigger AAA releases in the same month.
Rising Hell is one of the games we’ve been looking forward to from Indonesian developers Tahoe Games and Publisher Toge Productions, who is also behind the recent PS Plus title Coffee Talk. Rising Hell is described as a vertical roguelite platformer where you control one of 3 characters whose goal is to escape from hell. If you’re expecting some sort of drawn out narrative here ala Hades, there’s none of that sort, but the game fully focuses its efforts on the gameplay experience, giving players another take into the not-so-niche-anymore genre.
Everybody seems to want out of hell
As simple as the premise is, the gameplay is the same, employing basic jump – attack – dash controls to make the gameplay accessible. The controls are tight and responsive, as expected of a game in this genre, and the most complicated move that you’ll be performing is a double jump / wall grab that will take you up the tower and out of hell. Each move responds well on screen, and is translated to very crisp, punchy, and screen-rocking animations that feel satisfying for each attack and combo you pull off. The pixel art of the game is fantastically done, offering a backdrop that fully complements the playstyle of the game.
Rising Hell features various standard roguelite features – a premium currency called Blight, which you can use to purchase new relics that offer various effects to help you in your journey. There’s also the main currency of the game called red orbs, which you collect by killing enemies and is used to purchase various upgrades like increasing your HP / ATK / DEF, or even giving you an extra life. Rising Hell ticks off the most basic boxes in a roguelite checklist, even the option to increase difficulty everytime you finish a run, and also features a level up / battle pass sort of system that unlocks additional relics as you play through the game.
There are a total of 3 characters to choose from – Arok (your default character), Zelos, and Sydna – each with distinct playstyles that will require a different approach. Arok is your basic melee character, and will require you to get up close and personal with your foes, while Sydna employs projectiles that explode after a few seconds. Zelos uses projectiles as well, but cannot move while firing. Each of these characters feel very unique in terms of playstyle, and will offer players a unique playthrough every time. Out of all my runs, I found myself picking Arok the most, just because his playstyle feels the most familiar and most suited to this style of game over the other 2. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses (Zelos is fast, while Sydna has powerful attacks), which you’ll also need to consider.
On top of this, you’ll be able to pick up a small number of artifacts in the game, which are basically weapons that give you various additional effects to your attacks. They’re not permanent though, and will expire after a number of uses, giving the game a thin layer of strategy on whether you want to use it up right away or not, since these artifacts are not a common reward. You’ll get one when you reach the boss, but more often than not you’ll be left to your own devices once your artifact runs out, so it is up to you to manage your “ammo”.
This or that?
The game features 2 modes – Campaign and Gauntlet. Campaign is your basic story mode, where you fight through the tower to face off against bosses that will try to stop you from escaping. Gauntlet, on the other hand, offers various challenges with certain limitations that a player can overcome like finishing a level using only Hellbreak, or finishing a level with only 1 HP left. They’re quite challenging, especially the Godslayer challenge, which will pit you against the bosses of the game without any upgrades, and these serve well to break the monotony of the Campaign mode. Each challenge also offers a silver trophy (for PS trophy hunters out there), so its good enough incentive to go through them.
Since there’s no other way to go but up, you might be wondering how Rising Hell addresses the problem of taking damage when jumping into an enemy on a higher level. The game employs a unique feature called Hellbreak, which is a move that deals massive damage to most of the enemies in the game (almost always a one hit kill), and is an ingenious way of solving the problem instead of taking damage, encouraging the player to always play aggressive. The default setting for Hellbreak is always automatic, so you’ll simply have to jump into the enemies to execute this attack, which replenishes your double jump, allowing you to chain multiple Hellbreaks as long as there are enemies in the vicinity.
As a counter point to playing aggressive, I found that the movement in the game wasn’t as fast as I was expecting it to be. Walking around is relatively slow, although the levels are small enough to make this problem seem negligible, and while there is a relic that gives you faster movement speed, you’re better off using that slot with other better items. This results in action that isn’t as fast-paced and as flashy as some people would be expecting, especially during boss fights.
There are a total of 3 worlds in the game, and each world consists of a few paths you can take that offer distinct challenges. One path in a level is called Pounders Gallows, which features falling spike traps as obstacles. One path will even force you to move quickly, as the level automatically pushes upwards. Each level features a different theme and color palette, but doesn’t really feel too different from each other, unlike the enemies, which are quite varied in both design and moveset.
One of my gripes in the game is the lack of builds that a player can mess around with for their character. Quickly comparing this to Hades, where synergy between your weapon and boons is crucial to success, Rising Hell doesn’t quite add as much variety. The upgrades here are very straightforward – increase attack, increase defense, resurrect 1 time, etc. There are a few upgrades that work well with certain relics in the game (there is an upgrade and a relic that lowers boss hp by a certain percentage), but not enough to actually entice creativity, limiting the overall replayability of the game. Some of the more hardcore roguelite fans will probably want more out of this, but newcomers will appreciate the simplicity.
The game is also really short, and depending on how skilled you are, you can probably finish a full run of the game in 1 hour. This is perfect for quick short gaming bursts, such as on the Nintendo Switch, but players looking for a longer affair will probably feel disappointed. Take note that this is a roguelite, so finishing a 1 hour run is par for the course, and the replayability after that is where similar games shine or falter.
For the aspect of replayability, there are a number of things to do after your run. You can increase the difficulty, farm for more Blight to unlock more relics, etc. Although there are a lot of relics to unlock, with some of the best ones giving you a permanent artifact to use for your run, the appeal to do so isn’t as strong compared to other similar titles in the genre.
Speaking quickly of the Nintendo Switch, the performance of the game is up to par with its other console counterparts with no noticeable slowdowns during busy sequences, and seems to actually be the perfect place to play the game on due to its portable nature. The limited screen size is not a problem at all, and playing on the Joy-cons are equally as effective as compared to a full-fledged controller. Of course, with the nature of the game requiring fast reaction times, a pro-controller is an ideal weapon of choice over the Joy-cons.
Complimenting the short game length is the difficulty curve of Rising Hell, which is not too difficult in my experience. In fact, the game is one of the easier titles in the genre, and most of the deaths you will encounter in this game will be due to you either being careless or impatient. Contrary to its blood-pumping soundtrack, parts of the game will force you to play slowly and carefully, especially during boss fights. Rising Hell can be challenging to some, but newcomers shouldn’t feel too intimidated to try the game in the fear of being too punishing.
Speaking of soundtrack, one of the shining features of the game is its musical score, featuring a healthy dose of guitar shredding and headbanging riffs. It ties the whole game and theme together, which almost feels like the game was made to fit the fantastic soundtrack, rather than the other way around.
What we liked:
- Manageable difficulty curve, good for first-timers
- Simple and easy to understand progression
- Great heavy metal soundtrack
What we didn’t like:
- Build variety can be improved
- Not as action packed as the game suggests
- Pace could have been much faster.
- Can finish / platinum the game in around 5 hours depending on skill level.
Verdict: Wait for it.
Rising Hell is a great entry by Tahoe Games, offering a unique take at the genre. The game is simple enough to understand and pick up and play by even newcomers, but offers just enough challenge to cater to fans of the genre. While the lack of depth, especially with builds that directly affect replayability, is disappointing, this is overshadowed because of the rather small but very talented dev team. At $9.99, it’s not a big investment and even for a few hours of gameplay, the price tag isn’t too much of a detriment. If you’re looking for a game that can provide short bursts of fun, this game can do that for you.
Rising Hell shows promise, as nailing the roguelite design isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially with the limited manpower and resources that a relatively small studio like Tahoe Games has, so they certainly deserve recognition for this one. The game has a solid foundation to build on, and the game dev scene in the region has really shown a lot of potential for a blockbuster game sometime in the near future.
*Rising Hell was reviewed on a PS5 and Switch via a review code provided by the publishers.