Helheim Hassle Review
Perfectly Paranormal have released their next epic title, set in the Manual Samuel universe. In this entry, we play as Viking Björn, who is hellbent on not dying and even more so, about visiting the grand halls of Valhalla. The game is a comedic adventure, filled to the brim with the same slapstick comedy that appears in the previous installment Manual Samuel and from many other popular adventures before this. Manual Samuel was a short but sweet adventure, which left fans pining for more with its incredibly short completion timescale. Will Helheim Hassle live up to the reputation of its predecessor or will it collapse under the pressure of expectation? Read below to see our spoiler-free review of Helheim Hassle.
Helheim Hassle is presented on a multi-layered 2D plane, in which you navigate by moving left or right, like that of a Metroidvania style game. The game has an array of different types of gameplay elements within it but mostly verifies itself on the route of being a Puzzle platformer. The premise of this game is simple, Bjorn has the amazing ability to be able to detach and control each of his limbs and head. To add a layer of complexity to that, he can also re-attach his limbs together to make, odd bundles of… ‘limbs?’ that have their own unique perks. For example, Bjorn can detach both of his arms, and re-join them together, which will allow his arms to jump really high when gripping onto something. Or he is able to fuse 1 arm, 1 leg and his head together to create a talking, walking, leg, arm….thing? It this element in which most of the puzzles in this game are based around. I think that this makes for an interesting take on puzzle platforming and feels entirely original. I found it quite fun, to be flicking between my bundles of limbs and trying to tackle different puzzles with different mixtures. What was more incredible, was at times, I felt like I had beat the developers, making Combos that could entirely skip puzzles and because I had tackled them from a whole new strategy, I would feel epic, only to have the game reference my “cheating”, moments later. Perfectly Paranormal 1, Kyle 0.
There are moments in the game that can be quite infuriating, where sometimes a puzzle just seems too difficult to solve, and the game is entirely out to make life even more difficult. Now usually a bit of perseverance, trial and error solves these moments, but it can create times of frustrating repetition, which is made worse by the finicky controls, which ill get onto after this point. To give an example, there is a specific moment where you’re being chased by a ‘dead bear’ which is out for Bjorn’s blood. The thing is, every time you get captured by the bear, the game uses its humor to dispel the continuity of Bjorn dying. Bjorn will wake from a daydream, moments before the bear chase, stating “That would be bad if that happened,” which at first got a couple of laughs out of me. But the more and more I tried to solve the puzzle in time before the bear got me, I would “die” and be greeted with that same joke, again and again, and again, and again, until after ‘try 20’ where I solve the puzzle. Although, there are only a ‘handful’ of these moments throughout the entire 6-hour main story.
Another aspect of the game worth mentioning is its control scheme. When you play as Bjorn himself and his limbs, the controls are straight forward. Bjorn can run, jump, interact with the world, talk to people, and pick stuff up, etc. Overall, the controls are fluid, responsive, and overall pretty well built, although it is also in the controls that my biggest gripe with Helheim Hassle comes from. When navigating some of the sequence-based puzzle, especially timed ones, the game can get a bit finicky and sensitive with its swapping of limbs, which quickly becomes frustrating. For example, a lot of puzzles are sequenced based, where you have to do a set of actions in a specific order, requiring you to have one limb do something, then swap to the next limb and quickly do another “thing” with your body, and finally return quickly to the original limb to complete the challenge. The problem is, when you change limbs with the directional pad, you can disconnect the bundle of limbs, watching all your hard progress come to a sudden end, which in turn forces you to start everything again. Most of the time it will be this, that causes you to have to retry the puzzle, all because your body which was hanging on some bars, with a single-arm, fell because you accidentally detached it. Although this shouldn’t put you off the game, as the checkpointing in the game is incredibly fair, meaning you never lose too much progress when this happens, it’s more frustrating than anything else.
The final gameplay aspect that I want to go over, is the MASSIVE array of secrets that have been embedded within this game. At one point, I even found myself deadlocked in a conversation with Perfectly Paranormal on Twitter, trying to sneakily get a clue as to who the original user: IHateThisPlace was. Though I did not have any luck. The game is filled to the brim of Easter-Eggs, some obscure and some outright obvious. So, if you are a fan of hunting for secrets and searching in every little nook and cranny for the next big piece of lore, then this game will be for you. Although that’s not to say that those who aren’t into that, won’t enjoy it, as you can happily skip past all of this and continue on with the story from beginning to end. I’d say that it’s a nice little cherry on the top for extra things to do when playing Helheim Hassle.
The comedic story of Helheim Hassle is surprisingly diverse and never strays off the path of being fun. In the game, we play as Bjorn, who is a young man who does not want to die, and equally does not like the sounds of Valhalla, which is the place that great warriors go to when they die, in “totally epic, heroic ways” where they will battle alongside their revered god, the all-father Odin, for the rest of eternity.
Without spoiling anything, Bjorn finds himself teamed up with a skeleton companion, tasked with visiting Helheim to retrieve something. Along the way, you will go through many events in which will leave you chuckling away to yourself as you play through the game and that is its a reoccurring theme. The game has a very slapstick sense of humour, it will play with concepts that we have learned to see in one light, (due to the way that history accounts it), but then will normalise and modernise it, to depict the topic in a way never considered before. It this that I love the most about Helheim Hassle, the team over in Perfectly Paranormal clearly, have fantastic imaginations and a great sense of humour. I never felt like the games constant jabbing and quips ever felt cheesy and out of place. The game knows its source material very well and does a good job of blending these. It builds up excellent characters that just enrich the story that it is trying to tell.
The Characters in Helheim Hassle all have their own quirks and bounce off of each other in ways that maximise the comedy in this title. For example, very early in the game, you meet your mother, who quite simply tells you “sick, old or lame Vikings get doomed to an eternity in Helheim” after goading you to go and fight some giants who are attacking the land, hoping that you will die in a totally awesome way and get ascended to Valhalla. There are so many characters that you meet along the way, that have their own style of humour which always adds to the equation, ranging from Weakling Rock Gods, that just want to party all day, to CEO Goblins who simply just want to find his helicopter, and does not care that their workers have all been killed. I would mention the 4 horsemen here, but you know… spoilers.
Helheim Hassle is enriched with a wide cast of characters, all with unique voice acting and personalities. The quality of Voice Acting in this title is equal to that of what you would find in most AA titles. The conversations feel natural and fluid and does not have any awkward pauses, or tones. Characters' moods are reflected well in their voices, knowing easily when a character is annoyed, cheerful, or depressed. The characters who we hear from the most are the companion Skeleton, Pesto, and our main protagonist Bjorn. The casting for their voices was well selected, as they’re not voices that become annoying after so long of listening to them but are equally made somewhat cartoony to match the graphical theme.
Music in Helheim Hassle is present, but it’s set up as being more of an ambient soundtrack with slight chimes and jingles. It’s nothing too memorable, although there are some moments, where characters will perform and sing musical pieces which can be a split between annoying and funny, these align more to the comedy than being a key memorable soundtrack to the game. I wouldn’t say even as comedic pieces any of these are memorable masterpieces. I mean when I think of comedic music masterpieces in gaming, I would always point anyone to “The Great Mighty Poo Theme” from Conquers Bad Fur Day.
The Graphics of Helheim Hassle are straight forwards opting to use a simple cartoonish styling, that emphasizes expressions, to suit up to its overall comedic themes. The animation is smooth and the overall aesthetic of the game blends well with the story. This game certainly feels like a huge upgrade from that what we saw in the previous installment with Manual Samuel. The character design within Helheim Hassle is really fun and original. Characters are vibrant, and enriched with exciting designs, always feeling like they match the overall roster of people you come across on the journey. It’s clear that the game is not trying to achieve the best graphics out there, the development focus was on narrative and gameplay, and that can be seen in the way that it presents itself. It is this fact that doesn’t make it a graphical masterpiece but scores it a respectable 8 out of 10 bits for graphics.
Helheim Hassle is one of the most fun games you could play this generation, and if you’re into slapstick humour, that you might find in titles such as Monkey Island or Portal 2, then regardless of this review, this game was made with you in mind. Its an excellent journey into the world of the dead, tackling interesting concepts such as religion and blends them into a wonderfully diverse depiction of life after life, keeping up with the times. The characters are fun and silly, and the story is a dark journey that is turned on its head with silly humour. There might be a few gripes in the gameplay, which will cause frustration, but everything else you experience will make up entirely for those moments. We would recommend that people really dive into this title and give it a try as it is a lot of fun.