Hellbreachers looks like a fairly interesting title on digital storefronts. Retro 2D aesthetics, multiple playable characters, challenging boss fights and other thought-leading bullet points could tempt you into a purchase. However, not all is as it seems, as Hellbreachers is quite a confusing package.
Offering up a storyline about the rich overreaching and having to regain their wealth by becoming adventurers, Hellbreachers starts off pretty strong. There are three characters to choose from and quickly after starting you’re coming up to a boss fight. However, once that first boss is felled, you’ve pretty much seen all there is to see.
Standard and basic platform level design coupled with somewhat awkward controls make Hellbreachers an odd mix. It’s almost as if the development team had prepared a complex design document for publisher eastasiasoft but then realised that they couldn’t be bothered to actually make all of that, so just threw together a bunch of cookie cutter levels with very basic platform action. Each level holds a number of coins and jewels to collect – which have no function aside from a small loss upon death – and a number of treasure chests for which you have to find a key. These treasure chests offer rewards of special abilities and while the three characters do vary, you’re unlikely to ever need these abilities and, worse still, the only way to discover what you’ve earned is to watch the skills counter in the top left of the screen as you open each chest.
By the time your reach the sixth level – likely in under 10 minutes – the design begins to show some signs of intrigue. You’ll find platforms that lure you away from the beaten path and obtaining a key to a treasure chest may not be immediately obvious. However, none of these challenges will ever take more than a few seconds to overcome and the promise of greater things goes deftly unfulfilled.
There is no progression system: no levelling up or new moves/characters to unlock. There are no hidden levels. There’s barely any relation to the plot after that initial opening. At times the game suggests it could have a light rogue-like element, but nothing changes regardless of your progress or death count. So what exactly is there in Hellbreachers? ~50 levels and a handful of boss fights, plus two endings depending on your performance (how many coins you collect and treasure chests you unlock) within. That’s really all there is in the hour-or-so duration of the entire game.
Ultimately, it’s very hard to figure out who Hellbreachers was designed for. The game is billed as a ‘hardcore’ adventure but offers little-to-no challenge. It’s got kid friendly aesthetics but can’t even dream of sitting next to a Super Mario game or the likes of Fortnite. It’s ‘bargain’ price point may be enough to tempt you but there are plenty of more entertaining things you can do for under a fiver that will last just as long. For some I’m sure the temptation of a cheap and easy Achievement/Trophy list will be a draw (this can be completed in it’s entirety within 20 minutes) but to suggest that’s the only reason Hellbreachers has been put on sale is far too cynical an assumption. Right?