Hell Is Others REVIEW

Hell is Others Review

When I undertake a review for a game, I play it with one thing in mind, if I had to describe the title in one sentence to one of my non-gaming friends, what would I say? For most games, this one-liner is simple to come up with. For something like Fortnite, I would sell it as a cartoonish battle royale game where children build stairs around you until you die from a bad case of bullets or frustration. 

When I first loaded Hell Is Others, I came in with this same task in mind. However, it wasn’t long into my playthrough before I decided that this indie game would need more than one sentence. 

Therefore, in this Hell is Others review, we will take a look at everything that makes this game unique, right down to the very crux of the matter – should you give this game your time of day and hard-earned money? So, without further ado, let’s get right into the review!

Keep Watering That Plant

hell is other
A more fitting title could not have been chosen – Image by James Gibson

The general storyline of this game is rather simple once you get your head around the rather bonkers premise. You play as a sad, lonely man named Adam Smithson, who currently resides in a two-room apartment in Century City. His only pass times are looking at an ever-expanding crack on his bathroom wall and watering (with blood) a bonsai tree that was abandoned on his doorstep.

All of this, combined with the goal of populating your apartment with new and unique pieces, sums up the entire progression cycle of the game. Therefore, much like any online extraction game, the only real sense of accomplishment or progression you can get in Hell Is Others comes from looking at your inventory as you slowly accumulate goodies.

With the bonsai tree in hand, the game quickly teaches you that Century City runs on a blood economy. Every living thing seems to need a bit of it, requiring Adam to venture down into Century City to loot and scavenge for blood or other valuable items to trade. Along the way, Adam must ally with the Century City vendors to maximize his chances of returning home on each loot run. This is by no means an easy task, as Century City is populated with enemy players and demons of all shapes and sizes that can take you down with very little effort if you aren’t careful.

Outside of this, the player must create their own narrative, as the title relies on the tense nature of the multiplayer extraction genre to do most of the heavy lifting in terms of story.

Wonderfully Bonkers

adam couch hell is others
In Century City, a couch must double as a bed sometimes, poor Adam – Image by James Gibson

As this is a title from a small studio, I was not expecting the world when I first dropped down into Century City. Once you leave your apartment, your point of view is shifted from typical sidescroller to top-down shooter, a nice change, in my opinion, and one that breaks up the monotony a little. 

 Apart from this, I do have to say that the art style and visuals presented to the player once they leave their apartment and enter this top-down world of violence are a little lackluster, feeling completely devoid of creativity and any real spark. I felt as though after I had ventured through the tutorial area, I had seen the length and scope of the game’s visuals. This was slightly disappointing, considering the wonderfully quirky design of the sidescrolling sections of the game.

It also seems that there was a missed opportunity to personalize your character properly. Instead, Adam remains the same throughout the game, and enemy players simply appear as demonic blobs of undulating nothingness. This begs the question, why? Shouldn’t a simple game like this so set on loot and incremental material progression push such personalization? It feels like this section of the game is missing entirely, and I would not be surprised to hear that it was cut due to time restraints.

A Great Concept, Plagued with Issues

Tunnel vision hell is others
Tunnel vision, ensuring every demon and player can sneak up on Adam – Image by James Gibson

In this game, the player will spend most of their time doing one of two things, running and looting or running and shooting, neither of which it does well or smoothly, especially when you consider the competitive aspect that is created by throwing other players into the mix.

At best, Adam is difficult to control and clunky in his movement, ranging around the depths of Century City with the nimbleness of a Nintendo 64 NFL player. Outside of this, his move set is pretty limited, relying on the odd forward roll and some backward shooting to get himself out of danger.

I can get behind a limited move set in an indie game as long as the developers do some interesting stuff with said move set. However, the whole experience left me feeling frustrated and incapable of playing for more than 30 minutes before I needed to have a light nap and cool off. 

However, the real problem I have with this game comes when Adam stops moving. In a game so focused on looting and surviving against the oncoming threats of demons and enemy players, you spend a lot of time trapped in horribly optimized loot menus and re-arranging inventory space.

In this regard, the game lacks any real quality-of-life functions for the player, offering a very limited amount of quick-sort inventory commands that games such as this usually depend on so heavily. Due to this painfully slow and clunky loot/inventory system, you are far more likely to die in a menu, unable to see anyone approaching your position, than in general combat. 

This issue was perfectly summarized recently with the release of the new CoD Warzone. After a few streamers got their hands on the game mode, the community was in an uproar because it took a second or two longer to sort your loot when compared to previous games. Now, times this time delay by a factor of 5, and you have Hell Is Others.

A Slow Walk Filled With Tension

While the majority of this review has been far from positive, I have to say that the sound design in this game is perfect and expertly places the player in the state of high alert and tension that the creators wanted. 

When you are in your apartment or roaming about the halls of your building, the music is calm and reminiscent of typical elevator music, allowing you to decompress from any horrors you may have seen on the ground. However, as soon as you step out of the elevator onto the streets of Century City, the music disappears and is replaced with a slow billowing wind that seems to thrive in the empty streets of Century City.

However, when it comes to the weapon and enemy sound effects, the sound design really does fall flat. Each individual sound effect within this section sounds rather lackluster and somewhat stock as if the team just picked up some gunshot FXs at the local supermarket. Due to this, no sound feels unique to impactful, ruining your overall experience.

Outside of all this, Hell Is Others has already released a ‘Good Neighbour’ DLC pack mere days after the game was released. As part of this DLC, you gain a few extra pieces of music that can pop up around Century City during your bouts of exploration. However, I refuse to give this game any more of my somewhat hard-earned money and, therefore, cannot attest to any musical genius these tracks may have.

Simplicity, Possibly by Design

hell is others inventory system
An inventory sorting system with less finesse than my general gaming ability – Image by James Gibson

I have already touched on the main issue I faced with the UI, the fact that the menu system has, seemingly, no quality-of-life functions to help players quickly sort through and deal with their loot while exploring the streets of Century City, an environment wherein time and precision can mean the difference between death and escape. 

Outside of the actual gameplay UI, the menu design and the like are very straightforward and easy to navigate. However, I do get the sense that the overall design of these menus is rather simplistic and completed to a standard that almost anyone in their first few years of game design could get done over a busy weekend. 

That said, I really have to commend how this game’s UI directs the player into the game with very little distraction, placing you into the shoes of Adam Smithson with very little delay. Whether this has been made easier by the fact that the game currently has very little going on outside of the main online extraction mode, I cannot say. For now, though, all seems pretty straightforward.

Limitless Without Reward

One of the most important things for a game that requires copious amounts of concurrent players to constantly populate servers and matches is replayability. After all, if people don’t keep coming back for more, those who love the title will have to face longer and longer wait times or be able to find no games whatsoever.

However, regarding replayability, I see how the creators of this game have tried to introduce mechanics that can get their hooks into you, whether this is through the continual progression of your player apartment or through a series of special events that will take place through the years (a Halloween event is currently running as I write this review).

I think these hooks are just not strong enough to get me back in the game every day. As there are no real benefits to gathering more supplies and money after a certain point, I was left very bored and with no real drive meer hours into my playthrough. 

To me, as soon as you have a good amount of money and bullets in your apartment, any real struggle is over, and all you have left is the multiplayer shooter element of the title, something that I would go to many other games for before Hell Is Others.

The Verdict

hell is others review
Colorful environments teamed with gaudy 80s design choices – Image by James Gibson

Score: 5/10

I am sure this score is not surprising by this point in my review. This game, I feel, could have been so much better. The general concept is good, and the market is ready for a truly great twin-stick shooter that falls into this new online extraction format. However, every aspect of the game falls a little short, leaving you feeling underwhelmed and somewhat disappointed.

In some ways, I wish I didn’t enjoy the overall idea of this title so much; then, I wouldn’t have been let down so profoundly. the combination of this great idea and the slightly missed target has thus left me with no choice but to view this game as just another average indie game.

In the end, I think a number of things got away from the developers of this title. Certain aspects, such as the sound design and customization features, feel incomplete, while the quality of life functions, such as quick inventory sorting, have been left entirely incomplete, in my opinion.

Therefore, instead of producing a title that envelops you in this new world, urging you to continue venturing down into the streets of Century City, this game left me feeling underwhelmed at every turn and completely uninterested in ever returning to the title. 

Of course, I can appreciate that this game was developed on a tight budget by a relatively small studio with all the time and financial pressures that are part and parcel of life at every indie studio in today’s heavily saturated market. Still, I just feel that there are so many more indie games on the market today that achieve excellent levels of polish and innovative game design that this excuse can no longer fly.

However, I do see this game as a great starting point and a piece of game design that, with a little tweaking, can become something truly great. After all, it has only just been released, and the developers seem very keen to take any feedback on board, making the necessary changes along the way.

Alternatives

 

Hotline Miami
Image by James Gibson

If you have read this entire review and crave games similar to this one in terms of style or general gameplay goals, then you are in luck. Take a look at some of the best games out there at the moment that will hopefully scratch that itch:

  • Hotline Miami
  • Escape From Tarkov
  • The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth 

Play Log

According to Steam, I played this game for a total of 7 hours. However, I have to admit, some of this time was spent in menus as I walked around my house, trying to enter a calm state of mind after being killed for the seventh time in a row due to the limited movement mechanics Adam has at his disposal.

My time in the game was mostly spent chatting with the residents of my apartment building and watering my bonsai before I forced myself to take a trip to the top-down world of the Century City streets. I got killed more times than I would like to say, inflicting less damage than a 5-year-old during their first run on Minecraft. However, after some time getting used to the movement and switching back from the controller to a good old mouse and keyboard, I got a couple of kills and managed to build some tactics to help me extract some of that good loot.

In the end, my apartment started to seem much more like a home, and my bonsai was looking really rather healthy. However, I never did find out who left it on my doorstep.

Pros and Cons of Hell Is Others

Hell-Is-Others pros cons
Image by James Gibson

Pros

  • The overall concept is strong and interesting. The story behind the world is intriguing, and the game gives you enough to pique your interest without revealing everything.
  • While the game has just been released, the servers seem filled with players and are stable throughout drawn-out matches.
  • The dichotomy between the side-scrolling life in your apartment and the top-down shooter aspect of the city is interesting and helps break up the monotony.

Cons

  • Many aspects of the game feel unpolished, with Adam and his overall movement being the chief concern. In a competitive shooter game, you should never feel hampered or frustrated because of your character’s clunky movement, which I felt routinely in this game.
  • The looting and inventory management systems simply aren’t good enough for a game that relies on PVP. 
  • There are no real hooks that keep you coming back for more. After a couple of hours, I felt as though I had accomplished everything that I needed to, and playing any more would be a waste of my time. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What type of game is Hell Is Others?

Answer: Hell Is Others can fit into many genres of gaming. However, it is primarily a top-down, twin-stick, survival, online extraction game with horror elements.

Question: Does Hell Is Others have a lore system?

Answer: There is already a great discussion going on about the lore of Hell Is Others on the game’s official discord. However, it seems that many people are yet to hit the mark, with the creators routinely calling out falsities. 

Question: What is an online extraction game?

Answer: This game genre has been about for a few years now. However, it is only recently that the genre has somewhat exploded in popularity, thanks to games such as Escape From Tarkov. Online extraction games are built on the idea of PVP or PVE. The ultimate goal is entering a somewhat hostile and risky environment with enough valuable loot to help you extract even better loot. The end goal is the accumulation of the best loot in the game.

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