Helltaker is a hand-drawn 2D game, one man is responsible for the entire production, named Vanripper aka Łukasz Piskorz. This is his first standalone game, and it’s also available for free on Steam. The game is small, someone familiar with rhythm games can do it in twenty minutes.
The protagonist, Helltaker (much like the game title) is a beefcake man from the 90s who, like the protagonists of anime romance novels, wants to fill his home with a devil haram. That’s why he goes straight to hell by methods known to him. The place is stereotypically filled with fire and brimstone, and in addition it is a corporation run by skeletons and women in suits. On his romantic quest, the Helltaker moves boulders, beats the aforementioned bones, and crosses traps, using a portion of his limited willpower with each move. When it runs out, he dies and the level is reset. To win, you need to find the girl by performing the right combination of moves. The gameplay is simple, the game is really tiny, and yet the author managed to fill it with nice little things, and even include a secret and alternate endings.
The gameplay does not impose any time pressure and allows you to skip the puzzle if you care about dialogues and cute girls. The puzzles are not particularly difficult, even for a person who has never tried this type of game before. The challenge is only the last stage, which changes the rules of the game to more arcade and raises the bar. The final clash can also be shortened, but then you lose dialogue between stages. The whole game is accompanied by rhythmic music, to which animated figurines of characters on the board nod.
Now let’s deal with “Beelzebub” in the room. Depending on the expectations of the recipient as to the romantic elements, the game can pleasantly surprise or bitterly disappoint. Fanservice was kept to a minimum – it was basically focused on Judgment, which stylistically differs from the rest and serves as the final boss. In the game, the theme of building a harem is just a pretext, the expressive characters of the girls come to the fore – they have nasty vices, they can be malicious (and sometimes even murderous), but they make up for it with their personal charm. They give the impression of people with whom it would be fantastic to go out even for a simple walk. The ideas for the devil may not be very original, but Vanripper’s sharp, lively line and the character’s flowery personalities work very well together in the anime convention.
It’s hard to say more without spoiling all the flavours, the game is just short. It’s a nice and light time with nice characters and a healthy dose of humour. The puzzles themselves are a nice time killer if you have half an hour to spare. When Helltaker alone is not enough for someone, the author also offers paid downloadable content with an artbook and a recipe for pancakes in the form of a comic book. These bonuses can also be unlocked by finding a secret in the game, so paying for them is optional.