Since Vikings are the flavour of the moment, it was only a matter of time before we saw a more light-hearted take on a Vikingr’s gruesome journey to Valhalla. With Bjørn Hammerparty our protagonist’s name, you can tell what kind of tale this is going to be.
Helheim Hassle starts with Bjørn’s village being attacked by pesky giants, but while the villagers are happy to charge straight into battle – the promise of Valhalla looming – Bjørn doesn’t want any part of it. He is in fact a pacifist and would rather just go to Helheim. Amidst the chaos, Bjørn tries to escape the village and ends falling off a cliff to his doom, ending up in Valhalla anyway. One thousand years pass, and a skeleton named Pesto rocks up, rescues Bjørn from Valhalla and resurrects him in the modern world… with mixed results.
Bjørn can now detach his own body parts which serve as the crux of the game’s mechanics.
Helheim Hassle is a 2D Platformer in which you get around by detaching your limbs and using them to navigate levels and puzzles. Movement at first is pretty standard but as soon as a jump is too high to reach, what are you to do? Find a suitable platform to get on? No. Just pop off your head!
Removing your head lets you jump higher which makes sense as the head is very heavy. As you progress further, more of your body parts become detachable and the puzzles become more complex, turning the game into a battle of logic as you utilise your limbs for various puzzle parts. Narrow tunnels are perfect to send your head down, rolling onto a switch so your body can walk through a newly opened door. If a ledge is too high for the body to reach, why not just throw another body part up there? You can even attach one body part to another, making for some rather interesting creations, which will then be documented in a codex so you can see what that limb combo does. You are only limited to your imagination and there’s always a logical solution to situations.
Controls for the limbs can be a touch fiddly which leads to some rather frustrating situations, especially when a limb falls off a rock and you have to start the whole process over again. You cycle between the limbs using the shoulder buttons or they are selected using the right stick, but when you are trying to juggle six different body parts on and off screen, it can be a little confusing and lead to errors. It’s fine for the most part, but certain chase sequences can bring out some serious rage.
There’s some optional side quest to be done as well, which are not required to finish the game and can be completed via backtracking if you missed any of them. As it’s a relatively short experience, clocking in around six hours, it’s nice there’s a little extra to do.
One of the standout parts of Helheim Hassle is its comedic narrative that doesn’t take itself too seriously. During the opening sequences, characters are laughably throwing themselves into battle so they can die and go to Valhalla. Bjørn’s mother jokingly comments to him, “You do want to get brutally murdered in battle and go to Valhalla, right?”, followed by “I’m gonna go see if a nice giant wants to SLIT MY THROAT! See you in battle!” It’s dark, funny and extremely on the nose, lovingly poking fun at Norse mythology. That being said, the sense of humour here is very US-centric and, as with all comedy, will be a matter of taste.
I do like what they’ve done here, however. The comedy timing is generally on point and each character is overacted in the best way. The game is not afraid to break the fourth wall either, with characters like Odin commenting when you’ve skipped a scene, and mentioning how he magically appeared in a different area. To suit the narrative, the game is lovingly rendered in cartoon form, looking like a kids TV show but for adults. It’s simple, yet effective and it’s nice to see a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and show a different side to Viking lore.