Helvetti Review

It has to be said, Helvetti is a sublimely gorgeous game to look at. Rich visuals bring to mind a moving oil painting, one that shares aesthetic comparisons with the work of Vanillaware. Character models are sumptuous, whilst environments are cram-packed with details. The combo-heavy gameplay is silky smooth, your protagonist gliding through the 2D levels, unleashing over-the-top explosive attacks on every bizarre enemy they meet. In short, it all looks lovely, but beauty, as we know, is often only skin deep.

The incredible art style owes a lot of its charm thanks in no small part to the unusual setting of Celtic mythology. Developers Team KwaKwa have clearly delighted in this mythological inspiration, crafting heroic fox-men, enormous tree demons, and sinewy fairy folk with aplomb. Each screen you explore is filled with unusual wonders, usually ready and waiting to be smacked around with your sword.

When it comes to its structure, Helvetti is a deeply conservative 2D roguelike. It offers everything you expect of the genre but offers few surprises. At the outset of your adventure, to free the land from a curse, you’ll pick one of three distinct heroes. There’s the melee-orientated tank Divico; the nimble, flashy, yet frail Renart; and the spell-blasting, special ability-orientated, and tricky to use correctly, Nammeious. Each protagonist stands apart with unique abilities and combos.

Once you’ve picked your hero, you navigate a maze-like series of screens battling hordes of enemies and the occasional boss. There are pick-ups and weapons to uncover, though when you die it’s back to the start you go, losing all the perks you gathered in the process. Though, as expected, you’ll be able to unlock permanent upgrades, called Sigils, using tokens you will have collected. So far, so roguelike. The problem is that Helvetti isn’t particularly hard, I’m pretty poor at this type of game – most games actually – but I found myself smashing through several of the handful of stages barely breaking a sweat. If anything, the characters are too overpowered, pick-ups can often be ignored entirely, rendering exploring each dungeon a waste of time. Once you’ve found the boss you might as well take them on, as they’re often a pushover.

This lack of challenge issue is exacerbated by the button-mashing gameplay. Sure, you could attempt to combo and parry through an encounter, but why bother when slapping buttons at random results in a deeply flashy awesome series of attacks that will carve through all in your path? Helvetti clearly didn’t mind my button-mashing ways, regularly rewarding me with an ‘S’ at the end of each encounter. Unfortunately, combat feels light and lacking in contact, heft, and impact and your character zips around the place unleashing super-powered strikes quite happily, with or without your attention and input.

Without the challenge and risk/reward structure of a roguelike, Helvetti feels strangely empty as an experience. You’ll quickly see the end of the game with little need to return. As such, I can’t help but feel Helvetti would have been better placed simply being a traditional 2D action game, jettisoning the roguelike elements entirely. Still, it’s worth a quick play through simply to enjoy those sumptuous visuals, just don’t expect its good looks to hold your attention for long.

Helvetti has buckets of charm, offering delightful 2D visuals that will impress any player with ease. Unfortunately, the feathery, button-mashing combat is less appealing, whilst the uninspired rogue-like mechanics never really click.
  • Lovely 2D aesthetic
  • Smooth and flashy visuals
  • Original setting and lore
  • Your standard rogue-like experience
  • Far too easy
  • Short