Hellboy Web of Wyrd Review

Weird words.

As easy as Insomniac might make it look, taking a property from the pages of a comic book and breathing digital life into it is no small or simple task. Baying legions of rabid fans are the first obstacle, and developers will have to weave through a chicane of potential online vitriol, before you hit the sizeable bump in the road of either creating a wholly new narrative or translating a well-worn one that you can’t possibly divert from.

Mike Mignola’s Hellboy presents a particularly unique set of challenges, with its mixture of pagan iconography, folkloric tale-telling and an art style that’s both instantly identifiable and utterly idiosyncratic. While Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army stands as the current celluloid highlight, Web of Wyrd is arguably the first time we’ve seen those pages truly come to life, offering an experience that captures Mignola’s art in impressive fashion while layering suitable sights and sounds upon it.

You’re drafted into The Butterfly House, an abandoned mansion that’s suitably creepy, questionable and somewhat alive. It plays host to a series of Bell Chambers with a connection to the Wyrd – seemingly pronounced ‘word’, not ‘weird’, which is quite… odd – an otherworldly dimension that’s bursting with aggressive adversaries and wraithlike creatures. Prime amongst them is Scheherazade, an unpronounceably mysterious being who tags you with the name ‘protagonist’ and sets you off to explore the decaying and disconnected realm.

One way to sidestep any question marks over the narrative is to work alongside Mike Mignola himself and Dark Horse Comics. As such, Web of Wyrd feels like a true Hellboy tale, with a narrative that’s laden with unsettling moments, unfathomable entities and Hellboy himself grimly quipping through them all. Tying it to an ominous soundscape that rings the BRPD bell secures the uneasy atmosphere that a Hellboy title needs, and as a long-time reader of the comics I felt right at home. Well, an unsettling, slightly queasy home.

Web of Wyrd might surprise you as it drafts in a roguelike structure rather than a straight narrative. You dive into various areas of the Wyrd, seeking out the central boss in order to power up The Butterfly House’s ever-changing layout, unlocking a new area in the process. Hellboy begins with his iconic – and physically-attached – Right Hand of Doom, which is fundamentally built for smacking supernatural foes about, and there’s a bunch more weapons and charms to turn on your gruesome adversaries.

As you progress through each area, you gain a variety of Blessings from the different denizens that lurk there, giving you the option of different upgrades to make your journey through the Wyrd easier. These add health or toughness, speed up reloads or reflect damage back at your enemies, and are absolutely necessary if you want to make it through. It’s all about preparing for the boss fight as best you can, eking out your health, maximising your build and making sure you’re as strong as possible before entering a particular door.

On your way there, Web of Wyrd settles into a pattern of entering an area, beating whatever lurks within, and collecting anything that’s going to help you in your quest. You then rinse and repeat. It’s formulaic, and I’m truly torn over whether or not the combat is good enough to see you through.

Each area has two or three main enemy types, with smaller one-hit minions generally getting in everyone’s way. Hellboy is pretty slow, and the enemies can be annoyingly speedy at times. Combine that with some moves that are unblockable, and which you can’t reliably dodge out of the way of, and some frustration can begin to set in. That said, if you do manage to pull them off, well-timed blocks build your meter, with a full charge letting you unleash the Right Hand of Doom upon some unsuspecting monster, despatching them instantaneously in a hugely satisfying cinematic finishing move.

Your chosen Blessings also make a big difference to how well you perform, and they add some interesting visual flair to show the different effects that are in play. Glowing swords appear about their head, or green wisps, and when it all slots into place Web of Wyrd’s combat can feel fun and satisfying. It just doesn’t always feel that way.

The cutscenes are minimal but tell the tale in a suitably Hellboy comic book style. Fans will absolutely relish being able to participate in their beloved world, and one of the key things playing that Web of Wyrd achieved was reminding me just why this is my favourite comic book series.

It’s a shame then that the gameplay doesn’t quite hold up to the visuals and the tale it weaves, but the relatively short run time means that it doesn’t overstay its welcome. I would love to play a longer, action-orientated game using this engine, and in some ways Web of Wyrd works as a proof of concept, more than a truly stand-alone game.

Hellboy: Web of Wyrd will delight fans with its visuals and Mignola-certified tale, but its roguelike nature and slow combat don't make the most of the source material.
  • Incredible visuals
  • Great setting
  • Lance Reddick's Hellboy
  • Slow combat
  • Limited enemy types
  • Repetitive
Written by
TSA's Reviews Editor - a hoarder of headsets who regularly argues that the Sega Saturn was the best console ever released.