99 Levels to Hell Review (PC)
99 Levels to Hell is a game that revels in its own difficulty. Bearing in mind that I described Demon’s Souls as “not that hard” when I reviewed it, this game is harder. Mostly because there isn’t anything you can stock up on to make the road ahead more bearable. No, until you get more characters (there are three to unlock, of which I acquired none), you’re stuck with The Magician’s shotgun and maybe some bombs.
In the game you… Look, just read the title and know from the main menu to the music riffs on the echoey steel guitar sounds of Diablo’s Tristram theme, that if someone made a Diablo-based platformer with way too many cheap and difficult levels, it’d be this. But you know what? It’s a lot of fun. I’ve always felt the key to game’s success is the speed with which you go through the attempt/fail/retry loop. If you can couple this with the player always knowing why they failed? You’ll have a winner, no matter how cheap that enemy seems at first, you can be sure your players will more cautious of them next time around.
The kicker here is that there are some pretty interesting boss fights every 10 levels. A giant bloody red bat with spikes for a hairdo, who births smaller bloody red bats that turn into two more smaller ones when you shoot them, then bigger bloody red splats when you shoot them. Fun! Theses boss fights are a nicely spaced, and much needed, punctuation. Let’s face it, the game would be boring without them.
It helps that 99 Levels to Hell looks nice. It’ll remind many of Spelunky most recently, which is to say bright, starkly shaded, thickly outlined and exaggerated caricatures. So the graphics are simple and effective, while far from a tech demo for a BlowMe 5000 XL graphics card with a gajillion GB of VRAM. Nice, not amazing, but good all the same.
The controls are more mixed, being much better on controller (working like a dual-stick shooter), but keyboard and mouse is serviceable. That’s to say you move a crosshair around with the mouse while the platforming is handled with WASD for directions and space to jump.
How, you may ask, can W and S be used if space is jump? Ladders. Lots and lots of ladders. Each level gives you a set amount of time to run around, find the key and get out. Go over that time, and ghosties will start to move in on your position for some instadeath moping, inciting either red-faced rage, or disbelieving stares, genuinely unsure of which button you’re going to press, because you’ve had enough of this. “Restart” or “Quit To Menu”?
No question really. “Restart”… Most of the time.
80 Hellishly good levels out of 99