It is 6:15 p.m. on a cool October 27, 2023. Social life and Saturday beer call me and I am therefore forced to turn off the Xbox Series X. Amazing how time has flown by with Hellboy Web of Wyrd, the new action brawler roguelike developed by Upstream Arcade with support from Good Shepherd and Dark Horse. I open my phone, send a couple of messages on Whatsapp to the members of Freaking News to tell them about my good vibes: I started the work dedicated to the mythical comic book character conceived by Mike Mignola (contributor here) and also beloved in cinema thanks to the direction of Guillermo del Toro and the performance of Ron Perlman (speaking of video games based on comic books, don’t miss the review of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2) at 3:15 p.m. and three hours later I have a smile marking my face.
I think I’m almost done with the game, I’m missing a ‘secret‘ level to rough up the Nazi menace that appears immediately after defeating the fourth boss of the respective stage and here I am sketching a review while waiting for my friends at the pub. In the end, if you feel like going home to keep playing, something must say about the quality of a title developed by 15 people who are passionate about the red hero with severed horns. Too bad that, a few hours later, I find out that my initially positive feelings did not turn out to be quite correct.
Web of Wyrd: a classic roguelike
Hellboy Web of Wyrd is a third person roguelike with the camera locked behind the protagonist’s back That uncovers its cards very quickly and alternates between connecting corridors and arenas that need to be cleared because are occupied by insulting thugs who die at the first blow and by major monsters whose patterns are quite readable and against whom, the best strategy is to bludgeon them relentlessly, combining firearms, quick punches (the most effective) and loaded punches (not very useful). If you are in trouble, here is also a special attack that greatly reduces the monster’s health bar.
Also, a treat not to be underestimated, if you are close to a wall you can hit the beasts so hard that they make a beautiful mold on the wall. And if you are good enough to guess the timing of your opponent’s attacks (spoiler, it won’t take long), there is even a chance to pull off an ignorant parry. There are, of course, no shortage of rooms to obtain temporary power ups (to be added to the unlockable abilities in the game’s Main Hub that are retained even in the event of death) and, lastly, the final area where there is a boss that is not at all leathery. Once defeated, you will have passed the level and will return to base.
I enjoyed the gameplay and, more specifically, the combat, of Web of Wyrd, thanks to a graphic look that oozes Mike Mignola from every pixel: the visual explosions generated by the impact of Hellboy’s punches on the bodies of demonic creatures, besides rewarding our perseverance in punching them as if they were punching bags, seem literally ripped from the paper comics. We are looking at a game that is as simple in its machines as fully enjoyable pad in hand. Sooner or later, however, the time will come for you, too, to play the last quarter of the adventure.
To see the end credits of Hellboy Web of Wyrd, it is necessary to complete again the four previously beaten levels to which is added an additional stage for each in which we will also find new enemies to face. And after completing the poker of settings again, here is the plot twist that stretches the narrative even further: this ‘surprise’ may even make sense from a narrative point of view but it partially ruins an experience that begins to creak from the moment you are forced to start over from the initial scenario.
And it’s too bad because I was enjoying Hellboy Web of Wyrd: the fighting, the parries, these boxing matches with Red as the protagonist had me fully convinced. At the same time, the mechanics stripped down to the bone and the environments replayed to the point of exhaustion (the scenery changes but the level design remains the same) end up highlighting even more an underlying repetitiveness in the gameplay that becomes more and more evident as the adventure continues. More playful variety – within the limits possible for a fifteen-person studio – would have made this beat ’em up even more enjoyable. Not too bad though, with a little patience, given the low difficulty of the production, you will still be able to take home the final trophy.