App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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Lore throughout the entirety of human history is full of stories of those attempting or succeeding in escaping from The Bad Place. Hell, Hades, The Underworld, whatever it's been called throughout the centuries it's obvious that most people don't much care for the idea of winding up there. So naturally, they'd want to get out. But this is Hell we're talking about here. It's not as if someone could just walk out the front door.
Hellbreak wraps the concept of escaping the fate of the damned in the familiar mechanics of reaction-based platforming. The goal of each level is to reach the portal at the top and move on to the next, carefully timing jumps to coincide with gaps that appear in the constantly moving platforms while avoiding all manner of hazards and biting things. It's the kind of thing one would expect to get very, very difficult as the game progresses, but I must admit I wasn't entirely prepared for it to get so tough so fast.
Hellbreak uses a very likeable artistic style, somewhat akin to a mixture of illustrations from the Middle Ages and the artwork of Terry Gilliam. The animations are just a little rough in that oddly "right" kind of way that makes them look like drawings awkwardly come to life. The controls are also responsive and simple, and include four different options that cater to a wide range of preferences. Although I stuck with the defaults, personally.
As much as I enjoy the visuals, they can sometimes impede my progress. Mostly it's the speech bubbles from the devil that taunt players throughout their journey blocking a good deal of the screen. However, I've also had trouble with timing jumps as the gaps in the platforms seem offset. I'm not sure how else to describe it, but I'd jump up with the gap directly over me and smack my head on the ceiling. What I ended up having to do was jump before the gap was overhead in order to make it through. It only takes a minute or two to adjust, but it's odd and it looks weird because the character ends up standing on empty space for a second while the moving ground catches up.
By and large though, my problem with Hellbreak is that it's so freaking tough. The difficulty doesn't "ramp up" here, it spikes dramatically. By the fourth level (out of almost 50) I was at my limit. A certain amount of skill (or lack thereof) is most certainly involved, but this felt more than a little excessive.
That's not to say that people won't enjoy Hellbreak, though. It's a well-crafted pick-up-and-play title with plenty of content (45+ levels and 2 different endless modes). It's just that it's also incredibly tough. Something that will undoubtedly appeal to some, but not all.