As they say, Hell is repetition.
Steam Sifter is back, and it’s undergoing some significant changes. See, while I was gone, I realized that the Steam community is actually worse than my thought, and with a mixture of Steam’s idiotic practices on how to treat reviews and the general nature of the average gamer, I found that stuff that should have never gotten a strong positive feedback were getting just that for bizarre reasons (like the presence of anime titty). So, I decided to toss out the rating requirement and just look at strange budget stuff, alongside poorly rated games.
I’m going to go a bit easy on today’s game because the developers, SakuraGame, appear to be Chinese and still cutting their teeth, and because their next game, Dragon Knight, actually looks promising for a budget effort. But it’s also hard to ignore when a bad game is a bad game, and this is definitely a bad game. This is Hell Girls, and its a new type of bad I haven’t covered here yet – bare bones bad.
The premise is that three girls that look like they each look like they come from wildly different and equally terrible light novels are given powers of the elements (fire, lighting, ice) and are cast with saving the world from Hell demons, earning the name Hell Girls. Absolutely none of this is made very clear in the game itself, and it just raises questions on why the entire world is leaving everything up to three random girls who got random magic powers. Turns out there is a hilarious explanation if you find the country’s capital far off on the map, as the king explains that this happens every few centuries and everyone has stopped bothering trying to make their own destiny because the demons always come back and they can just relocate if needed. It’s bizarrely nihilistic, and even the main characters are surprised this is the actual reasoning. Nothing is actually done with this concept, but I appreciate the weirdly genre aware gag.
Otherwise, the game only has little moments with unnamed side characters you encounter on the map, some having some sort of impact, and others meaningless. The only one of real note involved a mage who was basically trying to jack off a bunch of monsters to collect their gross seed for science. Oh, and there was that one time a miner explained that monster poop was corrupting his mine as the main characters exclaimed that the mine smelled like shit and wondered if the miner was mining shit. Credit where credit is due, these are genuinely unexpected moments, even if they are terrible.
The game proper has you picking icons on a map to either shop for spells for your girls, or usually to take part in a battle. You pick one of the heroines and fight it out with three to five monsters, with everything being decided with match three puzzling. The game is a bit similar to HuniePop, in that it has multiple gem types with different effects. However, they’re centered around RPG battle mechanics, including physical and magical attack gems, health, MP and defense gems, and a few special gems. By matching four or more, you can create a spell book with a special attack based on the heroine in use. The fire heroine an cause explosions, the lightning one either does extra damage or damages obstructing gems, and the ice one clears columns and rows. Enemies will also little the board with different gems that can deal damage, obstruct you, or give them status buffs, among other things.
The skeleton of the game is there and a pretty solid one. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the game, but it also fails at excelling at, well, anything. Of particular note is how badly optimized the game is, with attack animations sometimes freezing and skipping. It’s a glitch that seems to exist entirely because of the 3D models, which weren’t worth the effort to render. There’s one or two kinds of neat monster designs, but they would all look better as 2D illustrations. The heroines also have ridiculously busy and unappealing designs taken directly from obnoxious trends from the worlds of light and visual novels. Only the ice heroine works in any fashion, if only because her design is simple enough that it doesn’t look like it was pieced together from about three or four different costumes.
Of course, the 2D art used for portraits on the map aren’t impressive either, just showing generic fantasy character and monster designs that you’ll instantly forget a moment later. The map also feels completely unnecessary, as narrative is almost non-existent, and the game doesn’t even have a proper ending. Once you complete the vaguely defined goal of defeating three different monster nests, which don’t even include special bosses, a screen comes up telling you how well you did …and then you just go back to the map. This moment was when I pieced together that Hell Girls is ONLY a skeleton. The developers didn’t put on the meat.
You can see this in the puzzle mechanics as well, particularly how easy it is to exploit the spell books in most fights. Using them counts as part of a chain, so you can just keep making them over and over with ease. The attempt to spice things up here come from having multiple heroines with different stats, with fire having the toughest physical attacks, lightning being weak but with strong magic attacks, and ice having some balance and having the best lasting power of the three. However, there’s no real use of elemental weaknesses, despite being set up so obviously, and it quickly becomes apparent that lightning is the most useless character in late game as enemies start hitting harder. There’s a real lack of balancing and giving each heroine their own particular use, making the presence of three heroines with their own stats strangely pointless.
The game is all skeleton, no meat. It doesn’t even have flash to distract from its lack of polish, which is a huge problem. SakuraGame will either need to focus on presentation or mechanical depth in their future games, and Dragon Knight seems to be aiming at the former. Hopefully, it will be a better game and the devs are learning, because Hell Girls isn’t exactly an endearing first impression.
The Finds So Far:
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