Note: This Preview is based off the iPhone 5 version.
Point-and-click adventure games work well on mobile devices. This is especially true when developers make use of most, if not all, of a device’s functions. Hellraid: The Escape is the next game to follow suit, and it challenges its players to escape from a hellish prison by using logic and a a little bit of magic.
A dark sorcerer has imprisoned you in a magic, demonic prison. Sadist demons guard every hallway with crossbows, swords, and other medieval weaponry. In fact, the game begins with you helplessly struggling while one of them viciously clubs you to death. Eventually, you break free from your coffin and find one of many notes left by a fellow desperate prisoner. He only asks that you help free him and overthrow the sorcerer. How would a prisoner who is trapped be able to leave all these notes behind–let alone specifically for the main protagonist? The hell if I know, but I certainly don’t trust the guy who is leaving these notes behind.
The demo I played introduced me to three chambers. Two of them are relatively easy and sufficiently taught me how to play the game. The third chamber was more difficult, and gave me a glimpse of how fiendish the later challenges could be. In all three levels, you begin trapped in a coffin, which you must remove and so you can find that you a trapped in a room; go figure. The rest of the game involves breaking out of various rooms by solving puzzles and avoiding demons. Hellraid: The Escape is similar to The Room or Dying: Sinner Escape, which I reviewed last year.
In Hellraid: The Escape, the puzzles are similar to a point-and-click adventure game, although they seem to make more sense logically. For instance, you might be trapped in a room and see a switch on the other side. Rather than combine items for a painfully contrived puzzle, you might just consider picking up some rocks off the ground and throwing them at the switch. The puzzles also have their cathartic moments. The switches appear in more than one place and usually serve different purposes. For instance, you might throw a rock at a switch to activate a trap that kills the demon guarding the hallway. Later in the game you learn a spell that lets you possess certain creatures, and it also allows you to safely explore my surroundings.
While it has plenty of interesting ideas, Hellraid: The Escape needs some polishing. I mentioned the cool out-of-body spell that allowed me search the room easier; however, that was not the first time I triggered the spell. I actually triggered it in the second level by complete accident. Before I knew it was a spell, I thought it was just a hilarious glitch. The game is also prone to freezing when using this spell normally.
Apart from some technical issues, I do have a short list of suggestions. First, keep the touchscreen ideas fresh. They had some cool ideas such as throwing stones through iron bars to open the door; however, most of the puzzles rely on tapping and swiping the touchscreen. Second, make the menu items more responsive. The selections are a bit small, so I have to spend a few seconds trying to properly select an item from my inventory. My third suggestion is to vary the methods I can use to dispose of demons. While I thought it was very cathartic to trap one of the demons, I hope that it becomes a little less obvious how to defeat them. The demons in the demo tended to stay in one place until I triggered their killer instinct.
Finally, and I hate to say this, but I think the last level of Hellraid: The Escape’s demo might be too dark. I get it; horror games rely on a dark atmosphere. But even Silent Hill 2 managed to find fine-tune the darkness so that it didn’t impede my navigation skills too much, and it didn’t have any sparkling objects to guide me. Having to feel my way through the dark seems like a good idea in theory; however, this becomes a problem when Ibecome stuck on the terrain–like one would in any other first-person game–and then become diced to bits because of it.
Overall, I enjoyed my short time with Hellraid: The Escape. It’s filled with interesting ideas, and I hope the team fleshes them out in the final build. I can’t say whether it will terrify anybody because horror is too subjective. It does, however, have an interesting interpretation of Hell, and the puzzles are satisfying to solve—so long as I don’t spend half an hour searching in the dark for a switch as Thelma would for her glasses.
Hellraid: The Escape is coming soon to the App Store, PC and Consoles.