There is no denying it. The rogue-like genre has experienced an influx of games in recent years. Some have risen to the top of the genre’s must-have lists such as Hades and Enter the Gungeon while others have become permanent fixtures on the Nintendo eShop. So when Jupiter Hell was announced, I was intrigued to see what new gameplay elements would be implemented and make this a standout title.
Jupiter Hell‘s story is presented in the form of animated cutscenes. Your character has just returned from a routine patrol of the Callisto orbit when suddenly your craft is shot down by the automated defense system. Once inside, an elevator door opens and a monstrous creature emerges. So one might think from this opening cut-scene that Jupiter Hell is a run & gun rogue-like however this is not the case.
Jupiter Hell is a strategical turn-based game with a rather intuitive RPG system. Once you take control of the game, it’s time to select your playable character. There are three choices all of which have distinct character traits and unique perks. They are the following:
Besides each having their own respective traits, they also only have one item equipped from the start. For example, the Marine only has a small med-kit while the Scout has a revolver with .44 ammo. Since this is a rogue-like, permadeath is in play so all weapons, gear, and other items are gone upon your death. What does remain is your character level and whatever achievements you’ve obtained during your run. These locations are all procedurally generated so don’t bother trying to memorize the area layout for your next play. Jupiter Hell is not unforgiving. There are plenty of weapons such as shotguns, railguns and chainsaws, gear, and 2nd items such as grenades to be found in crates, supply boxes, and from dead enemies. The only real item that is scarce is med-kits which is to be expected.
The movements are up, down, left, and right. You have a free-roaming ability in areas with no enemies. Once you encounter an enemy, turn-based strategizing begins. You will see glowing boxes showing available move spots. Your character can also take cover behind various objects. If you don’t have a shot, you can bypass a turn. Not only does this hopefully provide the chance the enemy might move in range for a better shot but it also gives you a buff for a high hit chance.
Your character along with enemies doesn’t have to be front-facing to shoot. So if you enter an area in which an enemy is to your right, you DO NOT have to waste a turn to face that enemy. Simply fire your weapon and he will be shot. Another cool combat feature is in the form of a targeting mechanic. I was using a controller so pressing in on the right thumb-stick displayed a targeting option that also provided a full description of every item that I targeted. For example, 2 enemies were behind cover with crates & barrels to their left & right. Using this targeting mechanic showed the barrels are explosive. Once selecting the barrels, I fired my weapon and blew up the barrels that in turn killed both enemies.
As I mentioned, there are plenty of items to find and another useful feature is the ability to compare a weapon before picking it up. Simply holding the left trigger while standing over a weapon will display all its attributes. You are allowed to carry 3 weapons at a time and can cycle through them holding down the right trigger. Some items don’t even need to be picked up and can be used right from the ground, but I won’t spoil that item as I found it rather thrilling to do. The overall environment design is fitting for the game’s theme. It’s dark with the feeling of abandonment and you being the only survivor.
As you progress, you will find interactive terminals which contain additional context to the story. This is a nice touch but pretty much unnecessary to the actual gameplay since the main objective is to find better weapons, level up, and kill everything in sight on your way to the next elevator. The soundtrack consists of heart-pumping heavy metal music that really sets the mode but is a bit short for my liking which leads to quick track looping. There is a mini-map in the top right that will expand its view as you explore the level so I didn’t find myself getting lost, just bumping into a bunch of dead ends and having to backtrack to the next hallway to take an alternate path. Once you die, a full stat sheet will appear showing full movement counts, enemies killed, which enemy types killed you, and much more.
Overall, I feel developer ChaosForge achieved their goal in producing a fun, fast-paced strategical turn-based ’90s themed SCI-FI game. My only complaint is with the limited soundtrack. For some, this may sound trivial but having a decent amount of headbanging tracks can further motivate a player (myself included) in jumping back in for another play. On that note, Jupiter Hell is definitely worth your time and does a good job incorporating different gameplay elements into this rogue-like.