With it launching last summer around the time of Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout and Fast And Furious: Crossroads, Helheim Hassle was sadly one that slipped under the radar for us. This puzzle-platformer from the creators of Manuel Samuel sees players solve many creatively designed puzzles within the colourful depths of Helheim (Viking hell). It may have escaped our sights when it first launched, but now it has arrived on the PS4, and we are ready to give it our final verdict.
In Helheim Hassle, you step into the shoes of Bjørn Hammerparty, a young Viking, who falls cowardly to his death after fleeing from battle. As Bjørn collides with a bear on his plummet to the ground, he is mistakenly regarded as a hero and is given a place within Viking heaven. Bjørn doesn't spend too long up there, however, as he is soon resurrected by an angsty skeleton named Pesto, who needs his help to translate a gate blocking the path ahead. Whilst he is a little confused at first, Bjørn is thankful to escape the tedium of Valhalla and opts to stay with Pesto and explore the world of Helheim.
The writing here is top notch and the story transcends the game to the point where I would quite happily give it a watch if it was its own standalone cartoon. With its wonky animation style, crude humour, and witty self awareness, Helheim Hassle sits within the same ballpark as shows such as South Park, Bojack Horseman and Big Mouth. I never felt like skipping a cutscene to get to the action here, as I was always keen to see what crazy scenario Bjørn and Pesto would run into next. This was a refreshing change for a platformer, as in a lot of cases, it feels like the story is secondary to the running and jumping action.
Helheim Hassle is more of a puzzle game than a platformer. Sure, there are some elements where you'll need to manoeuvre your way across the environment, but for the most part, you'll be solving different puzzles to clear the path ahead by taking command of Bjørn's severed limbs. I mentioned earlier that Pesto was able to resurrect Bjørn, but it appears that the spell didn't go too well as his limbs and even his head have started to detach from his body. This gross but equally hilarious mechanic makes for some unique gameplay, as each limb comes with its own set of abilities. Bjørn can hurl his head over to NPCs to engage in conversation and his decapitated body can be used to jump to higher ledges and platforms.
The puzzles all do rely on this same mechanics and the game does have a linear structure to it, but things never grow too stale, as the level design is awfully creative. In one level we had to help free Bjørn's severed leg from the inside of a dragon's stomach. Here we had to traverse our way through the dragon's insides playing as the leg and had to switch back to Bjørn's body on the outside to cause the dragon to laugh or to anger him with insults. When the dragon laughed or raged at our name calling, this caused platforms in the beast's stomach to move and it allowed us to further make our way to freedom.
Something I also personally loved about this was how it poked fun at the inclusion of puzzles within its gameplay. In one section you pass through a gauntlet of puzzles with their creator standing right next to you judging your every move, and in another, you visit an area called Puzzle Con, which features many puzzles inspired by popular indies such as Limbo and Minecraft. The Minecraft-inspired puzzle that I got to play through saw me chiselling down blocks of wood before arranging them to build my very own shelter in the woods. Little things like this really helped elevate the game for me above the dozens of other puzzle platformers that are currently on the market, as it showed personality even beyond its cutscenes.
At roughly four hours long though, I did find Helheim Hassle to be on the shorter side. Sure, it's quality does feel consistent throughout, but you likely won't find yourself playing this one beyond just a Saturday afternoon. Another shortcoming I noticed about the game is that occasionally when trying to pick up limbs, Bjørn's head would roll off even though I was pressing the correct button. This was especially annoying during the occasional chase sequence, where my success was dependent on quickly traversing the obstacles ahead.
It might be a little on the short side, but I'd still say that Helheim Hassle is worth your attention if you're a fan of platformers and have a dark sense of humour. I found its story to be genuinely hilarious and I never skipped a moment to return back to the gameplay. I also found it to have a very unique spin on the puzzle-platformer genre, as it requires players to make their way across the environment using Bjørn's many severed body parts.
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