It’s rare that a video game can be consistently humorous while also tying said humour into the actual gameplay, but Helheim Hassle pulls just that feat off. While it’s not without fault, there’s a great puzzle game here wrapped up in a funny, engaging story and a cracking visual style to boot.
If you got around to playing the demo, then your progress will handily carry over here. If not, well, let me set the scene. We play as Björn, the most cowardly of Vikings. At the outset, his village is under attack by Giants and while his fellow villagers charge heading into the battle in the hope of dying like a warrior and being sent to Valhalla, Björn runs the opposite way hoping to hide and wait it out. He has no desire to head to Valhalla, yet, after accidentally falling on, and killing, a bear he is granted access against his will.
Throughout this opener we are introduced to several big characters that are played with an over the top, tongue in cheek-ness that sets the tone going forward. Many years later Björn is resurrected by Pesto – Satan’s right hand demon – to help her read some old Viking signs in her quest to get to Helheim to recover a package. Suffice to say, her skills in resurrecting people are lacking, and Björn suffers from being immortal (handy) while his body parts fall off at the drop of a hat (double handy).
It’s this set up that comprises of the bulk of the game. We start off being able to detach his head at will, before gradually unlocking the ability to remove each of his limbs as well. Perfectly Paranormal use the tools they’ve laid out in clever ways, from rolling Björn’s head under small crevices, to being able to throw an arm and a leg up and over a ledge to pull a lever, and more. Each of his detached parts are fully controllable, and can also be attached to one another in order to progress; there’s nothing like seeing one arm, leg and head scuttling along together and up a ladder!
For the most part, the puzzles are just the right side of challenging. A lot will require us to throw the right combination of body parts, in the right order, to succeed, whereas others are more a case of moving several parts at once through different locations. When we’re given time to plan and move, things work great; roll a head here, throw a leg there etc. But switching between body parts quickly can be a bit hit and miss, leading to some of the more time sensitive parts becoming quite frustrating.
An early example sees us being chased and requires us to navigate some platforming, lob our head and arm through several small gaps in a row to open a door, as well as move our body to follow. We can switch either by cycling with the bumpers, selecting the part with the d-pad, or flicking the right stick. Trouble is, none of these are especially easy to use quickly, and I failed that section many, many times before finally just barely making it. It didn’t help that I’d have to restart the whole thing until I’d gotten a couple of doors in, at which point there was a save. This occurs more than once throughout, and is just as frustrating each time. If time paused or slowed while selecting body parts perhaps it’d have been more manageable, even for a moment, but alas it does not.
What makes these moments of annoyance worse though is that the rest of Helheim Hassle is great. As mentioned, the slower puzzles work brilliantly, with some truly clever set ups and pay offs. Even when I was stumped on one, I still enjoyed the process of figuring out the best plan of action, and PP do enough to make each area feel new, adding in extra elements such as being able to roll Björn’s head into a snowball, or swapping it out for a disguise to let him blend in. One late puzzle initially looks overwhelmingly complicated, but sit back and look and the information we need to clear it is right in front of us.
The humour is excellent too. The interplay between Pesto, Björn and the rest of the cast is entertaining, with a light, witty humour that is right up my alley. If you’ve played Manuel Samuel you’ll know what to expect, but I feel that HH manages to outdo that title in terms of consistent laughs. It never takes itself seriously, but also doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard to be funny or wacky. There are moments that are a little ehhh… inducing, such as the set up for Odin coming to find Björn, but even that I still found entertaining, if not quite as funny as the game thinks it is.
There’s a lot to do here as well. In addition to just following the main path and story, there are various side quests and missions to complete, collectables to find and a fast travel system letting us go back quickly to hand in quest items. Optional pathways reveal hidden extras, including one tough as nails boss fight that, while I really wanted to see the payoff to, suffers from the aforementioned issues.
Helheim Hassle is another solid entry in to the gaming world from Perfectly Paranormal. It’s funny, has clever puzzle mechanics and designs, and there’s much more to do here than initial impressions might appear. Switching between the body parts is too fiddly to do with speed, so some sections suffer as a result and can be mightily frustrating, but other than that there’s a lot of fun to be had here.
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.