I continue to mistakenly refer to High Hell as How High. Y’know, that classic stoner flick from 2001 about multi-platinum rap superstars Redman and Method Man as Jamal and Silas, two regular guys who smoke something magical, ace their college entrance exams, and wind up at Harvard–hilarity ensues. I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve seen it more than once. Also, I’m sure I’m not alone in this conundrum. Either way, the two entities are desperately unlike, and that’s good, because I don’t think playing a videogame version of How High would be all that enjoyable. High Hell, on the other hand, is a real hoot…
High Hell is currently one of the freebies for the month of May for those with Twitch Prime, which I finally set up a month or two ago, mostly to get some free cosmetics for Fortnite. It seems like it is on the same level as Microsoft’s Games with Gold program, and I like that I’m getting the games for free permanently, unlike with PlayStation Plus, which means I don’t feel extra pressure to play through them sooner than later. We also got Pyschonauts, Clustertruck, Gone Home, Titan Souls, and I, Hope. Some of those I’ve played, and some I’ve not, so, for me, it’s been a good balance of new things to try out along with some acquiring a few classics I can open with a different launcher.
Right. Let’s cut immediately to the action now, because that’s what High Hell is all about. It’s a neon-soaked, arcade-action first-person shooter from Terri Vellmann (Heavy Bullets) and Doseone (Enter the Gungeon, Gang Beasts). I’m aware of all three of those games, though I’ve never touched ’em, but a part of me suspects one or two are waiting to be installed in my Steam library. In this one, you must take on the criminal underground with a gun that never needs reloading and bring lethal salvation to those that have fallen from the light. Er, something like that. Devolver Digital is behind it, and if you have played any of their games, you know they go big, bold, and right for the jugular. Also, they aren’t afraid to be a little goofy. Some examples that I’ve actually tasted include: Hotline Miami, Luftrausers, and Gods Will Be Watching.
The story is purposely thin and mostly told through mission objectives, such as burn three Employee of the Month paintings, destroy two wiener pumps, deface corporate effigies, and kill Beelzebot. There are main objectives and side objectives and even smaller side tasks, such as burning piles of cash, but the true goal is to stay alive and shoot down anybody or anything targeting you and your health meter. For each successful kill, you get a little bit of health back, which is good, because it doesn’t take much to bring you to your knees and health pick-ups are few and far between. You can methodically and slowly inch your way forward or charge ahead guns blazing, and both plans of attack have their moments, but you need to be quick with your shots because the enemies or big bosses don’t pull any punches.
I’m currently around level 12 or 13–I can’t remember, it’s all a pink-and-gray blur–out of 20 total missions, and I’m having a fantastic time. I normally belittle myself and lack the self-esteem to feel good about playing this type of fast-paced, twitch-based shooters, but I’m actually doing all right. Sure, I get stuck on a couple of levels, but repetition helps iron out the wrinkles and improve my playthrough each time, breaking it down to an almost exact science if you can pull off each shot. Granted, I’m not hitting speedrunning times, but that’s never been my goal; remember, the only game I’ve speedrunned so far is Gone Home.
I’m hoping to see High Hell all the way to its conclusion, but I don’t know if there is more to do after that. Or, even if there is, I don’t know if it is something I will care about. I’m enjoying the frenetic nature of these levels, and jumping off buildings to parachute away after completing all objectives is beyond satisfying, but I might have my fill by the end. We’ll see. For now, I’ll keep kicking down doors and blasting anything that gets in my way.