Review – SEUM: Speedrunners from Hell
SEUM: Speedrunners from Hell is the most “metal” game ever since last year’s glorious Doom. From its aesthetic, art style, and soundtrack to its attitude and brutality, the whole game is a nod to heavier and faster styles of metal. As the developer calls it, it’s a mix between Super Meat Boy and Quake III Arena, and I can’t help but think the dev is quite right. The game features the most absurd and over-the-top story I’ve seen in a while: the devil shows up in your trailer, severs your arm and steals your beer. You go back to hell with a new devilish arm to catch him and get your beer back. Ridiculous and straightforward. Can’t complain about that.
Think of SEUM as Meat Boy in a first-person view, set in hell, with trash metal being blasted in the background. It’s as challenging, unforgiving, brutal and infuriating as the indie classic, with an added layer of challenge by having a very small time limit in each level. A very small, brutal, sadistic time limit.
Visually speaking, SEUM is a big mixed bag. On one hand, the art style is great. The hellish landscapes are fun to look at, even if way too much orange is used throughout the whole game. The game also features a phenomenally fast framerate, a must in a game like this. On the other hand, the game boasts a visual style that I can only describe as “Made by Unity.” Have you ever played a cheaper Unity game which featured this cheaper and less detailed graphical style, with bland shadow effects, weird lighting and overall simple polygons? That’s what I felt with SEUM‘s visuals. It reminded me of Poi, a game I reviewed a few months ago. Same low-budget visual style which didn’t resonate very well. Well, at least the soundtrack and voice acting are pretty good, if not a bit tongue-in-cheek and over-the-top, which is generally a good thing.
Even though SEUM is supposed to be infuriating by nature due to its level of difficulty and time limits, the game becomes even more infuriating because of its controls. It’s been a while since I’ve last seen controls as sensitive as these. One little millimetrical flick on the right analog stick and your camera goes completely haywire. SEUM was clearly developed with the mouse and keyboard in mind, and it’s noticeable due to the completely bonkers camera sensitivity. Given the fact that there are a lot of puzzles requiring quick reflexes and perfect aim, you better head into the options menu and tone down the camera sensitivity as much as you can. It won’t help you much, but it will make things a bit more tolerable. Were I able to play this game with a mouse and keyboard, then the score would have been totally different.
The game isn’t just limited to running to the finishing line like a famished leopard trying to catch a succulent gazelle. There are lots of traps and puzzles scattered around the levels to give you, literally, hell. They aren’t exactly complex, but given the fact some levels give you a mere ten seconds to reach the finish line, even the dumbest light switch can be a real migraine-inducing nightmare and a potential reason for you to throw your controller across the room. Add in the aforementioned sensitivity and you’re in for one hell of a challenge.
SEUM can be extremely infuriating at times, either by intentional design choices like its challenging nature and time limits or by unintentional flaws such as the excessively sensitive controls, but I’ve constantly felt that usual “just one more attempt” feeling present in a lot of difficult but fun games. In the end, this game is just like a death metal album: at first, it’s just too loud, violent, repetitive, uneasy and uninteresting. As you keep on playing, you’ll find out it’s quite fun, even if it’s still loud and uneasy.
It’s not a game for everybody, but it’s an interesting pick for those craving for a new challenge. Just remember to attach some cushions to your controller as you’re going to feel the urge to throw it out the window.
Reviewed on Xbox One.
Also available on: PS4, PC.
Copy of SEUM: Speedrunners from Hell provided by publisher.