Review – Rising Hell
We are currently in quite the renaissance of the roguelite genre. It seems like every other release lately features some form of rogue elements. To be fair, the fact that these recent titles like Loop Hero, Hades, Dandy Ace etc. have turned out to be great helps keep the genre from feeling fatigued. Hell, we even got a AAA roguelite (Returnal) release recently that is helping bring the genre to the general masses. Does Rising Hell have what it takes to stand tall next to these recent genre showcases? Let’s rise up and find out.
Rising Hell places you in the shackles of Arok, a sinner with a mysterious power to kill demons. Shackled in a massively tall prison, fight your way up through the horde of Belial and escape hell. Powered by will, your natural talents of murdering demons, and a kick ass metal soundtrack, you’ll conquer the ever changing levels of hell.
Rising Hell is a vertical action roguelite. This means the level design is basically set in a linear fashion that moves, you guessed it, vertically. The levels are generally fairly short and at the end you’ll be able to choose between two paths. Each path has a name and for the most part they don’t change too much, so you can plan runs on paths you’re better with. The levels all feature a different theme of some sort to help keeps things fresh. One level will feature an ever rising spike platform that you’ll need to outrun. Another will set various assortment of traps and specific enemies.
Most levels will feature portals that will take you on a side path that will reward you with various items or upgrade materials. Other portals will bring you to a merchant (Mephisto, the Trickster) to use your Souls and purchase upgrades, artifact weapons, or health. This all is pretty standard for a roguelite, and with the limitations of its level structure it can feel a bit repetitive. There is some procedural generation in the levels, and there are different paths to take; however, after a few runs it starts to feel too similar. So if you aren’t particularly great at roguelites and get stuck on levels, you’ll be seeing the same areas quite a lot.
Luckily the gameplay in Rising Hell is pretty solid and engaging. It’s actually a somewhat simple game control scheme wise since there isn’t a lot of inputs. You have jump, attack, and a dash. Obviously there is more complexity within there, but for the most part the combat is very straight forward. You’ll be wall jumping, using your dash to cross gaps and evade attacks, while using artifact weapons to alter your attack. I even like how some actions are automated which kinda helps the flow of the combat and can be used strategically. Jumping up into an enemy will cause you to automatically do an uppercut attack; while falling on an enemy will have you doing a smash attack. There are specific levels that are laid out to where you can uppercut through enemies all the way to the top without landing.
Outside of the general combat, you’ll be collecting Souls that you’ll be able to spend on gifts that offer various buffs. Each buff is assigned to a specific attribute and you’ll only be able to upgrade that attribute so many times. If you plan well you can assign buffs that work together to give you massive bonuses. Besides upgrades, during levels certain enemies will drop limited use items that range from the Cerberus claws that electrifies nearby enemies, to Chronosphere that slows down time. There are a decent amount of these and you’ll encounter them frequently.
Obviously this being a roguelite game, death will come often, and upon each death you’ll be sent back to your cell to start the climb again. The only currency that you’ll keep after death are Blight. Blight is used to unlock new characters of which are three including the base character Arok. Each character has their own base stats and attack style. Besides unlocking characters, you’ll also be able to spend Blight on unlocking relics that you can equip before a run that will offer a permanent boost. For example: Archfiend Cuirass protects you from spike damage and the Incubus Egg will summon a creature to fight with you.
My biggest issues with Rising Hell I think stem from its limited design. While the gameplay is fun and ripping demons to shreds is engaging, the level design stifles it. Runs start feeling too similar and there just isn’t enough progression and unique relics to equip that really alter that. Each character has only their one main weapon, and nothing else unique to them so even new characters won’t help if things start to get stale.
I really enjoy carefully crafted and heavily detailed pixel art, and Rising Hell does this competently. Everything is well defined within the levels and even hidden spike traps are given visual clues to help you avoid. For the most part, the enemy designs are well done and fit the Hell aesthetic, while the main bosses offer the coolest designs. With the level designs being fairly linear, there is some disappointment here in offering a bunch of unique areas. However, each main world has its own theme and look and is for the most part well done. Things can look a bit too similar, unfortunately. Mini-bosses also lack the visual punch in offering something menacing to fight. Unlike the main bosses, they don’t feel as threatening.
Sound design is one of my favorite parts as it offers a fantastic heavy metal soundtrack. In fact, everything about it oozes metal. Even down to the announcer when you select the mode you want to play. It all feels very arcadey in that way, and I love it. The general level and boss music tracks will have you head banging in no time. However, there are some sound effects with the enemies and combat that feel lower quality. Luckily, these are smaller nitpicks as the overall sound design I really enjoyed.
Rising Hell is a surprisingly good game that took a simple level design idea and made it work with the roguelite genre. If you’re into demon slaying to heavy metal and enjoy the roguelite loop then this will be a title to pick up. However, I do feel there may be some longevity issues due to the design and lack of variety in the base gameplay. Nevertheless, I never hit the stale wall, but I can see it for folks who struggle or dedicate heavy time into the rogue genre.
The overall pixel art design is well done with some nice detail. However, the small level design and some mini-bosses leaves something to be desired.
The general combat is simple, but requires some time to master. Although, I do like how smooth some actions are. Unfortunately, the gameplay can start to feel a bit repetitive.
The metal soundtrack is fantastic, I love the level and boss music. The general sound design is fine, but certain sound effects in the combat could use some work.
The linear vertical level progression is done well and there are some unique gameplay ideas that use this design smartly. However, it can start to feel a bit repetitive and the roguelite progression doesn’t feel useful enough.
Final Verdict: 8.0
Rising Hell is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X.
A copy of Rising Hell was provided by the publisher.