An excellent platform-puzzler, elevated by a funny and entertaining story
- Developer: Perfectly Paranormal
- Publisher: Perfectly Paranormal
- Release date: 18th August 2020
- Genre: Platforming/Puzzle/Metroidvania
- Platforms: Xbox One, PS5, Switch, PC
- Reviewed on: Xbox One X
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
If you played Manual Samuel, you’ve probably got a good idea of the kind of macabre humour to expect from Helheim Hassle.
You play as Bjorn Hammerparty, a pacifist Viking who hates the idea of going to Valhalla. Luckily for Bjorn, entry to Valhalla is earned by dying a glorious death in battle, which he has no intention of doing. All he has to do is die of old age, sickness or some other equally uninspiring death, and he can live out eternity in Helheim.
When war breaks out against an angry mob of giants, Bjorn promptly runs the other way to find somewhere to hide. Unfortunately, whilst plunging from a great height, a lifetime of cowardice sure to earn him a place in Helheim, he lands on a bear, smashing himself and the unlucky ursine into pieces. Unable to catch a break, Bjorn’s heroic defeat of the bear in battle seals his place in Valhalla.
Flash-forward a thousand years, and Pesto (I won’t spoil it for you, but she’s not named after the garlic and basil dressing) finds his broken body, resurrecting him to assist in her own quest, and freeing him from an eternity of playing squad-based first-person shooters in Valhalla. There is an unfortunate side effect, though, as Bjorn’s limbs can now be detached from his torso and move independently.
With the help of Pesto and an excellent supporting cast of Goblins, Badgers, Norse Gods and more, you must make your way to Helheim, solving puzzles as you go.
Making progress through Helheim Hassle involves solving increasingly complex puzzles, using various combinations of body parts. Your head, arms, legs and torso can all be detached and controlled independently, or combined to give you additional abilities. Your arms can throw or carry other body parts and pull switches, legs when detached can jump higher, while your head can fit through small gaps and talk to the various NPCs you will encounter.
A lot of the puzzles involve getting a certain number of body parts onto a pressure switch, with some requiring specific combinations. Helheim Hassle has done a very good job of gradually increasing the complexity of the puzzles, and even though there are certainly some disembodied head-scratchers to solve, you can make consistent progress. Level design is very accomplished, and even if you may need a few minutes to work out the puzzle you are on, they have managed to make it clear what you need to do next. Some of the hidden puzzles are very cleverly revealed just in the corner of your view, and if you’re paying attention, you’ll find that Helheim Hassle has far more depth to its puzzling than first appears.
Scattered throughout the levels are frequent hidden areas, collectables, and NPCs with side-quests that you likely won’t be able to complete the first time you pass them. I strongly recommend you make a mental note at the least of where they are, as some of them can be tricky to locate once you’ve moved on with the story and finally unlocked the abilities or items needed to finish the quest.
Helheim Hassle gives you a visual tally of the overall number of puzzles and collectables left to find, which can be broken down by level if you zoom in on the map. For completionists, there is a lot of gameplay to be found, especially if you don’t follow a guide. I’ll admit, there’s a couple of puzzles I wish there had been a guide for, but working them out for myself was far more rewarding than just watching a YouTube video (check out our YouTube walkthrough videos if you get stuck, though).
Whilst some of the collectables are simply letters that expand upon the story and lore of Helheim Hassle, others, like the berries and coins, offer bonuses beyond the satisfaction of merely finding them. There are ten of each type of berries which, if all found, can be taken to an NPC and converted to smoothies. These smoothies offer a permanent ability boost such as increased strength, faster movement speed or the ability to see in the dark. Likewise, with gold coins, these can be used to purchase items in stores that allow you to complete side-quests and open up more of the game.
All of this puzzling is driven by an excellent and engaging narrative. Helheim Hassle is a brilliant puzzle game in its own right, but the often hilarious story elevates it to the next level. They have hired some quality voice-talent, with one of my favourites being Helga (Amber Nash – Pam Poovey, Archer). There are over 3,700 lines of dialogue in Helheim Hassle, and it’s all of exceptionally high quality and laugh-out-loud funny.
When it comes to the graphics, Perfectly Paranormal have got everything right. Sharing the same distinct art-style of Manual Samuel, the cartoony graphics perfectly complement the gameplay. Everything they have created is expertly crafted, with smooth clean lines and fluid (and funny) animations. I’m sure it’s not in the least taxing to even an entry-level GPU on PC, but it doesn’t need to be. They had an artistic vision, and they’ve accomplished that vision beautifully. Paired off with very short loading times, even fast-travelling from area to area happens in just a few moments. Less, in this case, is indeed more.
Audio quality also is top-drawer, with the aforementioned voice acting, but also a great score and a few very funny ear-worm songs sprinkled in for your audible pleasure. I can’t find anything to fault with the audio in Helheim Hassle.
For a game that I expected to just pick-up, play, then move on from, I’ve found myself drawn into Helheim Hassle. I usually loathe collectable based achievements/trophies, but here, I actually want to go out of my way to complete them. I’ve put in a reasonable amount of time on Helheim Hassle, and pretty much finished the story while writing the review, but there are still berries and letters to find, side-quests to finish and secrets to discover, and I want to experience everything this game has to offer. There is no higher praise I can offer than that. Helheim Hassle is quite simply up there with the best puzzle-platformers I have ever played.
At its heart, Helheim Hassle is a platforming puzzle game, with some creative and thoughtful puzzles to solve. The engaging narrative elevates it far beyond just a simple puzzle game, though, and it will keep you playing right through to the end. Thanks to a steady unlocking of abilities and a consistent difficulty curve, you’ll feel challenged by the puzzles, but never overwhelmed. Simply put, Helheim Hassle is one of the best puzzle adventures I’ve ever played (and I’ve played a Helheim of a lot of games).