“A Hellboy game?” I hear you squee with excitement. Damn, straight!
Mike Mignola’s Hellboy: Web of Wyrd, the new game from Upstream Arcade and published by Good Shepherd Entertainment, is a new third-person Roguelike based on the titular Dark Horse Comics series. It’s based on the comics not only in subject matter but in look and feel, sporting cell-shaded graphics that could have been pulled straight from the novels.
The Right Hand of Doom has not had many video game adaptations lately, so when I saw this game released in October, I snapped it up, curious to see what had been made from this beloved character and IP. I hoped it would be more satisfying than using his character in Injustice 2, at the very least.
And it was, even if it was not everything I wanted it to be.
The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) is sent to the mysterious Butterfly House to find Lucky, an agent missing in action. When they arrive, the team discovers The Wyrd, a realm of stories patrolled by disturbing creatures and big bads galore. Only Hellboy can uncover the secrets of The Wyrd and save his missing comrade.
Once he drops into the strange dimension, he is greeted by Sheherazade, who names Hellboy “The Protagonist”. With her help and the aid of the Norns, Brother Red must traverse the realm, ensuring his tether to the real world doesn’t snap. If it does, The Wyrd shifts, and all progress is lost.
It’s a thin premise, but it’s a decent narrative reason for the Roguelike gameplay! There are a few twists and turns, but nothing too shocking or revelatory. It’s a solid excuse.
At its core, Hellboy: Web of Wyrd is a classic Roguelike. That means there are a ton of mini-arenas full of enemies to punch, smash and pistol whip into oblivion. The world is procedurally generated, so no run is the same as the last. Along the way, you’ll find power-ups lasting for the duration of that run, ranging from extra clip capacity to a perk that freezes an enemy in place for a few moments. This culminates in a boss battle with an overpowered enemy.
Runs take between thirty to forty minutes to complete for most of the game, but they can take longer if you’re into exploring thoroughly or if you’re in the endgame.
As Hellboy, your main tool of destruction is your mighty doom fist. It packs a punch! Initially, you may think ranged weapons, like the pistol or grenade launcher, are the way to go, but you’re going to want to get up close and personal. But be careful; enemies hit hard! There is also a dodge and a brace (block), which both can be used to counter attacks.
The controls are very easy to pick up. There’s one button to punch, which can be held down for a heavy attack, one button to fire a ranged weapon, one to dodge and one to use an ability. It’s probably a little too simplistic because I often found myself hammering the punch button like no tomorrow. There is also a special attack you can use, which looks absolutely sick!
One complaint I have is with the dodge button. If you double-tap, it becomes the sprint button. This can cause costly movement mistakes when you’re in a bind, and it ended some of my runs prematurely.
Hellboy has a health and toughness meter. Toughness acts like a rechargeable shield and regenerates over time or when he defeats enemies, and damage is only taken when your toughness is broken. Enemies also have this mechanic, so it incentivises keeping up the pressure on your opponent.
There are four areas that Hellboy visits (plus variations that have the same aesthetic), and each area has four or five different enemy types. About five hours in, you’re introduced to another five. Then that’s it. After about seven hours, you’ve probably seen all the enemy types. The lack of variety is certainly disappointing.
One of the most striking and defining aspects of this game is its graphical style. It looks like it’s been lifted straight out of Mike Mignola’s graphic novels. Cutscenes appear to be fashioned from the comics, showing a series of stills rather than animated scenes. The cell-shaded minimalistic graphics are extremely pretty.
The late, great Lance Reddick (RIP) voices Hellboy. Although it’s slightly jarring to hear a character synonymous with the rough Ron Perlman acted in a very different way, Reddick does a great job in the title role. He’s buttery smooth, as always, but also brings a powerful rage during battle. Acting heavyweights Steve Blum and Cissy Jones also have minor roles.
The music fits the tone of the game. An ambient electronic soundtrack transitions into rock and roll during combat. It does, however, get very repetitive. There is little to no variation in the soundtrack within the various levels, and there are only so many times I can hear the same riff without needing to take a break.
I played this game on PlayStation 5, and, for the most part, I had no issues. I noticed a few dropped frames occasionally, and there were times I had to fight with the camera to ensure Hellboy was targeting the correct enemy. There are short loading screens when you start a new run when the world is generated, but that is understandable.
There are reports of a bug in the post-game that locks you out of an achievement. I haven’t progressed enough to encounter it myself, but the current percentage of achievers of the Platinum Trophy on the PlayStation network sits at 0%. That’s an indicator, for sure.
I’ve struggled with Roguelike games in the past, but something in Hellboy: Web of Wyrd appealed to me on a different level. Whether it was the third-person beat-‘em-up style, the graphics, or the simplistic but gratifying combat, I’ve enjoyed this jaunt into the Wyrd.
But it’s certainly not a perfect game. While playing as Big Red is a novelty and, at times, extremely satisfying, the game suffers in the endgame with repetitive enemies and a weak story.
However, that doesn’t change the simple truth: like Pringles, once you pop, you just can’t stop. I’m hooked.
Hellboy: Web of Wyrd is available for PS4, PS5, Xbox Series S and X, PC and Nintendo Switch for around $25.