REVIEW : Helheim Hassle (PC)
Four years ago, the Norwegian gang in Perfectly Paranormal did the feat of creating excitement and fun from something as simple as breathing and blinking. Manual Samuel combined everyday tasks with wild humour, and the result was an occasionally hysterically funny experience.
The studio’s latest game, called Helheim Hassle, leans on several of the same concepts. Again, players have to contend with a body that does not quite behave properly, in an attempt to get through a story full of increasingly dry jokes.
This time, it is admittedly platforming jumps and bounces that are in focus, with everything from calm brain teasers to more frenetic moments to hone in on. At best, these sequences are fun to puzzle with, but a little too often Helheim Hassle stumbles into his legs.
The game opens with a boring day for the protagonist and pacifist Viking Bjørn Hammerparty. In an attempt to escape a bloody battle against giants, Bjørn falls down a cliff and dies. Because he accidentally landed on – and thus killed – a bear, he is still sent to Valhall for this heroic deed.
By another coincidence, Bjørn is awakened from the dead many years later, when one of the apocalypse’s four riders needs help to get into the realm of the dead Helheim. However, the resurrection does not go exactly according to plan, and Bjørn is transformed into a kind of horror Lego man, who can take off and put on his head, arms and legs again.
Fortunately, things are never so bad that it is not good for anything. Thanks to a huge renovation project, the road to Helheim is packed with platform puzzles, which can only be solved by a young Viking boy who can tear off body parts. Besides, Bjørn is tired of only playing first-person shooters in Valhall, so he likes to take a break.
The game’s core mechanics are constantly created throughout the entirety of the battle. Each of the game’s levels has an engaging design and logically builds on the mechanics that moved, making each area feel distinct and fresh. From snowy hills to fiery depths, the vast environments used to maintain engagement and make for the perfect backdrop to house the 80+ hilarious characters. The problems get progressively more difficult but never to a point where the normal gamer would struggle. The challenge arises when searching and finding secrets, some of which will leave you scratching your disembodied head for hours. Scattered across your trip is a huge number of Easter Eggs which are worth taking the time to explore. Not only are they entertaining, but they are also remarkably fun and give you more reason to continue your vacation in Valhalla.
The puzzles in Helheim Hassle are served in a gentle and calm learning curve. First Bjørn finds out that his head falls off, then an arm disappears a little later, then a leg and so on.
You thus get plenty of time to get to know the functionality of each body part. It comes in handy because even though most things say themselves, there is so much to keep track of that it is easy to get caught up in the buzz – especially in the most hectic sequences.
It still goes well, well helped by the game’s humour and the crazy characters you come across. It is clear that Perfectly Paranormal has had a lot of fun with the writing job, but if you ask me, the jokes do not hit as well here as in Manual Samuel.
While Manual Samuel used to be fun to play, the platform sequences in Helheim Hassle rarely bring out the laughter.
Each area abounds with secrets to hunt for, and almost every character you encounter has something they need help with. The side quests offer a little more variety than anywhere else in the story, with everything from “jump up there and get that thing” to “record a record with songs you’ve learned”.
It might feel a little unfair to compare Helheim Hassle with Manual Samuel, all the time they are played in quite different ways.
Taking each other apart and putting Bjørn back together in different ways to solve puzzles is a fun idea, and from time to time the game flashes with a real feeling of mastery. In the end, however, this becomes just a platform game where you sometimes control several characters at the same time, which thanks to imprecise control becomes a nightmare in the game’s more hectic sequences.