Technical Director: Jon Askew
Story & Script: Dene Carter
Military Script Advisor: Kenneth Lily
Release Date: 18 October 2023
My interest in Hellboy Web of Wyrd started perhaps in a unique position, being that I knew next to nothing about the half-demon before this game. Rather, what piqued my interest in his game was the game side of things, tempting me with the brawling combat and rogue-like systems with the chance to learn about a cult favourite character. In the end, it was the character, and his classic comic art style realised in 3D that compelled me the most through my experience, whilst the gameplay and the roguelike systems were repetitive and shallow.
Starting the story and the overall presentation of Hellboy Web of Wyrd as they are what came to be the most enjoyable aspect of my time with the game. The introduction does assume some prerequisite Hellboy knowledge, and at first, I was a little confused about the relationships between Hellboy and the Members of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence, but the game is also written in a way that was quite easy for myself to figure it out. This is true for most of the story and characters, as the game does not front load a heap of story, instead revealing it through runs and the conversations between. The way that mystery is unfurled and the way I learned more about the character and world was kind of strangely compelling, something that grew on me the more time I invested. The overall mystery that is uncovered is a bit par for the course, but considering the speed at which I moved through the game, the next carrot was never far.
The mystery of what is causing these Paranormal spikes that you are investigating leads you into the roguelike runs, which offer several different biomes to explore. The art style of the environments and the characters is the other highlight, with the game successfully translating the distinct art style of Mike Mignola, Hellboy’s creator, into a 3D space. It is so effective that pausing any point of the game almost makes it look like the game has been hand-drawn in 2D. There are some points where the 3D models of the character do look a little wonky, but overall, everything in the game looks great, and enemies and biomes all have a visual uniqueness.
Though whilst the biomes you are exploring in the Roguelike runs offer excellent visuals, they do so in a stop-and-smell the roses sense. There is little gained from exploration, and the game really only offers you repetitive corridors and fighting arenas that do little to influence the scenario you find yourself in. This means that even though the biomes are visually distinct, they never offer anything new in how you traverse them, and it would be quite easy just always to run straight through them and never fully appreciate the art and the detail that has gone into some of the backdrops.
This sense that what you are doing in the first biome is the same as what you are doing in the last biome extends to the other gameplay systems as well. The brawling is functional and can have moments where it feels great as you dodge around enemy attacks and wail on them with the Right Hand of Doom. It’s brawling almost feels like Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice, where you are locked in on a single combatant, and you focus on dodging and punching a singular large enemy. During this, there are other enemies around, but they tend to stand back and wait for their turn. The small enemies also may as well not be there, as they are a one-hit kill and disappear when you defeat all of the big enemies anyway, so they offer little to the experience. The problem with the combat is that it offers little in the way of combos or variance from this formula, again due to enemies that look different but are not defeated differently. The game also auto-locks on the bigger enemies, which has points where it obscures your vision too greatly.
The same feeling is compounded by the roguelike systems, which are very barebones. Hellboy Web of Weird sets up a narrative reason for the fact that it is a roguelike, but the actual systems never justify its roguelike nature. The upgrades that you are purchasing are largely uninteresting, and there is no form of build craft that can be varied. Often, this just meant that you were progressing through linear upgrades again and again. You can also skip directly to biomes, which is the logical thing to do, which means that runs are always short, so there is little opportunity to engage in extended upgrades.