Hellboy doesn’t have a great history with videogames, discounting his appearances in the brilliant Injustice 2 and the fun Brawlhalla. Upstream Arcade is hoping to change things with Hellboy Web of Wyrd, and the good news is that this is indeed perhaps the best Hellboy game yet. Though it’s not without imperfections.
With a story created in partnership with Dark Horse Comics as well as the actual creator of Hellboy, Mike Mignola, Hellboy Web of Wyrd finds players in search of a missing agent of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, or B.R.P.D. for short. The search so far has led to The Butterfly House, a mysterious residence built in 1962 by an Occultist. What’s really unique about the house is that it serves as a portal to a dimension called The Wyrd. It’s here that Hellboy will have to overcome fearsome enemies and challenges in order to get to the bottom of the whole situation.
The Butterfly House serves as a hub for your activities, then. Initially there won’t be much for you to do there other than talk to other B.R.P.D. members, but after a journey or two into The Wyrd, things soon change. You’ll gather two currencies as you play, and while one of them can only be used in The Wyrd with your balance being wiped out upon leaving, the second is usable back at The Butterfly House. It’s with this currency that you’re able to unlock a trio of weapons and a trio of charms, expanding your combat options. They can be upgraded, too. And so can Hellboy himself, bolstering his latent abilities and even giving him more lives.
Being a roguelite brawler, the true challenge of Hellboy Web of Wyrd begins when you enter the titular dimension. With the action viewed via an over-the-shoulder camera, you’ll explore a range of labyrinthine locations, each filled with a range of hostile enemies as well as environmental hazards. Thanks to the camera, combat feels rather intimate, with you really getting up close and personal to your enemies. It also means you don’t have a great view of your surroundings, however. You easily be caught off guard by an off-screen enemy if you’re not careful.
With a focus on melee, encounters in Hellboy Web of Wyrd are best described as scrappy. With just a single button to punch, you can tap it to perform a combo, or hold it to perform a strong attack. Key here is anticipating enemy attacks, making sure you’re not attacking when they do in order to block their assault or, even better, dodge it. If timed perfectly, the latter opens them up to a powerful counter-attack. What further complicates matters is that a portion of each enemy’s health bar, and your own, is regenerative, and needs to be worn down before real damage can be done. Thankfully this doesn’t apply to the smaller enemies that are nothing more than fodder, automatically disappearing when the bigger enemies of an area are defeated.
Combat can seem overly basic at first, but as your enemies start getting more powerful, you realise there’s quite a bit of strategy required. It pays to stun your enemies, for example, which can be more easily achieved by making use of the ranged weapons available to you. Hitting them against walls also does the trick. Once stunned, a powerful attack can be performed, sending them reeling backwards. Send them flying into an object such as a pillar and it will crumble, not only doing extra damage, but also creating some handy projectiles for you to make use of. It can change the tide of a battle.
It’s just a shame that, as fun as the combat is, Hellboy can sometimes feel a little unwieldy. His actions are a little sluggish, which gives them weight, but it also gets in the way when you want to quickly react. There are other issues, too, such as the camera being a pain at times, and enemies sometimes being hard to read. There are times where you’ll die and you’ll feel a little bit cheated. Being a roguelite, death is part and parcel of the experience however, so you’ll likely just dust yourself off, buy an upgrade or two and dive back in. Who knows, maybe you’ll get a better selection of perks the next time around, too.
What some may find disappointing is that after you’ve visited Hellboy Web of Wyrd’s small selection of locations, you’ll then have to go through them again thanks to a twist in the story. While the scenery changes, they aren’t all that unique, aside from having their own smattering of enemies. Repetition can set in, then, but those drawn in the game’s story might want to see things through to the end. Fantastic voice acting by the late Lance Reddick helps, as well as an art style that wonderfully apes the look of the comics.
Hellboy Web of Wyrd has a handful of issues that somewhat mar what is otherwise an intense and rewarding experience – but they don’t completely ruin it. Like many roguelites, the core gameplay can become repetitive over time, and there isn’t the widest selection of helpful perks and boons on offer, but at least the combat here is unique. Ultimately, fans of Hellboy are likely to just appreciate that they have a decent game based on one of their favourite comic book characters – though Web of Wyrd should also appeal to those who like third-person brawlers and roguelikes in general.