You might look at those speedrun and gimmick run streamers all competing to beat Dark Souls or Ocarina of Time the fastest or without using weapons or with a Guitar Hero controller or with both arms tied to the back legs of a nervous horse and think such people are fucking freaks. And be entirely right. But when you think about it, hasn’t finding more elaborate ways to do the same old shit, been the essence of gameplay innovation over the years? What’s an FPS if not just playing Space Invaders with blinkers on? What’s Wii Sports if not just playing Pong while trying to give yourself carpal tunnel syndrome? And then we have games like Metal Hellsinger, which asks, can you beat Doom Eternal while also playing the drums and while a vocalist constantly bellows into your ears like Cookie Monster stubbing his toe on a doorframe? Metal Hellsinger isn’t quite a dry heave scenario, but it does feel like Hellsinger by itself would have worked perfectly well as a name. Maybe they’re planning to do a few more of these. Opera Hellsinger. Whiny Indie Rock Hellsinger. Disney Princess songs Hellsinger, emphasis on the Hell.
Anyway, it’s a straightforward enough premise: it’s Doom Eternal again, in that you’re a big violent monster in Hell that all the other demons are pissing their furry goat legs over and you advance from arena to arena systematically taking apart increasingly varied mobs of hostile demons with an emphasis on mobility and glory kills, while some heavy metal musicians try to kill each other with their instruments in the background, but the difference is, you’ve got about one third of the weapons Doom Eternal had and you’re supposed to do it all in time with the beat. But listen to me all winsomely pretending that rhythm action is a new thing when we’ve already had Crypt of the Necrodancer and more recently BPM: Bogeys Perturb Mildred. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten, nor have I forgotten that Beats Per Murgatroyd kicked at least seven tenths of the arse, but both these antecedents were roguelikes and there’s always something about roguelikes that gives off a bit of a “proof of concept” vibe. With concept now proved, Metal Hellsinger is a proper balls on the sacrificial altar stab of the obsidian dagger with a full story campaign of several individually crafted levels with unique songs. And you know what that means, don’t you.
Certainly do, Yahtz! Completion time of under three hours! No! Well, yes. But that might be for the best. I find I have to take a break every hour or so playing Hellsinger ‘cos that’s usually the point my vision starts to blur and my blood starts threatening to pump so hard it squirts out of all my old shaving cuts. Having said that, my personal taste prefers the BPM: Bumpety Pumpety Mumpety soundtrack as I’ve never really been one for screamy demonic metal. That shit’s always struck me as trying a bit too hard, and I assume what they’re trying to do is cover the audience in a variety of bodily fluids. But it creates the rhythm effectively enough and it’s still incredibly satisfying to hack off some poor sucker’s kneecaps just as the squealy guitars cut in. And crafted levels aside, Hellsinger generally improves upon the gameplay design of BPM: Bollocks do Points Matter. Keeping your rhythm combo up adds more instruments to the soundtrack and increases your damage potential, and at the end of each level your score gets sent off to compare against the online leaderboards which should be handy if you are a speedrunner or someone who seeks acclaim from random strangers to compensate for a difficult upbringing by emotionally unavailable parents.
The shortness of the runtime also somewhat alleviates the old Doom 2016 issue that the shootouts start getting a bit samey in the back end of the game after it runs out of new monsters to introduce. It’s like hanging out with the models after the fashion show and finding that all they want to talk about is shoes and bulimia. Come to think of it, the environments could use some variety, too, all the levels blur together in my memory as one long strand of rocky mountain paths alternating with underground catacombs and some industrial stuff towards the end to appease the Nine Inch Nails fans. Come on, Hell, where’s the creativity? Put in a shrubbery or a koi pond, there must be some people whose idea of eternal suffering is being trapped in an episode of BBC Gardener’s World. As for weapons, pickings are pretty slim and you can only have two on top of your shitty melee and shitty last ditch holdout gun – bog standard shotgun, dual six shooters, a crossbow with the ammo capacity of a subletted teabag or some throwing knife thing that’s also a bird that I never quite got to grips with but who the fuck cares because using the shotgun to blow an entire syllable off of a rampaging -therfucker is always going to be more fun than flinging scissors at their head.
So yeah, I’d stick with Doctor Boom and Quick Draw McGraw. ‘Cos any weapon that doesn’t have the impact of a perfectly timed trouser cough in a bomb defusal workshop tends to get lost in the frenetic action. As do several other things at times, like whether or not I’m even doing damage to that motherfucking shield holding dude. Why are shield dudes in mobility shooters always such a pain in the arse? Well, you usually deal with them by inflicting a pain in the arse, so maybe it’s projection. But they always seem to kill the pace stone dead like caltrops in a honeymoon bed. So, you’ve got your absolutely stellar core gameplay loop but slightly anaemic campaign, anything else? Well, there’s extra challenges that unlock after every level that you can do to unlock a few gameplay buffs that are mostly so inconsequential in their effect I’m not entirely convinced they’re not a Dumbo’s magic feather situation. Boy, that slight boost in the combo increase rate really made a difference, Metal Hellsinger. Ah, don’t you realise Yahtzee there was no slight boost! The combo increase rate was inside you all along! I was being sarcastic, Metal Hellsinger!
Well, who cares. Like I said it is, like BPM: Bethesda Post Mortem, a very fun core gameplay loop and if the side challenges give us an excuse to do more of it then that’s all that matters. It’s a hearty recommend from me and everything else is just that lovable exaggerated nitpicking you all keep coming back here for. It’s fun to play, there’s a nice understandable story and more importantly there’s personality to it. A game about a demon fighting other demons in an ethereal netherworld could very easily end up in an Agony like situation where lacking any human element for us to connect to it ultimately falls flat, rampant bloodstained titties notwithstanding. Metal Hellsinger avoids that issue by getting Troy Baker in to narrate the story in a down-homey rich chocolate pudding of a Southern drawl, and it adds the kind of disarming charisma that can let you get away with a lot. Boy howdy that Yahtzee done got himself in a locker room full o’ horny cowpokes not havin’ one last joke to end his comedy youtube review, well my old man used to say don’t serve me a bowl o’sidewinders and call it cream gravy so I guess we shouldn’t have waited so long to take him to the Alzheimers specialist.