Developers Sluggerfly had a breakthrough hit in 2015 with Ben & Ed on PC, a 3D platformer dripping with tongue-in-cheek humour set around a dystopian game show. It was kind of like Squid Game before Squid Game existed… Apart from a spin-off Ben & Ed party game, we haven’t heard much from Sluggerfly… Until now! Hell Pie is a 3D platformer harking back to the good old days. You play as Nate, who is tasked with gathering a number of gruesome ingredients to make a pie for the Devil’s birthday. It promises to be a wild ride!
The years 1998, 1999 and 2000 were spectacular for the 3D platformer era. Banjo Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64 and Banjo Tooie were released in consecutive years to mostly widespread acclaim. They spawned a new genre; the ‘collectathon’, which the Spyro games also helped to popularise. The general ethos of collectathon games required smart level design with large ‘gym’ type areas which were a blast to explore, full of secrets and, well, things to collect. However some entries (especially Donkey Kong 64) came under criticism for containing other byproducts often found in collectathons, namely backtracking and repetitiveness.
Anyway, enough about history! Hell Pie is all very funny and silly and even more so when you get paired up with a companion; Nugget. Nugget is basically a little cherub who is chained to Nate, and it’s with Nugget that you carry out various traversal and combat moves; Nugget is basically to Nate what Kazooie is to Banjo. The humour is, like Ben & Ed, edgy but hilarious. There was a general feel in development that Hell Pie was pretty crass and full of profanities, but to be honest, I didn’t think it was that bad. There’s the odd bit of effing-and-jeffing and some cartoony gore, but it’s all pretty infrequent.
What’s the most common pitfall in a 3D platformer (gameplay wise, not in terms of environmental hazards!)? The camera, of course! However in Hell Pie, the camera is nearly spot-on. It auto pans but you can also override it at any point and manually move the camera to where you need it to be, which is a welcomed relief! This really helps as you explore the vast worlds which are vibrant and well designed. I’m also pleased to say that Hell Pie does a great job of avoiding the aforementioned negative collectathon byproducts as there really isn’t any backtracking at all. Most of the traversal upgrades you unlock are used subsequently from the point of unlocking them, meaning you don’t have to go back and use unlocked abilities on previously inaccessible areas. This will disappoint some puzzle-solving fans but will be a boon to many who grew tired of this mechanic.
- Superb level design in the the main levels/worlds
- Effective and pragmatic camera mechanic
- Little backtracking
There’s no point beating around the bush. As we often find in games released on multiple platforms these days, the Nintendo Switch version is often squeezed and optimised to breaking point. Hell Pie is no exception. At the time of writing this review, my save file is unplayable because I got to a particular sub-level (more on those later) and the game crashed. Now when I restart my save file, I restart in the same area and the game just crashes after 2 or 3 seconds each time. This is hugely disappointing as I was really enjoying Hell Pie up to this point.
Regarding those sub-levels, they’re basically smaller levels within each world where you have to get from A to B to obtain a collectible, and they are considerably more mundane and frustrating than the main worlds. Each time I came across one, my heart sank as it broke up the fun and expansive exploration that the rest of the game brings to the table.
Lastly, much of the environment art felt quite rushed. There are plenty of gaps between textures which could either be because of the Switch optimisation or because the game was rushed out of the door… Or perhaps a little from column A and a little from column B!
- Nintendo Switch version is broken and crashy
- Sub-levels are dull and break up the rhythm of exploration
- Plenty of gaps in textures
Final Score: 6/10
Well, where to start? A game full of promise that I feel compelled to mark down because it simply isn’t ready for the Nintendo Switch (at the time of writing, anyway). This could have been an 8 but had I scored it that way, I wouldn’t have been true to the stark reality of Hell Pie’s performance issues. However, if Hell Pie is patched, and let’s hope that it is, then I would seriously recommend it to any collectathon fans! Essentially, play this game, just not on Switch (yet).
Thank you for checking out our Hell Pie Switch review, thank you to Headup Games (via Plan of Attack PR) for providing the review code and thank you to our Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: