A few titles ago, perhaps after Beat Invaders, I concluded that I really like shmups. As a fan of Eastasiasoft and the variety of titles they publish (I already got the game, not buttering them up), it made sense to try out Hell Pages for the Switch and write some words. Is it any good? Is it actual Hell? Let’s. Find. Out.
All the humans have thrown a sickie, and there’s not one hero to save us from oblivion. Instead, we’re going to side with the baddies who literally raised Hell on Earth and be them. We play as Bael, one such demon that will battle fellow evil types by shooting them in the face and summoning Shinobi-like magic to reign… Hell on the bosses. And, despite an interesting bit of exposition at the start, that’s it.
Hell Pages is a side-scrolling shmup with few bells and whistles. Though some nostalgia could be had from the 16-bit visuals, the artwork was quite crude and lacked any real character. The boss battles are the exception, and if it weren’t for them desperately trying to kill you, you could spend a few moments admiring the design. Alas, they offer a challenge, so it’s best that you put them down. That’s what your magic power is for. a.k.a. special button.
The core gameplay is pretty much the same, but shmups shouldn’t be about gimmicks. Each stage will send in waves of varying demonic units, and you must defeat them with your guns. There’s only one ‘weapon’, but blue orbs will beef up the attack to shred incoming enemies or press the A button, and you’ll be able to shoot behind you at the sacrifice of not having concentrated attacks.
Alas, Hell Pages is the same throughout, irrespective of the backgrounds, so it’s possible to learn the wave patterns to maximise your score and the number of coins earned. It can be easy, depending on your settings, more so as there aren’t any environmental hazards to kill you off. In theory, you can dodge your way to the boss, but getting those coins is essential. Why? I’m going to tell you.
Between each stage is a rather inviting shopkeeper. They’ll sell you several items. Some are imperative, while others will depend on your play style. First, there’s health and magic; then there’s the Hell Page. If you want to unlock everything, you must buy these every time. That said, my top pick is the continue as upon death, you restart from the very beginning. There’s also a save option, but rather than offer a level select, it just means you can return to the level in question if you need to exit the game.
And that’s about it. As said, the visuals weren’t amazing. It had that Shadow of the Beast vibe, which was good but rough around the edges. The soundtrack was a strong point, and Medusa Head knew this as there’s a jukebox option to replay your favourite. Granted, you’re not going to load Hell Pages up for this feature, but it’s a welcome addition.
Hell Pages is ok. It’s not something I can actively recommend, but that’s subjective – you may love it. It’s certainly affordable, so it won’t break the bank, and surely shmup fans can never have enough titles, right? Read/watch some other reviews and have yourself a think. This review was based on the PS5 version.