There has been no shortage of new games to play this October, as series like Super Mario Bros., Marvel’s Spider-Man, Forza Motorsport, Assassin’s Creed, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Alan Wake are all getting new entries. If you can take some time away from all of those, though, you’ll have a good time playing in style with Hellboy Web of Wyrd.
Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, a popular demonic comic book character who’s starred in several movies and even some games, finally has a solid video game thanks to Upstream Arcade and Good Shepherd Entertainment. It’s a relatively simple action roguelite, but it has some of the best visuals of the year that look like they were pulled straight out of a comic book. Whether you’re a fan of Hellboy or just want a stylish palate cleanser in between all the big AAA main courses coming out this month, Hellboy Web of Wyrd is worth a shot.
In Hellboy Web of Wyrd, the titular character works alongside the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) to investigate supernatural energy spikes. During that mission, he stumbles upon a place called the Butterfly House and finds a gateway to the Wyrd. Once Hellboy enters the Wyrd to rescue another BPRD member, he’s labeled the “Protagonist” by its occupants and has to fight many of the beings in that dimension while learning more about the Butterfly House and its creator.
It’s a supernatural, but not scary story that slots nicely into the Hellboy mythos without disrupting it too much. What makes it fit with that comic world, though, is the game’s visual style. While I wish the cutscenes borrowed some of the comics’ more dynamic tricks, the gameplay delivers one of the slickest and most faithful comic book video games you can watch. The most impressive thing about West of Dead, Upstream Arcade’s previous game, was its cel-shaded art style, and it’s only gotten better in Hellboy Web of Wyrd, as the game looks just like the comic books that inspired it. Hellboy’s bright red pops in the dark-toned and beige Butterfly House and the typically darker locations he explores in the Wyrd. Every hit Hellboy takes or dishes out visually pops to increase its impact too, making runs through Web of Wyrd genuinely feel like you’re playing through the comic.
If you’ve always enjoyed Mignola’s art in the Hellboy comics or just like games that forgo realism for a beautiful art style, you will want to see Hellboy Web of Wyrd in action. Upstream Arcade also prioritizes style along with gameplay, which is simple, but satisfying. It’s cliché to say a superhero game makes you feel like a superhero at this point, but Hellboy Web of Wyrd’s gameplay is directly designed to reflect the fact that Hellboy is a strong and durable being who can dole out even more damage than he takes.
Hellboy and the most powerful enemies in Web of Wyrd don’t just have health bars, but toughness bars as well. Nobody takes any lasting damage until that toughness bar is fully depleted, so it’s a race to see who can stun the other first by whittling their bar down. That means the basic loop of combat becomes locking on to an enemy, hitting them with weak and strong attacks as part of a four-hit combo, and then responding when the enemy tries to attack by dodging or blocking. It initially seems a bit Soulslike in design, but stands out because the system rewards blocking.
While some attacks must be dodged, it’s often better to have Hellboy hold his ground and block the attack using toughness. It’s also possible to parry if you hit the block button at the right time. This adds to Hellboy’s payback meter, which can be spent to perform attacks that inflict massive damage. Layer in upgrades, run-specific power-ups, charms, environmental interactions that can damage enemies, and alternate weapons like pistols that can be used to extend combos, and Hellboy can feel unstoppable when a run is going well.
It’s not the most complex action game out there; my basic block, parry, then attack strategy even got me through many of the game’s boss fights mostly unscathed. The lack of a map also makes exploration between combat encounters confusing sometimes. Still, when Hellboy Web of Wyrd is fluid in action during an intense fight, it’s one of the most beautiful comic book video games out there. October 2023 has been full of AAA game launches of all forms, and if you’re getting a bit overwhelmed by all of the games this month has to offer, relaxing and playing through the basic, but gorgeous Hellboy Web of Wyrd is an excellent choice.
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