The hellish half-demon known as Hellboy has starred in many beloved comic books over the past few decades, but quality video game adaptations have proven elusive. Ever since the franchise’s underwhelming video game debut in 2002, fans have clamored for a game that truly captures the look and feel of Mike Mignola’s signature art style. Now, after over 15 long years, indie developer Upstream Arcade aims to break the streak of mediocre Hellboy games with the newly released Hellboy: Web of Wyrd.
This roguelite beat-em-up comes with pedigree, as Upstream Arcade partnered directly with Dark Horse Comics to ensure an authentic adaptation. Still, the genre and structure mark a deviation from what one might expect from a Hellboy game. With emphasis on skill-based combat and procedurally generated levels over narrative depth, Web of Wyrd is not your typical licensed title.
In this review, we’ll dive in deep to see if Upstream Arcade succeeded in overcoming the Hellboy game curse, or if Big Red is doomed to eternally wander the bargain bins. From its distinct art style to chunky combat mechanics, Web of Wyrd shows enticing potential, but also stumbles in key areas. Join us as we explore whether this offbeat roguelite manages to channel the best of Hellboy, or if it disappointingly falls into the underworld of mediocrity.
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Hellboy Fans Will Feel at Home in This Living Comic Book
From the moment you boot up Web of Wyrd, the striking art direction immediately leaps off the screen. Upstream Arcade utterly nails translating Mike Mignola’s signature style into a fully 3D world. Each intricately detailed environment looks like it was ripped straight from the pages of Dark Horse’s long-running Hellboy comic series.
Every character, object, and scene is defined by bold, dark outlines contrasted against muted shades and deep shadows. The heavy reliance on stylistic shading over complex textures perfectly encapsulates Mignola’s preference for graphic shapes rather than realism. Surprisingly, this flat, comic book aesthetic works seamlessly in 3D thanks to excellent use of dynamic lighting and camera work.
Seeing Hellboy’s blocky silhouette cast against the backdrop of a crumbling medieval castle coated in inky darkness feels like you jumped into an interactive Hellboy panel. From the flicker of torches to the sheen of freshly spilled blood, the world feels alive and oozes atmosphere. The four visually distinct worlds channel real-world locations like Italian cathedrals and Russian crypts, each populated by appropriate gothic horrors ripped from folklore.
Of course, the standout is seeing the big red demon himself fully realized in 3D. Every nuance of Hellboy’s scruffy, towering physique shines through, from the contours of his famous stone right hand to the jingling of the charms around his belt. The fluidity of his animations, especially during combat, perfectly captures his hulking physicality. To longtime Hellboy fans, stepping into Web of Wyrd will feel like returning to a stylishly supernatural home away from home.
A Serviceable Story That Lacks Heart
While certainly faithful visually, Hellboy: Web of Wyrd falls a bit short when it comes to narrative and characters. The premise of investigating occult disturbances across procedurally generated worlds draws directly from the Hellboy canon. As agents of the BPRD paranormal investigation bureau, players take control of Hellboy as he delves into the chaotic Wyrd dimension linked to the mysterious Butterfly Estate.
This provides a sensible framework for the roguelite structure and globetrotting settings. However, the plot unfolding within lacks the heart and creative spark of the comics. The story hits the necessary Hellboy beats but in a fairly predictable paint-by-numbers fashion. Outside of some sharp one-liners, Hellboy has little room for introspection between bouts of monster bashing.
Lance Reddick’s stellar gravelly voice work perfectly captures Big Red’s world-weary sarcasm, but can’t inject much depth into the thin narrative. The supporting cast, while voiced competently, lack the complexity of beloved Hellboy characters like Liz Sherman. Enjoyable but disposable, the story serves its purpose but won’t resonate emotionally.
While perhaps unavoidable for a combat-focused roguelite, Web of Wyrd’s greatest flaw lies in failing to adapt the melancholy, gothic heart that beats at the core of every great Hellboy tale. The world and characters have surface-level authenticity but lack dimensional personalities or compelling relationships. As Hellboy himself would say, it gets the job done, but it’s missing that subtle touch of creepy magic.
Slugfest Combat Shines Despite Repetition
The core of any Hellboy experience lies in watching the big red monkey unleash his gnarly fists and oversized hand cannon on hordes of occult nasties. Thankfully, Web of Wyrd absolutely delivers when it comes to combat. The emphasis is on skill-based melee over mindless button mashing. Each punch and pistol whip packs weighty force behind it, reinforced by crunchy sound design.
Instead of hacking away wildly, players must read enemy tells and dodge incoming attacks before responding with timed combos. Dodging requires precision timing to dash or lean just out of reach of deadly claws and mystical spells. As enemies lose stamina, Hellboy can grab and slam them into walls for massive damage. It’s immensely satisfying to stagger a hulking beast before unloading your revolver point blank into its face.
This measured, back-and-forth flow makes each creature distinct to fight. The procedural levels regularly introduce new ghoulish threats to test your combat mastery. Unfortunately, while Hellboy feels great to control, a lack of enemy variety leads to repetitive fights, especially when revisiting the same environments. Basic traversal and sparse level design between arenas drag the pacing down.
Upgrades add little to diversify Hellboy’s straightforward punch-dodge-shoot arsenal or alter the stagnant difficulty. Stronger enemies don’t feel aggressive enough to challenge your finely honed combat skills. Web of Wyrd’s methodical monster hunting starts out thrilling, but grows repetitive after the 10 hour mark.
Still, trading blows with a towering vampire lord or pummeling an iron golem remains viscerally enjoyable despite the repetition. There’s room for improvement, but Hellboy fans will find plenty to love about Web of Wyrd’s skill-based supernatural slugfests.
All Roads Lead Back to The Butterfly House
In true roguelite fashion, death in Web of Wyrd doesn’t mean game over. Instead, Hellboy is cast back to The Butterfly House after each doomed expedition into the Wyrd. This creaky safe haven acts as a central hub, allowing players to prep Big Red for his next occult sortie.
Purchasable upgrades provide a sense of progression as you accumulate currency from fallen foes. The sprawling mansion hides characters to converse with and doors to unlock that lead down into increasingly unstable regions of the Wyrd. Though key locations within each biome remain static, layouts randomize with each run.
At first, venturing into new areas like an arctic shipyard or verdant fairy forest feels fresh and exciting. Unfortunately, the procedural generation lacks meaningful variety. Corridors and rooms start to blend together after repeat visits mandated by the campaign structure. A wider bestiary of enemies would help stave off monotony.
Other roguelites offset repetitive runs by offering radically different character builds. However, Hellboy’s limited upgrade options fail to meaningfully change his straightforward punch-focused playstyle. A lack of difficulty settings also means enemies never surge in strength to challenge your hard-earned skills.
After around 15 hours, there’s little incentive to continue rerunning biomes outside grinding for upgrades. Web of Wyrd’s addictive loop goes stale faster than expected. However, brief run times and clear progression goals make the journey to reach the final boss reasonably compelling.
A Fun but Flawed First Step Into Hellboy’s World
When it comes to nailing Hellboy’s signature look, Web of Wyrd knocks it out of the park. Veteran fans will delight in exploring levels that leap directly from Mike Mignola’s pages. The melancholic gothic atmosphere is palpable despite repetitive environments and enemies. Upstream Arcade’s combat emphasizes skill over button mashing for visceral occult slugfests.
Unfortunately, outside of its striking aesthetic, Web of Wyrd stumbles in key areas. The story hits all the basic Hellboy beats but lacks depth and heart. Fight variety is limited by a small bestiary and straightforward upgrade paths. Roguelite progression provides short-term enjoyment before growing repetitive after multiple runs.
Yet while imperfect, Web of Wyrd succeeds as an enjoyable first step into translating Hellboy’s world into an interactive medium. There are enough hard-hitting fights and creepy dungeons to satisfy longtime devotees of the comic books. Players who crave a methodical, high skill-ceiling melee combat system will also find plenty to enjoy.
As a foundation, Web of Wyrd sets the stage for developer Upstream Arcade to refine and build upon in future installments. More enemy types, gear variety, and a touching narrative could help this series evolve into something truly special. For now, fans can find fun despite significant flaws. While unlikely to convert new devotees, this Hellboy delivers a sufficiently devilish dungeon bash for the faithful.
Hellboy: Web of Wyrd
Hellboy: Web of Wyrd is a mixed bag. It succeeds wildly as an interactive adaptation of Mike Mignola's signature art style and occult worldbuilding. The methodical, high-skill combat also provides satisfying skirmishes, if repetitive ones. However, it stumbles when it comes to narrative engagement, enemy variety, and reasons to replay. Longtime fans will undoubtedly enjoy bashing monsters and exploring the vivid hellscape dungeons, but may yearn for deeper RPG or exploration elements found in other roguelites. Web of Wyrd is rough around the edges, but lays a promising foundation that could blossom into something great with more content and refinement.
- Authentic Hellboy art style adaptation.
- Skill-based combat.
- Unique roguelite structure.
- Compelling gothic atmosphere.
- Lackluster narrative.
- Repetitive gameplay.
- Limited procedural variation.