The indie scene continues to flourish in many ways, granting gamers access to a cornucopia of fresh content that’s unique, but also quite entertaining in a lot of cases. HellSign takes the appeal of exploration and throws in Action RPG mechanics along with an isometric perspective, giving players a more immersive horror experience. The game throws you into a world where you’re in complete control, with a need to discover strong evidence in order to find out who killed your family. Anybody who enjoys the sort of detective-like gameplay, where you must search up and down for evidence but also take out enemies via your hunting skills, will surely find HellSign to be an enjoyable ordeal.
What to Expect
HellSign is pretty dark and gritty, which fits the overall tone of the game in the first place. You star as a hunter who must investigate a small town that has been plagued with supernatural entities, all out to cause havoc. A monster has torn your family apart (literally) and now it’s your responsibility to come up with the right strategies to stay alive, and inch yourself one step closer to defeating the monster. Everything within HellSign is procedurally generated, meaning that every encounter you have with the ghastly ghouls will be different every time, which provides a very satisfying ghost hunting experience as the game progresses. As we mentioned before, HellSign incorporates RPG-style elements into the mix, giving you the ability to unlock special weapons and items, then level them up in order to maximize not only your detective potential but your power potential as well.
You can choose from a variety of classes, all of which come with their own unique purpose and abilities. As you continue to level up your hunter, each ability becomes that much stronger, which will allow you to find special items and weapons that can aid you in solving cases. At the moment, the review copy we have is only roughly 10-12 hours since it’s still in early access, but the full version will have a total of around 40 hours of gameplay, along with plenty of other features for you to take advantage of. For now, let’s dive into what we know and have experienced so far and hopefully shed some light on why this game has potential to be a solid title.
Visually speaking, HellSign looks quite nice in its isometric view, which gives you a much larger playing field to pay attention to. Since the game is themed around exploration, and of course being a horror title, the isometric view allows for more versatility and character movement around each location you encounter. The dark and grungy feel really suits the gameplay along with the comic book style story approach, which was a surprise to us at first but actually complimented things well. The artwork within the comic book was very well designed and really added more emotion and life to the main character. When shifting from flashlight to the blacklight, the visuals look more vivid and do stand out a little more, adding more realism to the detective experience. Overall, this area was well done, so no major complaints here.
This area we found needed a little fine tuning, especially since there were times when the sounds would pop, making things a little irritating when wandering around with headphones on. The overall ambience was definitely very spooky and gave us the chills, like when things became very quiet and we didn’t know what could be lying on the other side of the door. It was just those odd times when the sound effects of the enemy would sort of destroy that immersion, since they didn’t really sound that intimidating. Perhaps adding a little more fear into the sound effects through the enemies, along with say more random sounds coming from out of rooms, would totally add more to the experience. It’s not terrible by any means, but definitely needs just a little bit more adjustment to truly spook you while playing.
Gameplay wise, HellSign is really interesting since it’s not just about exploration but also about leveling up your hunter to ensure you can defeat stronger enemies down the road. Not only that, but leveling up your exploration items will help you find items quicker, which is always a plus. Depending on the hunting class you choose in the beginning, that too will determine just what items you’ll receive over time, and knowing how to masterfully use them becomes more important. Each class starts off with the default tools you need such as a flashlight, syringe to heal, blacklight to survey the area, etc. If you happen to choose the role which is higher in more detection-based attributes, then you’ll be able to unlock more powerful tools to help you gather evidence more consistently, but also be able to detect them faster than others.
Control-wise, HellSign did falter here as the mouse and keyboard scheme did feel stiff and the character just wasn’t very fluid in animation while wandering around. Organizing your inventory wasn’t difficult and everything came with a helpful explanation, especially when things got a bit confusing and not really knowing which item was best in what scenario. Depending on the location the frame rate would drop at times, one good example is just at the start of the game during the brief tutorial, where you start running in the rain and the frames start to stutter a bit. It doesn’t happen quite often later on in the game, but if there’s a lot of activity occurring on-screen the game will stutter a bit. We’re aware of the other issues with the game as stated by the team, but nevertheless we hope that everything is fixed for final release. The creature hunting was fun and definitely gave us a scare or two at times, but we found them to be a little easy to defeat! We hope the difficulty will increase in the full version.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
Overall, HellSign certainly has promise to be something really entertaining, once all of the gameplay kinks have been ironed out and some of the sound issues are patched up. The game wasn’t very long and so there wasn’t really much to dive deep into. We only stuck with our Breacher class and didn’t test to see if you were able to perhaps switch classes at some point, but we imagine that in the full version it may be a possibility... we can only hope!
Unique design approach, and we enjoyed the investigative-style gameplay.
Very gritty and dark ambience that really does spook you at times.
The gameplay is quite intriguing, especially the RPG elements allowing you to level up your tools, etc.
A lot of bugs that need to be fixed.
Character animations require a little more fluidity.
Frame rate issues do affect the game in some ways.
Honey's Final Verdict:
We hope you found our early access review of HellSign to be an informative one, and that you can look forward to it on Steam! It is now currently available so be sure to support the indie scene and give it a try. Let us know your thoughts about it in the comments below and of course, if you like this review then be sure to share it on social media as well.
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Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.
A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!