Limbs are useful things. They make life easier when you want to get around, pick things up, or remove them, and throw them at people you don’t like. No? Well no, maybe not the last one but you have to admit if you could pull your arm off and use it to get to those spots that are just out of reach it would be a bit handy. In Helheim Hassle, the slightly mad-cap puzzler I’ve been playing of late you can do just this. You can also remove your head. This creates its own set of questions about your mortality that we’ll hopefully be answering in just a little bit. The more pressing query for the moment, though, is as to whether it’s any good. Let’s see, shall we?
So being a Viking means battle and lots of it. All of these tussles and downright bloody brawls are leading to one thing; your spot in Valhalla. Valhalla isn’t your average heaven. If you don’t like fighting you’re screwed because you’re going to be doing a lot of it, forever. If you happen not to have psychopathic tendencies and might want to have a bit of a rest when you die, or even better just not get hacked to death in the first place; being a Viking probably isn’t the best vocation.
In Helheim Hassle your protagonist, Bjorn, is facing just this predicament. in his case, running in the opposite direction to everyone else when the giants come knocking seems like a great idea. What is less of a good idea is falling to his death. Even worse, killing a bear on the way down means he’s defeated it in single-handed combat and is bound for the eternal battlefield anyway. All he want to do is to go to Helheim. When the Viking hell is a better choice than the Viking heaven your life is pretty tragic.
Helheim Hassle is genre-bending in the most excellent way. Firstly and foremost this is a puzzle/platform game. You have to use Bjorn’s disassembled body parts to throw switches, mount pressure pads, and surpass a series of other clever brain-teasers. Bjorn’s body can’t get everywhere so you’ll need to throw his limbs and head to reach those areas in its stead.
If it were just this premise Helheim Hassle would be fun and novel but not necessarily enough to warrant huge review scores. What makes this title really stand out is it’s point and click elements. Now, this isn’t a point and click adventure but some of the puzzles you face seem to require a bit of the same sort of thinking you’d apply to one and this really ramps up the experience as a whole. Add a brilliant story and you’ve got a neat little package.
Helheim Hassle is a very plot-heavy game. Not in the visual novel sense but more in the way that point and click adventures of old relied on a good story to carry them. The characters you meet are likable and the script is funny. If you have a dark sense of humor I really think you’ll get a kick out of the antics that you and your friend Pesto will be getting involved in.
The character’s in Helheim Hassle are very well written. Whether it be bureaucratic goblins or egomaniacal gods there is a lot to fall in love with. There’s also a talking door. She’s less likable but being the guardian to the underworld is going to make you salty at best so there’s a good reason. Lastly on this point don’t expect the obvious. This game is Norse mythology if it were brought bang up to date. Odin, as an example, is a bit of a dick whatever timeline you put him in but in the current one, he’s picked up quite a familiar hobby.
My biggest (and only real) bugbear is the control system. This is a mix of WASD and arrow commands, and it can feel a bit unwieldy at times. The WASD keys are for your movement and those of your various appendages whereas the arrows select the appendages you want to detach and use. The problem is it’s rather easy to forget what’s moving.
A number of times I found myself doing the wrong thing because the wrong bit of Bjorn was selected. This isn’t a major gripe because you can’t die in Helheim Hassle but it feels a bit fiddly and clunky trying to get everything to flow which can make what should be a really fun experience frustrating at times. To make a fair comment, I was playing with the keyboard. I think that the controls on a pad would probably feel more comfortable and this is a console release too so I’m trying not to hate on them too much.
The puzzles in Helheim Hassle are varied and well thought out. In essence, there is a theme of getting part A to point B but this is needed for flow. The levels make the puzzles feel different enough to make you want to keep going. One said conundrum, for instance, has your leg bouncing about in Fafnir’s stomach. It’s still puzzle/platforming but it’s very cleverly implemented.
Speaking of clever, this isn’t just about how you interact with your limbs. In Helheim Hassle you’ll need to use your limbs in conjunction with each other to pass various obstacles. To give you an example … your leg might be able to move fast and jump high but it isn’t going to be doing any climbing. If you use your leg and arm together, however, suddenly you can run, jump and grab onto things. Getting the right combination of extremities is going to be the key to victory. Something else you need to remember and this should be obvious but is relatively easy to forget sometimes, is that to talk you need your head. Your head, however, doesn’t necessarily need to be attached to your body to accomplish this task.
Graphically, Helheim Hassle is beautifully drawn. The scenes and characters are colorful, cartoony and retro for all the right reasons. The 2D style that’s been chosen has a very 90s feel to it and anything that evokes fond memories gets a great big “A” in my book. There’s something a little bit Monkey Island to the visuals and I mean this as a massive compliment.
If you love a good puzzler there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy Helheim Hassle. I’ve just been playing through the main story path but aside from your quest, there’s lots to pick up, find, and collect. I could see other areas I couldn’t get to or just deliberately skipped for time reasons. Knowing that there’s more to this game than the primary objective, (which is great by the way,) adds replayability and elevates Helheim Hassle further. It’s definitely getting a dismembered thumbs up from me.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
A fantastic journey
Helheim Hassle is a lovely little puzzler. Nothing feels too over-complicated and the puzzles themselves are fun and challenging without feeling insurmountable. What makes this title really special is the story. The plot is funny, well written, and engaging. My only real downside is the control scheme but this by no means spoils the experience. Definitely worth a play for puzzle addicts amongst you.