Hell is Other Demons mixes fast-paced action against a demonic horde with a gorgeous neon aesthetic but its graphics and bugs cause gameplay issues.
Hell is Other Demons is a retro fast-paced action game for Mac, PC, and Nintendo Switch that involves playing as a lone demon facing off against the hordes of the underworld in small areas while also surviving against the harsh environment and trying to avoid swarms of bullets.
The best part about Hell is Other Demons is its visual design, with the underworld being realized using a pixel art style that combines bright neon colors with dark and gloomy backgrounds. The demonic hordes are also made using this same style, with tiny demons that wouldn't look out of place in an NES game, to huge boss monsters that dominate most of the screen. Hell is Other Demons is one of the best-looking retro aesthetic games of all-time.
The music in Hell is Other Demons is also a treat, with brooding synthwave tracks (created by Rémi Gallego of The Algorithm) accompanying each level, which adds to the atmosphere of being trapped in an 8-bit underworld.
The 2D side-scroller gameplay of Hell is Other Demons involves selecting a loadout of equipment (which act as passive buffs) and weapons before being thrown into a small area and having to survive against waves of enemies. Hell is Other Demons is a bullet hell shooter where attacks can come from all sides.
There are two main gameplay modes in Hell is Other Demons - Arcade and Campaign. Arcade mode is an endless procedurally generated mode where the player can choose from multiple characters (after unlocking them) and must survive for as long as possible while using random equipment and weapons earned from battle.
The Campaign mode in Hell is Other Demons is light on the story, as you go through a world map made up of short levels that involve fighting hordes of enemies in small arenas. The Campaign mode isn't very long, but there is a lot of content packed into what is there. The player can earn extra points by finishing a stage without taking a hit, without using an Ultimate weapon (which are activated by power-ups dropped by the enemy), or by not using weapons at all and defeating enemies by stomping on their head, Mario style.
The graphics of Hell is Other Demons are actually one of the biggest issues with the game in relation to the gameplay, as many of the visual effects in the game (your bullets, the enemies bullets, explosions) use the same color scheme, regardless of the level, which can make it very difficult to differentiate between things that can harm you and things that can't. The fact that there is often a lot of effects going off at once and that each level is so small means that it's very easy to die and not see what caused it, as an enemy bullet can blend in with the explosion of another enemy as it croaks. These issues are magnified when playing in handheld/tabletop mode on the Nintendo Switch, as the smaller screen makes it even harder to tell things apart.
The small size of the arenas is also a problem, as there isn't much room for the enemy to spawn and it's easy for the player to dash right into an enemy as it's appearing, giving no time to dodge out of the way. The game could also have benefited from longer invincibility frames after being hit, as it's easy for the player to die from a flurry of blasts without being given a chance to move out of the way. It's possible to extend the invincibility frames using items, but you can only have so many of them equipped in each battle.
Hell is Other Demons also suffers from technical issues at launch, with slowdown and dropped frames cropping up in levels when things get too busy. There are also a few bugs that force a stage reset, as the item a boss monster is meant to drop didn't spawn, as well as minor bugs where the player or the enemy would fall through the bottom of the stage.
There are great ideas presented in Hell is Other Demons that are hamstrung by some design flaws and technical issues, the latter of which will ideally be fixed in updates. There is a lot to enjoy in Hell is Other Demons for fans of fast-paced action games and for those with a love of 8-bit retro aesthetics, but the difficulty of the game might be off-putting to those looking for a fair challenge, rather than having to play Where's Waldo? with the enemy's bullets.
Hell is Other Demons is available for Mac, PC, and Nintendo Switch on April 18, 2019. A digital code for the Nintendo Switch version of the game was provided to Screen Rant for the purposes of this review.