Hell is a roll of the dice.
Divine warriors fighting the good fight against an endless horde of demons is a fairly typical subject for video games, but I can’t think of many examples involving dice games. And yet that’s exactly what Hell Quest is: a dice game against the demonic hordes. The weird thing is it’s a surprisingly cool dice game against demonic hordes, even despite luck playing a bit too big a part in success.
From the outset players are given control over a holy man and tasked with slaying demons via a roll of the dice. The rules aren’t particularly complex in practice, but to list all the details here would make me seem like a liar. The short version is that matching pairs or colors can be selected and added up to generate a point value, and the larger point value wins the round. The difference in points is deducted from the loser’s life and once one side is drained it’s either Game Over or time to move on to the next challenge. The gameplay is a little more intricate than that, however, as each of the various unlockable characters has their own set of spells and abilities to use that run the gamut from dealing direct damage to reducing an opponent’s point total during a round.
Despite making use of some slightly unnatural looking Monty Python-esque 2D “cutout” animation style, Hell Quest sports a rather impressive presentation. The monsters are suitably creepy, the music is appropriately “Epically Religious,” and the interface makes good use of the kind of motif typically found in most Roman Catholic churches. What’s more impressive is just how much fun it can be to play. There’s a surprising amount of strategy to each round when factoring an opponent’s skills and attempting to rack up a higher point total. There’s also a bevy of quests to perform, many of which unlock new temporary quests that can bestow players with special dice. Then there are the various playable characters to acquire and individually level up, each of which actually does player differently than the others.
The most immediate issue I’ve noticed with Hell Quest is the fact that it’s a dice game. What I mean is that while strategy does play a part, success can still be determined by simple luck, or a lack thereof. Rolling combo after combo and building up a massive 300+ point one-shot kill right at the beginning of a match is awesome, but being utterly defeated by an enemy that’s half the character’s level (or less!) is not. It’s still a game of chance, and that means things won’t always go the player’s way.
This in itself would just be a slight irritation if it weren’t for the unreasonably hefty price of defeat. Health replenishes in real time (100 per hour), which isn’t so bad, but resurrection takes 24 hours. That’s an entire day. In a game where getting a character killed can take all of a few seconds, even if they’re at full health, I don’t find this to be all that cool.
Actually playing Hell Quest, even with the over reliance on randomness, is still pretty awesome and a surprising amount of fun. It can be downright habit forming, actually. However the price for failure seems unreasonably steep, and even with a couple of playable characters it can still result in players essentially being prevented from making any progress for extremely large chunks of time. I’m finding it tough to recommend based on that fact, even though I did enjoy the time I spent playing it. It’s just that I have to be able to play it in the first place in order to enjoy it, and that isn’t always possible.