Originally published at: Review | Hellboy Web of Wyrd - XboxEra
Hellboy Web of Wyrd is a rogue-like beat-em-up that loves the source material. Featuring a brand-new story made in collaboration with series creator Mike Mignola. Featuring one of Lance Reddick’s final roles as the titular character, you’ll enter the Wyrd Realm as you attempt to uncover why untraceable energy spikes have been going off all over the globe. Any good rogue-like requires great gameplay, and compelling builds to aim for with each run. Unfortunately, outside of reverence for the source material, Web of Wyrd struggles in pretty much every area. It’s not all bad, but it mostly is.
After hearing Ron Perlman as Hellboy for so long it took me a bit of time to get used to Lance Reddick as Hellboy. By the end of my playthrough though, I loved it. The late Mr. Reddick seems like he’s having a hell of a time with the role. Leaning into every line with a nod to how over-the-top and silly the situations can be. He is the shining star of what is otherwise a lovingly crafted slog. In every corner of the game, you can find a good idea that lacks the time and/or budget to make it something enjoyable. Cutscenes feature still protagonists as the camera moves slightly.
There is an attempt to evoke a comic book panel feel, but the framing never goes far enough, and the lack of texture or detail robs the scenes of any emotion. Voice work from the rest of the crew is solid, with writing and an overall plot that was interesting though predictable. Hellboy and crew are in The Butterfly House, an ever-changing (kinda) mansion that houses portals to the Wyrd (pronounced word). This is where your rogue-like runs take place.
The game’s graphics are a cel-shaded style with little texture work. If you told me that this was an emulated PS2 or Original Xbox game running at 4k/60 on a PC I wouldn’t be shocked. Outside of Hellboy’s beautifully ugly mug, the game, especially its backgrounds, is extremely basic. It feels like they wanted to go for a tone but it’s so devoid of detail that it feels like a quick sketch from a 5th grader’s notebook was scanned into a PC and used as a background.
Through a series of obviously bolted-together small rooms, you will make your way through two levels of each stage. These levels are procedurally generated from a tiny number of possible looks and room types. You have your standard “get healed” room, a room to spend your in-run currency to buy more power-ups, and none of it is ever really optional. You’ll end up going into most rooms of each level every time to find the one or two keys you’ll need to reach the boss. There is only ever fighting in your runs, and the combat is dreadful (more on that in a bit).
Worst of all the power-up system is incredibly limited. You have a few different pieces to level each run and you’ll generally just up their power a tiny bit or occasionally get the same few passive buff modifiers to choose from. In between these runs, you’ll traverse The Butterfly House. This means going to the same few NPCs repeatedly and listening to their conversations. Eventually, you’ll get a couple of gear piece upgrades to buy with a meta-currency you earn each run. It too like the rest of the game is incredibly limited in scope, and the overall upgrade path just wants you to grind in levels that are too easy to ever die in. Hellboy has two types of health, a regenerating shield which when completely used up leads to his regular red HP. Bosses and enemies have a similar system, encouraging you to push the action so that their shield doesn’t have time to come back.
The biggest issue with the game is the combat. This is a mostly 1v1 beat ’em up, even if the room has 30 people. Holding the left bumper will have Hellboy lock on to any elite enemy he’s looking at. You’ll fight them with a mix of the same attack and dodge combos over and over and over again until you start to get sleepy. The combat, much like the look, is incredibly basic. You have a ranged weapon and charm slot but you’ll rarely ever need to use them. Most enemies can be taken down with a series of regular or charged attacks as you focus on dodging in the right direction to evade their basic maneuvers. The AI is predictable and polite, waiting in turn to attack you most of the time like a bad kung fu flick. Once you’ve taken enough damage the game gives you an “I win” button in the form of the right trigger. Using this will unleash a devastating canned animation that kills most normal enemies and does massive damage to bosses.
The game pads its length by forcing you to replay the small handful of levels multiple times to see the story through. I didn’t run into any bugs while playing on PC or Xbox. A locked feeling 60 on console was matched with an average of 315 fps on PC. PC also has zero graphical settings available, a first for a game that I’ve played there in the past decade. Accessibility-wise the game features a few options that were nice to see. You can gift Hellboy more HP, have enemy special attacks have longer cooldowns, and have the game give you a visual indicator of when an enemy is going to strike.
Wrapping Things Up
Hellboy Web of Wyrd has good ideas and flawed execution. It’s not a looker, becomes repetitive to play after 15 minutes, and has one of the least satisfying rogue-like setups I can remember. If you love the character the story is interesting, but slogging through the title to see it is a tough thing to recommend.