Overall Score 72%
So you've been cast into Hell. We don't know what you did to deserve this - depending on your religion, it could be anything from murdering puppies to eating fish on a Tuesday - but the fact remains: your immortal soul has been sent to an eternity somewhere hot and firey and a teensy bit unpleasant. But just lying around all the time, even if you're on fire, is a bit dull. Hell likes to offer a bit of sport, and one particular lost soul has a second chance. It's time for a jailbreak from Hell - or a Hellbreak.
Your task is to control your bearded avatar as he leaps from the bottom of the screen to the portal at the top, which will whisk him away to the next level. He can run left and right and he can leap straight up through gaps in the ever-moving floors. Be careful - if you fall through a gap in the floor you could get hurt. Some parts of the floor are a little more... evil than other parts. And to add to the fun there are flames and wandering monsters to avoid. Get hit too many times and you'll lose the game.
There are several ways to control your somewhat singed sinner. If you prefer to use touch controls, you can drag left or right to make him run and flick up to leap. If you prefer to move, you can tilt your device instead, and there are combination options if you like a little of both. There are pickups that can help you out - hearts are extra lives and shields, for instance, will briefly protect you from monsters. If escaping Hell isn't enough for you, why not try for the high score? Go up floors and score points, but if you fall down again you'll lose points.
The cartoon graphics are simple and sometimes strange. Hell contains some weird monsters, some of which merely stun while others sap your lives. It is best to avoid them all! The floors undulate in a vaguely disturbing way, and they don't really move sideways so much as the gaps do. Can holes move? Apparently so in Hell. The floors can be made of skulls, by the way, or teeth, or all manner of other weird things. This oddness adds to the atmosphere. Some jazzy music adds a gleeful layer of evil, though the full range of tunes is quite short and you may tire of them quickly. Some limited sound effects are also present, and the volume of both can be adjusted individually or collectively.
Hellbreak is quick to pick up, and initially put me in mind of an old Atari game called Leaper. I took a while to get used to the controls and there's a certain amount of strategy involved with beating each level - but a little luck as well. Fortunately you can retry any level you've failed, and you can start a new game from any milestone levels you've previously reached if you want to skip the early stuff. This is Hell, after all, and it wants to go on dishing out punishment. The biggest drawback to this approach is that, if you get stuck on a level, you can't skip ahead. There are two difficulty settings, Easy and Hard, which affect game speed and a few other things.
Playing enough levels will unlock bonus games, Speedrun and Crowd, endless versions of the game which get faster or more monster-filled as you complete levels. You also have an option to reset your progress should you ever feel the urge to start afresh. I'm not sure I can see much long-term appeal in this game for myself, however. If you do well, you'll complete it in no time. If you get stuck, you'll quickly become frustrated. The basic concept is good, but it's clearly a game designed for playing in short bursts (for which a smartphone is well suited).
A jolly little game with an interesting concept and simple but challenging gameplay, Hellbreak is a pretty successful effort. There are some areas that could perhaps be improved, but it's a solid foundation to build on - especially from a solo developer - and it deserves to do well.
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