Hell Pie – Lacks seasoning

Hell Pie, or the second coming of Conker’s Bad Fur Day, is another in a long line of indie-made 3D platformers that aim to recapture the hey-day of collecting shiny things, to, once again, mixed success. 

It’s hard for me to quantify the enjoyment I had playing Hell Pie with a lingering sense of “is that all?” While the movement, the level design and the general moment-to-moment act of playing is good, even great, and arguably better than anything it pays respect to, there’s just a certain something that fails to stick in the mind. This leaves it below recent greats in the genre, but perhaps there’s something here, still.

Maybe it’s the humour? It starts off inoffensively enough, all satanic and silly, with a few choice riffs on the deadly sins. It peaks with the Nazis, literal pieces of shit, and seems to just taper off from there. It’s a little early-days Newgrounds, in that it’s aiming for provocative and bullish but is just a little… 

Hell Pie protagonist running from Nazis made of poo.
See? Literal PoS’s!

I have the level of humour which still finds the great mighty poo amusing. It’s a vanishingly low bar to clear, but Hell Pie rarely managed to lean against it. Which is a shame, because there’s a clearly high level of mechanical strength and visual imagination on display. It’s a 3D platformer that understands the genre is essentially an excuse for artists and designers to screw around.

And it has a grappling hook! As mechanics go, it’s hard to find one which doesn’t immediately bring joy to a player like a good grapple, and this one is very nicely implemented. On the whole, there really is little to complain about when you play Hell Pie.

Hell Pie protagonist grappling with his cherub companion.
You also get this weird Cherub. He’s as annoying as he looks.

Yes, the style is definitely aiming for an entirely different ballpark and the jokes are fundamentally different, but the predominant thing I think about when I play Hell Pie is that we’re in a world where Psychonauts 2 happened. Where a comedic game can be both moving, stylish, absurdly stupid and frequently laugh-out-loud hilarious. 

Maybe it’s a case of nostalgia. I grew up with Mario 64, with Conker, with Banjo-Kazooie, where the act of collecting shiny trinkets is a joy. But then you also have these vivid, strange, admittedly outdated characters. Yes, Mumbo Jumbo, I mean you. Christ, what were they thinking?

A landscape shot of Hell Pie's Heaven level
It can look rather nice.

Then you play a game that feels in thrall to those childhood icons, but grew up. Did Hell Pie grow up? No. That’s absolutely okay, and there is fun to be had here, but it comes down to personal biases. 

Without a doubt, I’m a player who enjoys a little bit more in a game, beyond tight mechanics and engaging level design. Hell Pie has those, though I understand some versions are less polished than others — it’s near flawless on Xbox — but there’s only so many poo jokes one can take without wanting a little bit of variety.

Although, I have only just clocked the title is a pun. Well played, Sluggerfly, well played.

Hell Pie is available now on Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch and PC.

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