By Michael Fontanini / October 12th, 2016
|Title||Tom vs. The Armies of Hell|
|Publisher||Burgoon Entertainment, LLC.|
|Release Date||July 27th, 2016|
|Genre||Inide, Action, Adventure, Difficult|
|Platform||PC and Mac (via Steam)|
You’re a down-trodden software engineer who doesn’t particularly enjoy his job at a large company known as Questionable Technologies. Suddenly an experiment downstairs in a lab goes terribly awry! The office building gets teleported into Hell and heavily damaged at the same time, as demons start appearing all over within it. You wake up for a moment to see a purple demon named Beezle standing over you. He seems to be friendly, and says what he’s about to do is really gonna hurt. Beezle warns that if you feel the urge to pass out, just go with it. He replaces your lost arm with a demon arm as you pass out, turning you into a half-demon. Tom vs. The Armies of Hell takes you from 9-5 hell to real Hell!
The game is the result of a 1-man team (Sean Burgoon) based in San Francisco. Tom vs. The Armies of Hell uses a cartoony visual style with 3D visuals and an isometric view. It combines all of that with a great sense of humor that you see all over the game. Some of the item descriptions are pretty amusing, for example. The game can be played using keyboard/mouse controls, or gamepad controls. You can only change the controls from the in-game pause menu, and not the main menu.
Your adventure begins in the bathroom where you were previously laying injured upon the floor. With your new demon arm, you can do melee combo attacks on enemies. Movement is done using the WASD keys on your keyboard by default, but you can change the controls from the pause menu. Combat is not limited to melee attacks though. As soon as you move out into the corridor and kill your first demon, you will get a prototype gun that was being developed by Questionable Technologies.
This peculiar weapon uses souls as ammo, and so you will find many of them on your adventure. They are dropped by enemies and come in a variety of colors. Each color determines the type of projectiles your gun will fire. Red souls make your gun shoot small, rapid-fire projectiles, while blue souls cause the gun to fire an arc of electricity that can jump to multiple nearby enemies.
Be careful though, because you get limited ammo from each soul, but can eventually upgrade your gauge to have a 2nd ammo slot. This lets you store two souls worth of ammo (and they don’t have to be the same color, since you can switch between the ammo types when you have another canister).
Of course, in video games there are those times when you will need to heal, and Tom vs. The Armies of Hell is certainly no different. The game also includes a couple of items for that purpose. Sometimes medicine bottles drop that will heal small amounts of your health, and other times a med-kit will spawn which heals a larger amount. These items are somewhat uncommon, though.
You will also find chests from time to time. These can contain helpful items that include armor and of course other items that have interesting effects. The armor items don’t seem to be very resilient, though. They break relatively quickly, making them not as helpful as they could be.
The gameplay is quite fun and consists of exploration to progress through the levels while fighting hordes of demons. In some places lots of enemies spawn at once, making dodging important. Being agile isn’t the only method of dodging, though. Melee attacks fill your energy gauge, and when its high enough you can do a teleport dodge that warps you forward a few feet. The game’s levels are fairly linear, but there are side rooms and things to look in, and you should as you often find chests in out-of-the-way places.
The graphics and sound effects are very nice and breath life into the game world. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously and strives to be rather silly with its great sense of humor and a bit of comic book style. There is some voice acting too, and it’s pretty well-done. It can be found in the opening cinematic animation that starts playing when you boot up the game (which can also be viewed from the main menu). When you start a new game, another cutscene plays that also has some nice voice acting. However, most dialog in the game is not voiced.
As you can see in the image above, the game has three difficulty levels with unusually creative names. This brings us to the game’s one major flaw: it takes the misguided “difficulty for the sake of difficulty” design philosophy. The game sets out to be overly difficult just for the sake of being hard, pushing new or less experienced players away. All of these difficulty levels are shifted up a level or two from where they should be. The game is meant to be difficult though, but that alone doesn’t justify this type of design. However, this difficulty issue mostly comes into play only during the boss fights, but you can lose a lot of health fighting large numbers of small baddies, too.
The problem with this is simple. The easiest mode in a game is the gateway for new players, and generally as a developer you want to bring in new players. Having the easiest mode shifted up a notch or two in difficulty from where it should be turns away new players. So this design doesn’t make sense from a gameplay perspective and certainly not from a business perspective. If the easy mode is already annoying, most players will not have much desire to try the higher levels.
I must note here that there is a patch in the works to address this difficulty issue, at least on easy mode. It is always nice to see developers listening to their players. At the time of this writing, the patch is still in the beta branch, but will be released to all owners of the game in a few days potentially. So it will probably already be out by the time this review is published. I also would note that as a developer, it can be very easy to make things too hard. It results from the fact that as a developer you are constantly play testing your game, which causes you to become too good at it. There is also the fact that you have an unfair advantage over a new player, in that you know how the underlying systems of the game work.
If the patch does not change the other modes at all, this may still be an issue, as some players will try normal and quit. Being able to play again on a higher difficulty is nice, but only if the step up is reasonable. If players moving up to the next difficulty level feel like they’re hitting a brick wall early on, they will be far more likely to quit rather than continue to progress up the difficulty ladder. I’m not saying that the higher difficulty levels should be removed, far from it. I’m just saying that easy mode shouldn’t turn new players away and normal mode shouldn’t be too big of step up from easy (and the same from normal to hard).
Overall, Tom vs. The Armies of Hell is a very enjoyable little game. As mentioned, the emphasis on difficulty brings it down a fair bit, though. It is good to see that the developer is listening to players with the tweaks to easy mode coming in the next patch. Normal mode will probably still be a turn-off to new players, though, if the patch doesn’t address that. Regardless, Tom vs. The Armies of Hell is a very fun little game with a nice sense of humor. It will keep you busy for quite awhile (10-20 hours per game, more on higher difficulty levels) if you like a lot of difficulty. In fact, the achievements for completing levels can only be gotten in normal mode. The game is available on Steam for a price of $12.99. Tom vs. The Armies of Hell is the game that takes you from 9-5 hell to real Hell to blast your way through hordes of demons!
Review Copy Provided by Publisher
Burgoon Entertainment LLCDarkmire EntertainmentSteamTom vs. The Armies of Hell