Hell Pie describes itself as an “obscene 3D platformer that takes bad taste to the next level”, and honestly, I think it’s doing itself a great disservice with that statement. It’s grotesque at times, sure, but underneath all the boastful “we’re gross” nonsense, what’s here is a fantastically playable 3D platformer that owes more to Super Mario Odyssey than it does the likes of other gross-out games.
Playing as Nate the “bad taste” demon, the story revolves around a case of mistaken identity. The devil (your boss) rings up, and tells you to make his birthday pie. Just in case the phone call doesn’t instil fear into you, as Nate, shortly after taking control you pay witness to two much larger, presumably stronger demons being castigated by the lord of hell, then being unceremoniously blown up on the spot. First the eyeballs pop, then the head, then the whole lot. And remarkably, this is actually in service of teaching you how to double jump, but it also sets the tone.
A key facet of Hell Pie, you see, is that underneath the jokes – grim beats like seeing what looks like Nate masturbating before the camera moves to reveal him shaking a drink – a lot of care has clearly been put into every aspect of the game out. Meticulously designed overworlds give way to smaller levels within levels, and exploring often rewards with a collectible or an upgrade. Nothing feels thrown away in Hell Pie, and every inch feels plotted out with a view to you discovering it.
But let’s be clear, if that kind of humour does make you feel uncomfortable, then it might be a deal breaker. I guess we’re talking the South Park–style humour, where nothing is held back. In the moment, you’re going to be bouncing around the world and then you’ll encounter actual faeces in helmets you have to kill, or penis-shaped enemies in a jungle, and these are just some of the things that can be committing to writing.
At the core of the actual experience is Nate’s move-set. He meets a friend in Nugget, a cherub who acts as your weapon and traversal mechanic. You actually swing him round and this gives you vast amounts of airtime. It can even be upgraded four times, and along with various other improvements, by the halfway point you can make a mockery of some of the designed platforming routes.
The ultimate goal in Hell Pie is to collect ingredients. There are gems littered everywhere that you can collect, and these let you buy outfits to dress Nate or Nugget up in varying degrees of absurdity, ranging from a mankini to a BDSM outfit and a Hawaiian shirt, with everything in between. Each of the four main overworlds contains three levels that hide an ingredient. Most are platforming challenge-based, but there are boss fights, one of which reminds me of Crash Bandicoot of all things.
Outside of the main levels, there are various locations to explore. Each overworld contains three ingredients that are hidden in the environment, but there are fast travel teleporters to unlock, secrets aplenty, and hidden hellified-unicorns, which is the final piece of the puzzle, ability-wise. Getting new powers often requires a few hell-unicorns to unlock, and you will have to watch the nasty cinematic where Nate destroys them at an alter in order to gain a new power. Some of these are useful, like the speed horns. Others are alright, like the ability to smash open rock-walls and heavy crates, negating the need to pick up bombs that are scattered around. Sadly, some of them are next to useless, and feel a bit of an afterthought.
Each new horn power you grab will whisk you away to a mini-level designed for that ability, and outside of the actual level for the “light” power, I can’t remember ever using it again. It’s entirely possible that it’s for some super secret hidden part of Hell Pie I never discovered, and it’d be churlish to mark it down for a few things not being as essential as others, when the larger package is just so moreish.
Ultimately, the only crime it commits is that it’s intended to be laugh-out-loud funny, when really even if you like this kind of humour, it’s more likely to make you emit a singular chuckle. That said, while it wears the “we’re gross” badge with honour, it’s far more clever than it first appears. Nothing feels left on the table, and in a vastly under-represented genre, Hell Pie stands out mechanically as something that just feels so damn good to play, and actually stands out as an example of how to do 3D platforming right.
Hell Pie isn’t revolutionary, but it’s refreshing to play, a 3D platformer that leans into its collectathon ideals and is aimed squarely at fans of the genre. It also isn’t the biggest title out there. But with well-designed levels, tight controls, and unique ideas that pop up just in time to freshen things up, it might well be one of the most surprising ones.
It may not reinvent the playbook, but Hell Pie is great at what it does. With a decent runtime and tight platforming action, the only reason not to give it a go is if you can’t stand gross-out humour, or just don’t like the genre. A lovely surprise, and one that’ll have people playing for hours to find all the hidden collectibles.
- Genuinely exciting to move around the world
- Clever ideas executed well
- Superb level design
- Jokes don’t always land
- Some “powers” are under-used