Jupiter Hell Review: A Dance With Doom

Jupiter Hell is available on PC. A copy of the game was provided for Gideon’s Gaming for the purpose of review. I reviewed Jupiter Hell on a variety of difficulty modes, but primarily on medium.

You can find a video version of this review here: Jupiter Hell Review: Rip and Tear At Your Own Pace (Roguelike Game) – YouTube

Overview

Do you want to know one of my dirty little game reviewer secrets? I don’t like Doom, or games like Doom. The hyper-paced arcade-style shooting and gallons of gore aren’t my style. But take Doom and make it a tactical traditional roguelike. Then you have Jupiter Hell and my attention.

Jupiter Hell is basically Doom the roguelike.

It’s a questionable combination for sure. We have seen other failed attempts to take Doom and transform it into something else. We smelled what the Rock was cooking, and it smelled like butt.

Yet Chaosforge somehow managed to combine two totally opposite concepts and it just works. Jupiter Hell is a true roguelike which means it’s turn-based. But it has the soul of a fast-paced first-person shooter that makes the game feel very unique.

Rip & Tear (At your own pace)

Jupiter Hell is incredibly simple to learn, and the short tutorial will have you ripping and tearing your way through hellspawn within minutes. The controls are intuitive and easy to remember though I should note that the game can’t be played with a mouse. You have to choose between the keyboard or a controller. I chose to go with the latter.

A simple tap on the D-pad moves your little slayer in that direction and consumes a unit of time. Jupiter Hell is completely turn-based but not quite in the normal sense of the concept. Every action, from moving to reloading consumes some time.

For the most part, the difference isn’t perceivable. You usually do something, then the enemies do something, and it looks like your standard turn-based system. But slower actions can actually give your enemies a double turn, while faster ones can give you a double turn. It’s a small twist, but an important one you always need to watch out for.

The retro style interface is nifty.

This is especially true because it’s very easy to forget that Jupiter Hell is a turn-based game at all. Moving and fighting are extremely fast and smooth, with no pause in-between. Moving around the various complexes of Jupiter’s moons feels like it’s in real-time along the lines of games like Diablo. It’s only when you stop pushing buttons that you remember what the game actually is.

The fast-paced nature is what makes Jupiter Hell special. It captures the feel of a shooter perfectly without being one. But it can also lead to some cognitive dissonance and get you killed. It’s very easy to fall into a habit of forgetting that it’s a roguelike game. If you attempt to play it like an action game, it will let you, and you will die.

It was a lesson I learned the hard way several times as I darted around blasting baddies into explosions of gore when I would suddenly get merked out of nowhere. I had to intentionally make myself slow down. Even then, when I got on a roll, I could easily fall back into that habit. Then I would die, again.

That’s because despite the fast-paced soul that Jupiter Hell inherited from big daddy Doom, it is not a mindless game. Your shots land and deal damage based on statistical percentages. You have to take cover, use the environment to your advantage and make intelligent use of your equipment.

You choose between three classes at the start of a run.

Taking cover reduces your chance of being hit, but your enemy can also use it. Figuring out the best way to clear out enemies that always have you outnumbered is the key. You can blow up barrels, draw them out of cover, or utilize equipment such as grenades when simple shooting won’t suffice.

You need to manage your limited inventory space to account for weapons you want to carry and the ammo for them. Different weapons have optimal ranges and damage types that are better or worse against specific enemies.

On top of that, you also level up and choose perks for one of the three playable classes that can have a big impact on your playstyle. It’s a tactical game through and through, and a satisfying one, precisely because of how fast the game feels.

You aren’t telling your character to move behind a wall and take a shot. You’re simply darting behind cover, shooting three dudes, and reloading before you move to the other side of the wall and shoot three other dudes. Sure it’s using all the statistical conventions of a turn-based game, but it never feels that way.

Lots of difficulty settings! Yay!

That clever combination does a lot to carry the game because it’s on the lighter side underneath it. Jupiter Hell will kick your teeth in, but some of it can be due to bad luck. Or in my case, getting greedy with the movement system. It’s more tactical than a straight shooter, but there isn’t much in the way of options. You generally just move behind cover and shoot while occasionally tossing a grenade or blowing up a barrel.

Every weapon has pros and cons, and you do have to think about when to switch, given the game’s time consumption system. But that’s about as deep as the gameplay goes. You can pull off some pretty neat builds with perks and weapon mods though, which is nice.

While the visuals are great, but they aren’t always clear. I often found it difficult to properly see what was going on whether due to the darker shading of the game’s visual style, how far the camera is pulled back or an enemy behind a wall or object. You often have to take a second and look at the name and stats of an enemy in the top right of the screen to understand what you’re targeting. But that info is so small, and out of the way, it’s easy to forget about.

Trying make out the action can strain the eyes a bit.

Jupiter Hell is a traditional roguelike too. That means there is no meta progression. Your progress is determined entirely by you progressively growing as a player. The game does feature several difficulty settings, which is great. However, being lightweight causes the repetition to become grating pretty quickly.

Playing through the first couple levels means the same weapon types are always going to drop, and you’re going to fight the same enemies with very little variation. The roster of enemy types is a little small to begin with, and that fact is compounded when you fight them over and over again with the same pistol, shotgun, and revolver combo at the start of every run. It begins to feel less like a Doom baby, and more like groundhog day.

Verdict

Jupiter Hell is a game that can definitely grab you if you are a fan of roguelikes or even fast-paced shooters. Its longevity is going to depend on your feelings on game mastery. It features a variety of difficulty settings and several special trials and challenges beyond the main game.

Each of them will test your ability to adapt and use the game’s systems to succeed. Sure, it’s on the shallower side for the genre, but limitation breeds innovation, and you will need to stay focused if you want to do well.

The fast-paced nature makes Jupiter Hell stand out from the crowd alongside a retro-style interface that’s nostalgic while incorporating all the modern conveniences we have come to expect. The shallowness and repetition hit faster than I would like, but there’s no denying that Jupiter Hell’s combination of rip and tear with chess-like flair is a mixture Doomed to succeed.

You might also enjoy my review of Crown Trick

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Pros

  • Great blend of fast paced shooter action with a traditional roguelike
  • Difficulty Settings present
  • Clever time management is interesting
  • Neat retro interface with modern sensibilities

Cons

  • No Mouse support
  • It is fairly lightweight for the genre with few tactical options
  • Lack of variety in the gameplay and enemies gets repetitive quickly
  • Sometimes it is difficult to see what’s going on