Rising Hell is a roguelike 2D platformer action game coming in hot from Indonesia. Made by Kediri -based Tahoe Games, this is one of the most challenging and unforgiving games out of the Southeast Asian gaming library. Can you climb up the realms to escape hell?

The story begins when Mephisto the Trickster offers a way out of hell to Arok, Zelos and Sydna. Equipped with Mephisto’s Hellsbane, the three must slay the Archdemons guarding the realms of hell for an opportunity to escape. The player’s struggle starts with Arok (most probably named after a historical figure from Kediri) as their first character. They must guide him to climb hell from the depth of its bottom towards the realm where the elite demon resides. Here, they go face to face with the Archdemons guarding each domain.

Climb your way through a beautiful or rather grotesquely detailed 2D environment.

As customary with roguelike games, each death in Rising Hell is permanent. Players have to start from the beginning but can keep their experience points and Blight, the in-game currency required to unlock other characters and equipment. While a so-called Redemption mode, where you get extra lives, provides for more casual gamers, using it also means fewer experience points and no chance of unlocking other difficulty levels. 

As they collect Blight, players can unlock more playable characters such as Telos and Sydna, each with their individual strengths and weaknesses. Equipment can also be purchased to provide buff effects; however, each piece of equipment also comes with its own handicap. As players progress through the tower, talents can be unlocked to upgrade their character, improving the chance of success. These talents can be acquired using red souls gained from monsters who may also drop Artifacts: power-ups that can give you an advantage for a brief moment.

Mephisto will trade with you along your journey if you are willing to trust him.

Rising Hell’s gameplay features fast-paced action sequences. Each realm can be cleared in under 10 minutes or even more quickly as players get better. Make no mistake, though, the punishing nature of roguelike games means that most players probably spend hours just to get past the first level. Yet, the gameplay is surprisingly simple. Rising Hell requires almost zero tutorials (aside from some casual talk about how to do double jump) and puts you right in the middle of the action. Their straightforward button layout mirrors this simplicity, with only one attack button for regular attacks and combos. Special attack skills called Hellbreaks are initiated by jumping onto enemies, and there is a dash for a quick dodge as well as another button to interact with your surroundings.

Boss fights are as epic as they are challenging.

The game’s strongest points, though, are its level art and design. The pixel art truly delivers a horrific but beautiful depiction of hell, all down to their gory details. The design of the levels itself is no slouch. In-game lore explains that hell is actually inside the Zaqqum tree; thus, the levels in this game have a vertical layout, with very little horizontal space to roam. Each realm itself consists of multiple branching paths with its own dangers and challenges. This brilliant feature helps to keep the game fresh even after various deaths and retries. The Hellbreak skills help you grapple enemies, allowing you to climb faster while pulling combo attacks.

While the art for the levels is unique, the same cannot be said for the characters and the monsters. Being less detailed than their surroundings, this counts even more so for Lieutenants (Mini-Bosses). Each lieutenant is just a bigger version of a regular monster, a commonly used trick among game developers. The thing is, they didn’t increase the pixel count of the lieutenants, which made them somewhat blurry compared to the more detailed and complex design of the main bosses (the Archdemons). Granted, most of the Archdemons did not feature animations as complex as the main characters and lesser beings.

Some rooms will trap you and challenge you with specific conditions.

The simplistic button layout also has some shortcomings. Since there is only one attack button, players are forced to spend their Artifact right after collecting it. Which, in return, means there are chances to spend it on minor activities such as destroying doors and the environment instead of powerful enemies. Hellbreaks also mean to attack enemies when they are near automatically. This can be a hindrance, especially when dodging bullets and just wanting to do regular jumps. Initiating Hellbreaks can also cause the character to leave a floor accidentally. For a game that heavily punishes every mistake, more control of the character’s movement and actions would be preferable. 

Use monsters as a stepping stone towards your destination.

Outside of the main story mode, players can also engage in Gauntlet mode and Weekly Challenges. Gauntlet mode provides specific challenges that can either focus on the action or platforming aspect of the game, while Weekly Challenges add various stat modifiers to the primary story mode, which increases the difficulty. Both modes support the game’s replay value while giving players an additional chance to feature on the leaderboard. 

All in all, despite the challenge and the frustration it may bring, Rising Hell is an enjoyable game to play. Getting good at the game and slaughtering demons by the numbers using combo after combo while platforming like crazy feels so good after each and another retry. The game also manages to avoid being repetitive, with enough content to keep the gameplay fresh. 

When you’re finally able to slay the Archdemons and clear the realms in record speed, feeling like a boss, that’s when the game successfully delivers the ultimate reward of a roguelike game (and probably life in general): the overwhelming satisfaction of overcoming tough challenges through continuous improvement and perseverance.

Rising Hell is available for PC on Steam, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One/Series X. This review is based on a free review copy (PC) provided by the publisher Chorus Worldwide.

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