Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller

1994 Take 2 Interactive
Designed by John Antinori, Laura Kampo
Reviewed 1995 July 1

Rating +1 Linearity narrow
Reasonability deductive Connectivity moderate
Difficulty challenging Relevance strong
Interface 3rd paned simple Real-time minor

You play a cop in a future Washington DC. Demons from Hell walk the streets, and a dictator rules the pious land. A government hit-squad (other cops) breaks into your house and tries to kill you and your partner. You have to find out why, and how to call them off.

The primary strength of Hell is its story. It is well conceived and richly detailed. A large part of the game play consists of gathering information from one character and telling it to another. The story unfolds continuously and naturally, following -- rather than directing -- the player. This makes Hell one of the better claimants to the designation of interactive fiction.

The challenges are generally easy, but there are some exceptions. The most difficult puzzle does not have to be solved to complete the game. There's also a difficult arcade sequence, but if you keep at it the game eventually eases up and lets you through.

I encountered several bugs, in both the game design and the programming. There are several instances where characters talk to you as if you know (don't know) something you don't (do). This out of sequence dialogue can be confusing, but it does not seriously effect game play. The programming bugs do. The game crashed on me several times, and there were several small glitches in graphics and sound. Fortunately, there's a good save/restore facility.

The visual presentation of Hell is unusual. The characters are 3D computer generated structures, along with the sets. This works well when you're looking at and moving about a set. The dialogues are a series of repetitive, close-up animations of the various characters, in the same 3D rendered fashion. The switching from one character to another was slow, making the dialogues tedious (on my 50MHz 486-DX/2, 2xCD). A still-image option, for the dialogues, would be much appreciated.

In summary, Hell is like a beta release of a good adventure game. It excels as a good story told in a computer-interaction medium. The game challenge itself is fair, but the implementation is poor.

Solution by me.

David Tanguay's Game Reviews
Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.