When a review is marked as ‘in progress’, it is done on the basis that enough time has been invested to obtain solid impressions even though we have been unable to beat it. This may be down to an extreme length or brutal difficulty, but either way it is a title that has overcome us… at least for a period of time.
Games marked as such will receive the usual review treatment, plus some additional footage to help give you a general idea of what to expect. These games will likely be finished at some point, and the review will be updated accordingly. As such, keep checking back if you want to keep a track of our full final thoughts when we have them!
Many thanks to Thunderful for the review code.
This is a painful review to write. Hell Pie is not only a 3D collectathon platformer that tries to harken back to the likes of Conker’s Bad Fur Day, but it also does a lot of things right too. In fact, this could have been in the running for one of my favourite 3D platformers on the Nintendo Switch.
However, this port is so incredibly bad in its current state that it not only renders the game difficult to play through – but also, as was with my case, impossible to beat. Normally cases like this would be given the impressions treatment since I can no longer make any further progress; however, the developers are working on a big patch to address the many, many issues that the game has – so I’m willing to give this another shot at a later date, hopefully allowing me to finalise the review in a more positive way.
Let me tell you why this game may be the greatest tragedy in modern gaming history.
A PIE TO DIE FOR
The story of Hell Pie is pretty straightforward: Nate works at Sin Inc, the mega corporation that lies at the heart of the underworld. Nate is the demon of bad taste, and his couture office pretty much shows why. His attire, the motivational posters on the wall, his ornaments – he has clearly earned himself this title for a reason.
After an unexpected phone call from Satan himself, Nate is tasked with finding the ingredients for the Devil’s birthday cake in time for the celebrations. It’s not really his job to do so, but considering that his boss is Satan Nate is stuck with the doing so whether he likes it or not.
After a quick trip to Hell’s Kitchen, Nate soon finds himself accompanied (by means of a chain) by a Cherub who will help him gather all the necessary ingredients to assemble an unforgettable luncheon.
It’s a stupid setup, but the focus here is mainly on the outlandish settings and crude humour that is reminiscent of Conker’s Bad Fur Day. The jokes here are nowhere near as clever as that N64 classic, but fans of poop jokes and cartoon violence are sure to have an enjoyable time regardless.
Every 3D platformer worth its salt needs a solid moveset that makes you want to explore its open environments; Super Mario Odyssey is a great example of this, as the combination of hat throwing, diving, rolling, wall-kicking, and so on made the game just feel right – however, there are many more examples of games that do this right, from A Hat in Time, Banjo-Kazooie, and most importantly – Hell Pie.
Hell Pie focuses its attentions on your chubby little cherub sidekick Nugget (who looks suspiciously like a certain tangy president) and the chain that connects you both. It seems like a grapple of sorts, and it is in a way, but the difference is that you are actually swinging from Nugget – effectively giving you the ability to swing from anywhere at any time. It’s incredibly liberating, and the upgrade tree to make him better only adds to the fun of moving around: think vertical throws that send you upwards, additional jumps, or even a ground-pound bounce that can net you some extra height.
Things don’t end there either, as Nate also has his own abilities to via the use of his horns. At first he has only an item radar in addition to his dash and double jump, but soon you can also find additional horns that grant him some cool extra abilities. It all works rather well together, and you’ll soon be flying around and skipping platforming sections in no time. If there’s one gripe I had with the movement (other than something I’ll go into later), it’s that you don’t have a lot of manoeuvrability after a dash – a problem solved by simply dashing before you do your second jump rather than after.
One thing that threw me off a little when playing Hell Pie is just how massive the worlds field. I’ve played some pretty expansive 3D platformers in my time, but I wasn’t expecting this to be another one. After navigating the simple confines of Sin Inc, you’ll soon take the hellevator down to the seaside resort that makes up the first world. As you start to wander, you realise just how much there is to explore here; paths that lead everywhere, a huge vertical climb, and even entrances to linear stages that are so lengthy that they could be worlds of their own. With your great moveset, these areas become a playground to mess around in and find all those collectibles – whether it be upgrades for Nugget, gold cats to enter the greed doors, gems that grant you currency to buy one of the many costumes, or just the primary ingredients that you need to gather for the Chef. There’s a hell of a lot to do in these worlds. Their size does come at the cost of memorability to a certain degree, as it’s hard to make a mental map of the area, but your radar coupled with the frequent teleportation points certainly alleviate that frustration.
Whilst the game may be quite complex when it complex when it comes to the platforming, it does become a lot more simple when it comes to the combat. Your basic attack consists of using your chained up companion as a whip… and that’s about it. There are additional types of attacks you can do, but as non-boss characters (which usually consist of gross abominations such as mutated cherubs or Nazi turds) go down in a single hit there’s little reason to bother. Bosses tend to be a bit more interesting, even if none of them stand out as particularly groundbreaking.
Unfortunately, this is where my praise for the game has to come to an end. As of writing, the patch has not yet released and I am currently around the halfway point of the game. Following the second boss, I encountered a hard crash that closed the game and this would continue every time I tried to reload – thus rendering it impossible to continue. Whilst this was particularly heartbreaking, it can’t be denied that the rest of the game leading up to this point bordered on unplayable at times.
For starters, the resolution of the game has taken a massive hit when compared with the other platforms and it is pretty noticeable. Textures are incredibly blurry, and it’s only really saved by the great art direction. The low resolution is something I adapted to partway through the first major world, but it still bothered me with how much of a hit this Switch version took.
The main problem, however, is the performance of the game – and it is far from stable. Calling it unplayable may be harsh, as you can work through it, but the inconsistent framerate made me miss even the simplest of jumps in the tutorial section. All it takes is a slight framerate dip as you’re adjusting your jump and you’ll end up somewhere you didn’t expect to be. Even worse, in my opinion, is that these framerate issues often cause the audio to desync as I’d often see the action happening and then hear it afterwards. This doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s very noticeable when it does. The worst thing is that it doesn’t even feel consistent, either. Sure, there are the predictable dips when fighting a group of enemies, but I’ve had bigger drops in small empty rooms. The performance really is a sorry state of affairs that makes the Switch version difficult to recommend.
In its current state, Hell Pie is impossible to recommend. I can overlook the poor resolution, but the constant major framerate dips were enough to give me a headache. Add to that a game-breaking crash that made progression impossible, and you’re looking at a dreadful port of an otherwise great game. I will certainly be going back once the promised patch drops to see if things get sorted, but for the moment you are best holding off until the state of the game improves.