I want to like you, Hedon, I really do. Your self-professed *squints* “Boomercore” label got a real chuckle out of me. I thought with that sort of confident self-assured swagger, you’d be the kind of fast-paced shoot’em’up experience I was looking for when other games seemed far too eager to steep themselves in opaque approaches beyond my ken. Your clean visuals, enjoyable soundtrack, and extensive lore revealed so quickly how brimming you were with creative vision and intuitive gameplay, and yet… the maps. I can’t get past the maps. It’s not you… I think it’s me. Too many secrets, too little verticality, and I’m afraid that maps from the Thief school of level design don’t always play quite the same in the Doom engine and it shows.
Hedon is a solid game. The shooting feels good, the atmosphere is enticing, but it fails to make critical inventory items easily readable. Now I’m not one for having my game vocabulary spoonfed to me, and perhaps this is a design quirk of the “Boomercore” genre, but it just doesn’t sit well. The game has everything I should want and more, coming together in an intense and riveting experience that should be right up my alley, yet something never quite clicked. As I progressed through the levels, the layouts became more intuitive only for the difficulty curve to ramp up exponentially, dropping me into one of the most mixed-feelings boss fights I’ve had in a video game. I had Sentry turrets. I should’ve used them. I was never given the chance to learn how.
It’s memorable, sure, what with flying fantasy elf things tossing fireballs at me while dogs chase me down, hurling my flamethrower at goblins and laying waste to their mages, but, sometimes it gets a bit too much. It’s tiresome. Maybe I’m not good at managing my health, maybe I just somehow keep missing the keys every time I walk into a room that contains them, but I really couldn’t tell you. There are clever ideas at play here, undoing magic bindings on doorways, brewing potions, stand-out set pieces that punctuate some overall pleasant gameplay, but the backtracking gets rapidly overwhelming, only further compounded by a lack of easy-to-read colors indicating which door uses what key.
It’s clear that Hedon is a labor of love, and a really nicely polished one at that, even if I don’t agree with the level design choices as someone with experience making them. I appreciate the intricate level of detail and thoughtful layouts, whether they work for me or not. And, if anything, it was refreshing to step into an old-school shooter with strangely ImmSim-esque elements and an elaborate inventory system, reminding me that games like this are still out there being actively developed.
I’ll give you this, Hedon, I kept coming back for more. I’d find myself quitting out of frustration with you, only to pick you back up a few hours later. Sure, sometimes it’s easy to get lost in your corridors, sweating and panting my way from one cluster of enemies to the next, but… I enjoy how your weapons handle, the sounds they make. Maybe I’ll keep going, but even if I don’t end up playing you much, I’ll still find it comforting that you’re there in the first place, and I honestly hope you find your niche. Either way, here’s the keys to my apartment and… y’know, maybe some day you’ll give me the Wine Key, Stone Key, or whatever the heck key goes to yours.
Emily Rose is an indie developer who writes for rebind.io and resides in the pacific northwest. She’s often seen in the local VR arcade and developer community participating in pushing the medium’s horizons. You can find her on twitter @caravanmalice