Helltaker is a free indie puzzle hit where you try to take over an extremely hostile Hell to chase your dream of “a harem of demon girls.” In celebration of its first anniversary, the game has just received an update on Steam this Tuesday featuring the new Examtaker chapter, as well as the long-planned DRM-free release on itch.io!
Developer: Łukasz Piskorz (vanripperart)
Released: 11 May 2020
After somehow opening the gateway to Hell, you show up there all too ready to die for dating sharply dressed, abhorrent demonesses. Just be careful to hit it right with them if you want to survive.
So… How do you die in Helltaker?
The game consists of you moving around in a grid-based room, pushing rocks, and shoving undead skeletons out of the way to get to the demoness of your dreams and convince her to join your company. Unfortunately, Helltaker isn’t as easy as it sounds. You have a limited number of turns before you die in a spectacular flash of light, and the demons you approach are not above ending your life.
You use up your movements by moving around or kicking skeletons and rocks. Moving on spikes cost you two turns instead of one. You don’t move when you’re kicking, but it’s useful for pushing rocks and skeletons and destroying the latter in some cases. A few levels have keys and locked doors, and those are the hardest. The kicker? You need to be 100% efficient to finish the main game’s ten levels. You’ll never reach the goal with one spare move. Thankfully, you can take your time with the puzzles or skip them entirely.
When you finally solve the puzzle and make it to the demon of the level, she will start the conversation and you will be presented with a couple of choices. If you want to progress, you must answer in a way that will make her want to keep you alive. Failure to answer properly means she likes you more as dead meat, a bad ending unique to the demoness, and restarting the puzzle.
But what about the update?
After updating or downloading the game, you can choose the EX level from Helltaker’s level select and gain access to Examtaker. In this new installment, you’ve been made into one of many test subjects for human-demon fusion, and you quite loathe your new body. If only you could get the chance, you’d rip apart the Loremaster, the scientist experimenting on you.
If you thought the puzzles in the main game were bad enough, Examtaker is a whole new level of sadistic. The skeletons are gone but you now must deal with the logistics of blocking death lasers with giant metal lumps and pressing multiple buttons to pass the exams and hopefully get closer to reversing your situation. Once again, you must be extremely efficient if you want to proceed to the next phase. (Un)fortunately, there are no demons to impress this time.
While the main game was already sleazy and cruel, Examtaker goes through a massive tonal shift. You want to kill and end your tortuous time, instead of dying for a good time. You’re the one not above killing the Loremaster, as opposed to the other way around. The question of “can you make it to the end?” remains.
Helltaker is pretty good at combining elements from dating sims, the rogue gallery trope, and dark comedy. Even when you get the women to join you, they joined you because they benefit more from you alive than dead. This twisted take on the harem concept and the excellent art style makes the game worth it even if you’re going to skip the frustratingly difficult puzzles.
If you’re extremely determined, you may finish the main game within an hour or two, but it’s better to take breaks and restart with a fresh mind instead. And if you were craving more, Examtaker is both an interesting twist and a new set of mind-numbing trials!