Back in the day, I used to play a lot of fighting games. If I could have crawled into a Street Fighter arcade cabinet and lived there, I would have. Then Doom came along and became my next obsession. The now-classic shooter that is Doom has had such a far-reaching effect on the gaming industry as a whole that it’s hard to find a shooter that hasn’t been influenced by it.
Jupiter Hell is a new spin on the Doom franchise. But instead of being a first-person shooter, it is played from an isometric perspective. Originally conceived of with the title, DoomRL, Jupiter Hell has still derived much of its influence from Doom. One difference is the choice of a backdrop, however, as you’re not fighting enemies on the moon. Instead, you’re on…wait for it…Jupiter!
The choice of available classes is rather sparse—you can be a Marine, Scout, or Technician. Each of these classes places relatively differently. The Marine can gain Fury, which in turn can be converted into the ability to heal up; the Scout is a stealth specialist who likes sneaking around; and lastly, the Technician can override each level’s technology or do things like redirect sentries (my fav).
While many recent games try to soft-pedal your experience, Jupiter Hell is an old-school, full-on roguelike. That means that when a run ends, you lose everything. No drops stay behind to help you out on the next try—but luckily, you can save your game mid-run if things get too intense.
You’ll explore many increasingly dangerous levels of the game’s setting—a facility stationed on Jupiter—and each run is procedurally generated so that the arrangement of hallways, rooms, enemies, weapons, and loot will be randomized. Of course, as with many similar games, that is also one of Jupiter Hell’s weaknesses.
For instance, one randomized seed will have a nicely distributed array of weapons and enemies. While another will have near-endless stretches of empty rooms and hallways with far too many enemies in one place, or maybe the elevator to the next level is just a few steps away from a major enemy spawn point.
There’s a fun turn-based mechanic underneath the game’s movement and combat systems and Jupiter Hell allows you to approach both very methodically. Even though every movement or action (such as shooting, reloading, etc) takes some time, you can move through them very quickly using the D-pad on a controller.
The game’s AI is pretty darn good—enemies often approach from several directions, so taking the advantage of Jupiter Hell’s turn-based mechanic to study the environment is critical. It’s also one of the things that makes the game so much fun and addictive despite the frequency of dying. As far as enemy variety, there’s not a lot, especially when compared to the vast number of handguns, rifles, machine gun, and other items such as consumables.
I do like Jupiter Hell’s funky retro UI text very much—it makes me reminisce about the old arcade shooters from the dawn of gaming, but it isn’t a pixel art game. Instead, the visuals on display are crisp, clear, and have enough detail without adding too much clutter.
The lighting design is likewise outstanding. There are no complicated special effects that brighten everything up. Instead, you’ll enjoy that good ‘ol heavy Doom feel of darkness and despair, with the fog of war hiding unknown dangers in the dark.
Jupiter Hell’s music ties everything together and is classic heavy metal a la Doom. But it soon fades into the background like sonic wallpaper and doesn’t do much to enhance or detract from the game’s mood.
In the end, Jupiter Hell is an accessible but challenging and addicting roguelike, with turn-based action that never gets bogged down with the minutiae of figuring out things like facing, hexes, grids, or other overly-complex mechanics and systems. Instead, it focuses on cover, position, tactics, and the smart use of the weapons and equipment at hand. It’s a glorious and fun homage to an era of shooters that used to make you afraid of rounding the next dark corner.
For Jupiter Hell to play at a decent framerate, you may just want to invest in a superior gaming rig:
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