Hell Architect brings dark humour and netherworld themes to traditional colony / base builder simulation gameplay. Developed by Woodlands Games and published by Leonardo Interactive, Hell Architect lets you take on the roll of hell manager where you can design your own little slice of hell. Inspired by games like Dungeon Keeper and Oxygen Not Included, your first job is to gather resources such as dirt, coal and metal, and build items to care for your sinners (ie labour force). Beds, food production, water processing, and toilets are all required to keep your sinners busy working for you and keep them as happy as can be, given the circumstances they’re in.
Similar to the mechanism of collecting screams in the film Monster’s Inc., your second job is to collect suffering from the sinners to create special buildings and torture devices. Gaining suffering via the various types of torture devices was an unfortunate but necessary mechanism that was just unpleasant to witness. While the torture is coated in cute animations and helpings of humour, I couldn’t find that aspect of the game fun. Even torturing horrible historical figures couldn’t bring me around to enjoying the core mechanic. The sounds were a little over the top, though once you moved them away and out of focus, they got on with what they had to do and I could concentrate on the other tasks at hand. For gamers who may be bothered by the cartoon nudity and bloodsplatters, these options can toggled off in the settings.
If you are the kind of gamer that must play the paragon, or struggles to have a sense of humour about macabre, I highly recommend checking out the prologue demo before you purchase the full game. I found the gameplay easy to pick up during the tutorial stages. Some aspects of initial set up for each level can be grindy and repetitive at times, and with it being quite linear, I don’t see much variation in gameplay from player to player other than different decorations. There is still the set core group of resources required for the sinners and they need the same requirements to maintain happiness. The chuckle-worthy devilish characters, quirky inquisitive music, and challenges kept it interesting once the initial set up is complete in each scenario. Encountering new sinners and torture devices did help to maintain momentum for each new scenario level.
The sound design in Hell Architect is simple and filled with humour. For example, if you neglect to look after the needs of one of your sinners, they can pass on to Limbo. When they expire, unseen choirs sing the Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah. The voice acting throughout the tutorial and scenarios adds even more colour to the game. Once you have mastered the basics and completed the story and scenarios, you’ll then be able to play Architect mode which will give players more freedom to create their own style of hell. One play through of the story was enough for me though.
The user interface and visibility of resource information was clear and I appreciated the names of the resources being listed as well as the icons. Generally the keyboard and mouse mapping was easy to adjust for this style of game, though I would have appreciated the option to remap a couple of the control choices. Since release back in August last year, Hell Architect has had multiple updates including bug fixes. A 2022 roadmap has been announced promising plenty more content updates and on initial inspection, there looks to be more scenarios which may give the game more replayability which would be ideal. Woodland Games have developed a sound colony / base builder simulation game for the sadist gamers out there.
This review utilised a key provided by Renaissance PR and Hell Architect is available for PC and MAC.