Outside of being DLC in Injustice 2, Hellboy hasn’t had much of a gaming presence in the last few decades. However, that might at least be partially due to the stink solo Hellboy games have left. Titles like Dogs of War (or Asylum Seeker, as it was known on the original PlayStation) and The Science of Evil were all heavily derided upon release and played their part in contributing to the stigma associated with licensed video games. Hellboy Web of Wyrd, the latest attempt to salvage the half-demon’s video game reputation, only furthers that notion since as a terrible roguelite with dodgy controls.
It does, unlike many of those other hellish abominations, at least look like Hellboy. The art direction clearly evokes that of creator Mike Mignola with its stark colors and thick black outlines and shadows. Web of Wyrd completely forsakes realism for a more authentic portrayal of the comic that spawned him, which makes it more striking and unique. Animations are also purposely stilted and its boring cutscenes are presented as panel-like stills, both of which further reinforce its comic book origins. It’s not a one-to-one translation like the two recent Ubisoft-published South Park games, but it still captures enough of that iconic style with its visuals.
But if Web of Wyrd’s art direction is its metaphorical Right Hand of Doom, everything else is its puny normal hand. A lot of these issues are ingrained in the core of the experience, which starts with how fundamentally it misunderstands the essentials of the roguelite genre. Levels technically change around, yet are comprised of the same boring hallways and nondescript rooms, complete with embarrassingly easy-to-avoid traps. The small pool of upgrades means that almost every run is nearly identical. With such a bizarrely small list of variables, Web of Wyrd is extremely repetitive in a way that only worsens as the hours drag on.
Web of Wyrd also tries to differentiate itself from its competition, but it only points out why some features are genre staples. Clearing one biome is often the same as clearing a run, as it’ll usually warp players back to home base after beating one of the bosses. Abridged runs means there’s no time to build up to a satisfying conclusion and almost feels like a structure designed to hide — albeit, unsuccessfully — how shallow Web of Wyrd is. It would be much easier to feel its hollow nature if it followed a more traditional roguelite formula and runs were longer than 10 to 15 minutes.
And whereas roguelites are often difficult enough to push players, Web of Wyrd is insultingly easy. Enemies often sit back and take a wallop or four before retaliating. Most bosses can also be easily stunlocked and vanquished in under a minute. Health pickups are cheap and plentiful. Armor regenerates quickly and most foes drop refills upon death. Hellboy also automatically blocks many attacks for some reason. With almost a complete absence of pushback, Web of Wyrd is a tedious exercise that isn’t rewarding to overcome and ignores part of what makes the genre’s best titles work.
Web of Wyrd’s extremely low difficulty almost seems specifically tuned to make its wonky controls less noticeable. Almost everything about the combat is stiff and stems from the sluggish movement and camera speed. The complete lack of animation canceling locks Hellboy into whatever he’s doing, and it lacks the swiftness that most great fighting systems have. Blocking embodies this since it’s a set animation that plays regardless of how long the button is held down.
Because of the loose controls and set animations that lock players in, Web of Wyrd’s combat is more akin to an elongated and unresponsive quick-time event than a tight action game. The potential of its duel-based bouts that encourage players to break down an opponent’s defense and use the environment to their advantage is completely squandered because of its controls. Landing an explosive punch on a stunned foe that washes the screen in red is but a tantalizingly quick glimpse at what could have been.
Hellboy Web of Wyrd Review: Final Verdict
Between its sticky brawling mechanics, repetitive level design, and extremely low difficulty, Hellboy Web of Wyrd simply feels like an unfinished game that was early on its journey to greatness. There’s a heft to its combat, yet the controls aren’t nearly snappy enough, and it’s too easy to be engaging. The striking art design means its worlds look nice, but they’re made up of the same rooms and hallways. Incomplete or not, it utterly fails to realize what could have been and only continues Hellboy’s video game curse.
Disclaimer: This Hellboy Web of Wyrd review is based on a PS5 copy provided by the publisher. Played on version 1.001.000.