Gritty heroes fight demons from hell with guns in a brownish world spiraling out of control — if Journey to Hell's story sounds clichéd, that's because it's supposed to be. It says so right in the iTunes listing. "Cliché-packed Journey to Hell" the developers call it, an apt description if I've ever read one.
Journey to Hell wants to be a formulaic late 90s third-person shooter, and it doesn't shy away from outdated gameplay mechanics to get there. Unexplained glowing walls block exits as shambling zombies fill the area, often appearing out of thin air behind the player for maximum shock value. Bullets fly and demons fry as music from heavy metal band The Slaughters fills the air.
Developer DogBox recreates the vibe of those heady days of mindless gunfire handily — I'm just not certain it needed recreation. I'm fine with those days being behind us. I've played enough of this type of shooter.
I've played the better. The touchscreen controls for the third-person segments of the game don't lend themselves to precision, and with the right thumb controlling the camera and shooting, changing perspective is often accompanied by a hail of unwanted bullets.
Compounding the control issues, Journey to Hell runs slow, even on my fourth generation iPad. The game listing says that 40 enemies can be on screen at once. With less than a quarter of that number the game stutters and jerks. I imagine 40 at once must feel like playing a Viewmaster.
Hopefully the technical and control issues can be fixed, as there are some nifty mechanics waiting for players that can cut their way through the cliché. Weapons and characters are upgradeable, with special powers and enhanced stats awaiting dedicated players that manage to decipher the game's menu system. The first-person Treasure Hunt mode is a lovely touch, giving players a more intimate look at the game's gorgeous graphics without having to see their character stomping around like a 'my first 3D animation' project.
If Journey to Hell played half as good as it looks it would be worth every penny of its special $3.99 introductory price. As it stands, DogBox has a lot of work ahead of them if they want anyone to buy it once that 'sale' ends.