The road to Hell is paved with failed speedruns.
First-person. Platformer. Those two terms together invoke a river of reaction, some good and some bad. It’s always a little bit difficult to accomplish precision platforming from a first-person perspective. But what if a game based itself on that very principle? What if the difficulty was put front and center and the game delighted in being hellishly hard? Well, we happen to have a game that answers that question, and it’s appropriately titled SEUM: Speedrunners From Hell.
The game places players in the role of a redneck named Marty, who is kicking back with some beer and watching television. A demon happens to appear, as they do, and makes off with Marty’s beer stash and cuts off his right arm. Finding the situation unsupportable, our heroic hillbilly sets off to retrieve his alcoholic arsenal, but not before seeking revenge and cutting off the demon’s right arm in return. He manages to attach the severed demonic arm to his body, and it fuses with his soul, imbuing him with all manner of infernal abilities. Thus begins his incursion into the pits of Hell itself, all set to a killer heavy metal soundtrack.
The bulk of SEUM‘s gameplay consists of navigating a series of very small obstacle courses. These are, naturally, packed to the brim with deadly traps. Players have no health bar, and there are no checkpoints: if you die (which happens very often), you’ll have to do it all over again. In addition, players are under an extremely strict time limit, and it’s not uncommon to reach the goal only to watch the time limit expire by a nanosecond, rendering your run moot. It’s frustrating as hell (pun intended), but you won’t want to quit; you’ll want to keep trying again until you get it right.
But everything isn’t just about moving from start to finish. Various gimmicks are utilized, requiring split-second reactions from players, and in some cases, a fair foreknowledge of the level layouts. Our dear Marty can throw fireballs out of his hand, serving as a method of defense and attack. The fireballs can be also used to activate switches and orbs, which are mandatory in a level’s completion. Marty also has a teleport function in certain levels, which often require players to active the mechanics just seconds before hitting the ocean of lava. Before too long, players will find himself in courses where he won’t even touch the platforms; navigating in the air with a hover ability and using propulsion rings and teleports to get to the end.
Better the devil you know
True to its name, SEUM is all about speedrunning. There are leaderboards to which players may submit their scores. There are also playbacks. And it’s all about shaving the last nanosecond off your previous run in order to rise up the ranks and get a much-coveted high ranking. You can expect to endure a lot of trial and error, but it’s never rage quit material. Levels are so short that you don’t need to feel like you’ve wasted your time, and it’s a classic example of “just-one-more-try” endearment. Imagine Super Meat Boy, but in a first-person view, and you can get a pretty good idea of what SEUM is all about.
Games that make a point of their presentation are often victim to pretense, but fortunately, SEUM manages to equal both its style and its substance. Environments are of course Hell-like, washed in deep reds, flowing with lava, and adorned with all manner of gothic architecture and iconography. It looks quite like the arenas from Quake 3, but of course more modern and in a higher resolution. I especially enjoy the look of Marty’s demonic hand, with its long black fingernails and chains. And the devil horns he makes is absolutely classic. Along the same lines is the music, which is suitably heavy metal. In all honesty, I can’t say any particular track sticks out for me, but it’s nonetheless a superb ensemble of head banging material that wouldn’t be out of place on your phone.
SEUM: Speedrunners From Hell is brutally difficult, but you’ll end up loving it. If you thought a first-person platformer doesn’t really work, give this one a go. If you enjoy a quick, little five minute game, or just feel like a strong challenge which you can speedrun, this one should definitely rocket to the top of your list. Run on over to its official Steam page in order to grab a copy of your own. If you don’t, there’ll be hell to pay.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Headup Games ; Developer: Pine Studio ; Players: single-player. ; Released: 28th of July, 2016.
Full disclosure: this review is based on a review key for SEUM: Speedrunners From Hell given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.