Review: Hasta La Muerte
Sometimes it's the average games that you love, even though on a clinical review of a game you might pass it over. Hasta La Muerte is one of those games. And while I'm not quite at the "love" stage, for me this death-tinged game has an appeal to me that is perhaps more than you would expect given its nature.
Version Reviewed: 126.96.36.199
You play Death, and you have to roam the levels of the world looking for lost souls - a simple touch from you and and they will leave this world, and move happily to the next world (while taking you closer to the goal of the level). But not everyone is ready to move on, you'll need to avoid coming into contact with the black souls because they will sap your energy.
Helping you along, you can pick up a 'soul pet' which gives you some extra arcade-like powers - first up is the ability to boost your speed for a few moments, which is helpful to catch up with the souls running away from you, and get out the way of the twisted souls chasing you, and others will arrive during the game.
With all this Death I can't help wondering if anyone has shown this Xbox Live title to Sir Terry Pratchett?
Anyway, running in landscape mode, you control Death by tilting your phone in the direction you want to go. You can move in all the analogue directions, so it's possible to be very subtle in the direction controls through tilting the device, although it's vital that you calibrate the tilt before you start playing for the first time - I would have thought this would have been offered on that first run, but no, you'll need to take to the settings screen yourself.
Activating the soul pet power is through an onscreen button - and I'd spin round to the landscape mode because if you have it next to the soft keys at the bottom of the handset then you'll keep hitting the Windows Phone back key by mistake as you go for the ability.
What you have here is a simple maze game, where you are asked to catch X number of things and then get to the exit before the baddies catch you. With the twist that the good things you have to catch will become bad things sometimes - note the countdown over their heads - and bad things will become good things at some point in the near future.
And then every few levels you have "the Scientist" who sends big evil machines after you, which you have to lure over traps and throw switches to kill - yes it's the traditional end of level baddie which gives some variation to the levels, and allows the semblance of a plot to pull you through over thirty levels in the game.
Throw all that in with a unique style of graphics and you have a quirky game. It took me a few levels to realise that the disappearing areas of the map, revealing passages, were actually the roofs of buildings that were being removed from my view so that I could pass into other areas. That stopped the maps being a strange scramble of walls and vanishing sections and turned them into a local town, with alleyways, houses and hallways to explore. I love the look of it, and coupled with the title, this all gives it a very Mexican feel - even if it's the Mexico of Speedy Gonzales and Sylvester the Cat cartoons, instead of the real Mexico.
Hasta La Muerte is a simple game, and for many people it simply won't work - there's not enough variation, the controls can be a bit sloppy, and it's nothing more than a chase around a maze. Normally I'd be ready to shoot this down, but something is stopping me - and it's likely the same thing that keeps drawing me back to the game. So let's go with this, set your expectations, grab the 'try before you buy' version, and see how you get on. You might surprise yourself.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at