Honestly, this has to be one of the oddest names for a game I’ve seen. HELLFRONT: HONEYMOON (HH). I guess you could make some association from how war is Hell, and the first planet you finish is called Honeymoon, but it still seems like a stretch to me. Either way, I saw it on sale for only a few bucks, and since it had good reviews and interesting looking game play, I decided to buy it. Did I go on a lovely honeymoon or has it been Hell for me? Like the title itself, a bit of both.
Unlike many real-time strategy (RTS) games, this one compounds all of the action into a single screen, which inhibits how many units and resources to deal with. The smaller arena also speeds up the gameplay considerably, as RTS matches can otherwise take a long time to play out. Although on a smaller scale, the objectives are still along the lines you’d expect. Claim neutral territories for your own (called honeypots), build turrets to blast enemies, build barracks to spawn troops, and win by fully eliminating the enemy bases. One element that really makes HH interesting is that destroying any base releases giant insects, which are foes to everyone. They do little against a base, but can maul troops easily.
There are two game modes available. First is Death Match, where you play against other people. That wasn’t why I got the game, so I never actually played it. The main mode for me was Missions, which contains a total of 75 pre-set arenas to clear. Like many RTS campaigns, the odds are often stacked against the player, as the enemy AI will have established bases to give them a significant lead. This would seemingly make it impossible to win, but it’s interesting how playing smart is all that you need to topple the AI. And in some cases with this game, a metric ton of patience.
I was surprised when the game recommended using a controller instead of a mouse, as that tends to be the go to for the RTS genre. Seemingly, the reason for the change is that you directly control a commander, which would make it harder to both attack with that unit while also building bases. For the most part this works well, but you lose the ability to separate your units into distinct forces, as wherever you deploy them, 100% of them will go there. When facing multiple threats from potentially more than one direction at a time, this can certainly be a problem, but you have to adapt.
Some of how the game is designed suggests it could have had a story to it. For instance, after clearing the first area, you move to a different planet. However, there’s no explanation as to the source of this conflict or what the forces from either side is like. You just fight.
There’s not a wide range of units, various factions to control, or multiple building types that can be constructed. One of the few changes stems from going to a different planet and the arena has a new look to reflect the unique atmosphere. Along with the distant, overhead camera angle, you don’t see anything from a close perspective, so nothing has much detail in its design. Overall, I think the game looks fine for what it is, but more could have been done to make it engaging and visually interesting.
With all of the noise coming from guns firing, men dying, and buildings exploding it attracts most of my attention while playing the game. Even when I intentionally try listening to it, the sound effects drown out the music so much that I don’t get a strong an impression from it. I do notice different songs playing throughout the game, but have little to say about them because they’re second fiddle to the sounds of war.
🌟 The fast-paced battles can be really intense and enjoyable, even though it finishes in less than a couple of minutes. This way you aren’t investing 30 minutes into the start of each battle, and only after making an effort for so long realize that you’re outgunned and will ultimately lose, having wasted all of that time. It saves time without diminishing the thrill of a good skirmish.
🌟 It’s a short game, but aside from a few exceptions, it was fun.
❌ There were two random stages in the game that seemed heavily unbalanced, and the first of which almost made me rage quit. They were Geminus 8 and Halcyon IV 4. Both had similar designs: you had no starting base or honeypot to claim, had to break through walls to even get to an enemy base, were pressed on all sides by enemies, and there was a nearby turret to harass you. I doubt they play-tested them, and perhaps even a few other stages, in 1 player mode.
❌ The campaign makes no distinction for playing alone or with another person, so just having a 2nd player puts you at a huge advantage. Especially with stages split in half and your start point is the middle.
🔍 There’s not usually a disadvantage in placing a turret at any given place since it protects itself. Yet when a honeypot is far from any threats and you can place a turret in front of it, that makes for a reliable barracks. With your front line constantly shifting, it’s hard to follow a given rule; you have to adjust for the situation and be flexible. Also, don’t forget to deploy your troops, or else they’ll loiter around their spawn points.
🔍 Your avatar will certainly die plenty of times throughout the game, but staying alive saves more time and makes him more effective than respawning.
🔍 Turrets lose health simply from shooting, so when they get low, be prepared to kill the insects and rebuild the turret.
It’s always aggravating when a game has a massive difficulty spike that’s so off-kilter that the preceding and following stages are nowhere close to the obstacle you just faced. Part of what made it so frustrating here was how early it came, as it was only the 23rd mission I’d encountered when I was presented with such a cheap, unfair situation. Getting destroyed seconds after starting the stage was so enraging. Even after clearing the overly hard entry point, with enemy troops all around the immediate area it was still hard just to survive, let alone getting a solid foothold so I could make an earnest attempt at the stage. What I learned from that stage was the paradox that sometimes you need to abandon your starting position when it gets dicey and take the open spaces the AI is neglecting.
I probably seem rather obsessed, but it soured the game for me considerably. If you do make something so skewed against the player, at the very least make it the climax of a chapter, the hardest fight before you can move on, not just a random stage. In spite of causing some rage, a lot of the game was still enjoyable. However, I decided not to finish the remaining 12 stages for the time being due to the overly stacked odds getting old. If you play HH, I suggest doing so with a friend. Also, be aware of Geminus 8. It’s a doozy.
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