I was impressed by the trailers for Hellscreen (opens in new tab), a boomer shooter with a striking teal and red color palette and unique twist—a "rear view mirror" in your top center screen showing what's going on behind you at any given time. But at the same time I thought "oh, that's a cool trick, but it's probably just a gimmick, right?" I decided to give Hellscreen's free demo from Realms Deep 2022 a try, see if it had anything else going on.
Hellscreen doesn't need anything else going on. The rear view mirror is what's going on.
It's not just a tool for situational awareness—right click and you'll fire backwards, with a little gun and reticle popping up in the mini screen (which can be blown out and toggled back down with the shift key). To incentivize using the feature, Hellscreen gives you double damage while moving and firing forward, while you get quad damage when you move forward and fire backwards. I felt like I was grappling with an entirely new realm of 3D movement on the order of They Came From Dimension X (opens in new tab)'s gravity-defying firefights, and it's supremely satisfying to pull off sick Annie Oakley, Buster Scruggs (opens in new tab) mirror shots.
Hellscreen further leans into its main mechanic with enemies and hazards that can only be handled in rear view. Some foes are only visible and vulnerable on the second screen, while one area in the demo blocks out your main view completely, demanding you navigate in reverse. Spiritually, it reminds me of the best Nintendo Wii and DS games that squeezed every bit of innovation and fun out of those weird control inputs, and indeed Hellscreen would probably be right at home on an alternate universe Nintendo 4DS.
My one caveat is that you should probably stay away from Hellscreen if you get motion sickness. I've never even had issues with VR before, and yet I definitely felt my stomach drop like I was riding a roller coaster at times. A selling point for me, but something to be aware of.
Hellscreen has been in the works for several years—we first reported on its trailers (opens in new tab) and Kickstarter (opens in new tab) campaign back in 2017 and '18, but it really looks like the extra time in the oven has helped it come together. Hellscreen is set to release in early access some time before April (Q1, 2023), while you can check out the demo for yourself and wishlist Hellscreen on its Steam (opens in new tab) page.