Hillbilly Doomsday is a 2D Indie Shooter developed by Uncle Frost Team and published by Sometimes You. In Hillbilly Doomsday you play Uncle Billy, your friendly neighbourhood local yokel who must save the world from zombies, aliens, and an attack of the killer tomatoes! Battle through 6 stages with a range of death-dealing weapons as pixelated red stuff flies around the screen like an explosion in a ketchup factory.
Hillbilly Doomsday is something of a remake of 2018’s Hillbilly Apocalypse. I’m not going to do some big comparison between the two of them because that isn’t why we are here today. And I feel this version of the game is a perfectly enjoyable title in its own right. One that is full to the brim with madcap fun, blood, gore, and livestock! However, the title is not without a few technical issues which do dampen the fun.
Story – Old-School Storytelling
As you can tell by the title and the intro blurb the story for Hillbilly Doomsday is appropriately wacky. And like classic games of yore the story isn’t really told within the title itself but in supporting material; namely promotional text and store page information. Is this a problem? Well for a title like this no. This is very much a retro-inspired title down to its bones; it is all action all the time for the most part. As such I am happy that there isn’t much to interrupt the gameplay.
There are no cutscenes, there are no splash screens. The only text you really see within it comes from NPCs, the opening tutorial text, and an ending caption. I do feel that these are presented decently for the most part. However I do feel that the tutorial text is just too dense; it literally lists all the buttons you need to learn in one go, rather than dealing that out over the course of the level or in several captions. It isn’t game ruining, but if you are making a game that is text/story light then what little text you do have needs to be well presented. Outside of this, there isn’t much else to really complain about or discuss. The story here acts as the context for what is happening on screen and little else.
Gameplay – Hillbilly Roll
Hillbilly Doomsday is a 2D run-and-gun platformer much in the tradition of titles such as Contra with a touch of Castlevania thrown in. In this title, your job is to blast your way through scores of enemies as you try to reach the goal. If you have ever played a game like the aforementioned titles you get a basic idea of how this one plays. However there are a few differences here and there; you have a variety of items you can use, you have a health pool to draw from, and money you can collect to buy upgrades and more weaponry.
The core gameplay loop is solid. With decent controls and a decent challenge which fans of the genre will no doubt enjoy. Just be aware that the title isn’t overly complex; you aren’t going to get a next-level challenge with the gameplay remaining much the same throughout. The game can essentially be boiled down to “Just keep holding down right and the fire button” for the most part. However, there are some platforming heavy sequences, which aren’t without their problems which I will discuss shortly. Hillbilly Doomsday is not going to revolutionise the genre. But you can get a whole lot of fun out of it.
Some of the standout moments in Hillbilly Doomsday (and some that I enjoyed the most in my playthrough for this review) come from the title’s boss stages. The bosses are visually imaginative and funny to look at. And they offer a level of challenge that is otherwise missing from most of the game. They are very traditional to be sure; the bosses have large health bars and a pattern you need to learn so you can avoid damage. The difficulty of them varies wildly. Some are rather easy with you just needing to stand in the right place and shoot them and others require more involved movements.
As difficult as the bosses and the game itself can get I don’t think it is unfair. And as a whole, I do feel that Hillbilly Doomsday might be a good title for those of you who are new to the genre. Though granted your mileage may vary with these things. Especially bearing in mind Ol’ Chris seems to be the only professional videogame reviewer out there that didn’t find Zool as hard as some did. When in full motion Hillbilly Doomsday is a lot of fun. But sadly the game isn’t without its issues.
Hillbilly Doomsday can be split into thirds. One-third is the running and gunning, one-third is the boss fights, and one-third is the platforming. And of the three I feel the platforming is the weakest element of the game. Firstly I feel that some areas are just too cramped for the level of precision platforming that the game requires. It is very easy to bump your head on the ceiling or get caught on some item of scenery. Secondly, I feel that some platforming sequences require a level of momentum which can be hard to get. Either due to the sheer number of monsters you need to plough through or the patches of slime which can throw your momentum off.
And thirdly Hillbilly Doomsday suffers from frequent slowdown. There are sections in the game where it will slow down to a crawl making the timing of some jumps difficult. And sadly from what I have seen this isn’t unique to the Switch version. I have seen gameplay of the Xbox version which also suffers from this. Though possibly to not the same level. And this isn’t just when there is all the blood and gore flying about on screen. The entire last level ran slowly for me. It only picked up speed when my character died. And given how long that level is it only made it longer.
Cream of the Crop
To be blunt with you dear reader, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy my time playing Hillbilly Doomsday for this review. Charging headlong into scores of the undead, armed with a minigun with waves of blood and pumpkin juice flying around to the sound of hard rock and fart sound effects in the background often brought a wry smile to my lips. Depending on your skill level (and levels of slowdown) you could easily finish it in an afternoon. My playthrough for the review clocked in at about three hours.
That is perfectly fine for a title like this. As it avoids overstaying its welcome. Hillbilly Doomsday is the perfect game to play over the course of a weekend. It is a fine slice of retro-inspired fun which will not ask the earth from you nor will take all day to complete. And whilst it is rough around the edges there is a charm to it that is hard to define. I do wish that it ran smoother and that the platforming wasn’t so clunky. Thankfully the Game Over system isn’t too unforgiving. So if you do waste all your lives in one go you can get back into the action quickly enough.
Graphics & Sound – Hillbilly Rock
Hillbilly Doomsday’s graphics and the art style is a 16-bit style affair about on par with most similar titles. However, it has a look all of its own; combining its colourful pallet with great buckets full of blood and viscera. Sure, it isn’t quite Paint The Town Red levels of gore but it is cartoony enough to feel in keeping with the spirit of the title without becoming too grim. It gives you just enough to give your attacks a satisfying level of impact whilst also leaving a climactic record of the violent destruction you bring. Which I’ll admit that written out like that makes me sound like a psychopath so we’ll move swiftly on.
Thankfully, despite how visually dynamic as it can be at times it isn’t too visually busy; you can always see the path forwards, and enemies aren’t obscured too much by the effects. All of the enemies in the game are distinct enough to see even through the thickest clouds of blood and slime. Things can get a little hectic towards the end but by and large, it isn’t too visually complex. I do fear however that it is said effects that cause so much slow down but it is hard to say given how random said slow down can be. Due to health issues I’ve not been able to play the game in handheld mode. So I cannot comment on how well the visuals and performance hold up on a smaller screen. But what little I have managed to do on that front look solid.
The title’s soundtrack is a mix of more traditional “gameic” sounds with flares of hard rock with some horror/sci-fi elements thrown in from time to time. Which feels in keeping with the spirit of the title itself. It frequently provides a great soundtrack for the carnage you will unleash. It is everything that one could need for a game like this and it does its job very well. There isn’t a whole lot to fault with the sound and presentation of Hillbilly Doomsday.
Granted the soundtrack is rather ‘workman-like’; it doesn’t blow my socks off but it is everything it needs to be. Don’t get me wrong. The soundtrack is great. And what is more, it actually is original, unlike another title I have reviewed recently. My only real gripe with the broader sound design of the game comes from the fact I feel some sound effects are a little too harsh to listen to. The Micro SMG in particular has a gnarly sound to it that drowns out pretty much every other sound which is a shame given the quality of the music.
Hillbilly Doomsday was reviewed on Nintendo Switch. The review key was provided by Sometimes You.