Helltown is a special mix of low-poly horror


Something’s not quite right

If you’ve been paying attention to the games I write about here, then you’ve probably noticed that I gravitate towards low-poly games with weird art. If it looks like it was created twenty years ago, I’m in. I love that chunky stuff; I can’t help it.

With that in mind, it’s only natural that I’m stoked on Helltown, a supremely atmospheric horror game that could pass as a long-lost PlayStation game if viewed from the right angle.

Helltown puts you in the shoes of a postal worker who’s just arrived in a charming little neighborhood called Little Vale. It’s always sunny, and everyone seems to spend their time chatting outside with big, permanent smiles plastered on their faces. Little Vale, with its white picket fences and always-positive residents, falls somewhere between The Truman Show‘s depictions of suburbia and Deadly Premonition; there’s something dangerously strange about the town, but no one seems to acknowledge it directly.

And so Helltown puts players to work. During the game’s opening chapters, you deliver packages and get to know the townsfolk. Despite being a small town, there’s an alarming amount of mail to distribute, but at least it’s an easy way to get to know the residents. After a hard days work, you head back to the hotel—conspicuously large compared to Little Vale’s population, if you ask me—and crash for the night.

But that’s when things get spooky.

Helltown uses its off-kilter, kooky depiction of Little Vale to set up some genuinely tense moments. When the sun goes down, wicked things come out. During one early section, I was thrown into a fenced-in part of town and had to track down three keys to unlock the front gate. It’s dark at night and with only a flashlight to guide me, I stumbled around a few bends before hearing an otherworldly growl. The park is probably a pleasant place during the day; there are benches to sit on and plenty of shaded spots underneath the trees. But at night, it’s home to unholy crawling things, that shriek, and cry and give chase to any unsuspecting postal workers who might get locked in a park.

Generally, Helltown follows a formula of “normal” daytime events, where players will deliver packages and interact with townsfolk before it gets dark the town warps into a twisted maze full of killer ghosts and zombie-like figures who stare, unblinking, at any poor soul that crosses their path. Regardless of what part of the game you’re in, Helltown‘s always unsettling. The always-smiling villagers seem to know more than they’re letting on and the game’s low-poly art leaves just enough room for imagination to fill in the blanks.

Developer WildArts have a flair for horror. Helltown manages to move along quickly while delivering on some superbly creepy moments. It’s not the longest game in the world, but with four different endings, there’s more than enough to warrant the $8 price tag.