Bullypix’s Journey to Hell hop-scotches between being a fun, shoot ‘em up game and a hellish nightmare. Some aspects of the game are awesome, and some will make you question your sanity, sap your will to live, and want to throw down your device and stomp it in a temper tantrum.

Journey to Hell’s story is about a secret organization, Holy Shield, which has been fighting off demons and looking over mankind since the underworlders first showed their cute little faces. Now things are spiraling out of control and two agents, Gabriel and Rachel, are sent to find the source of evil, destroy it, and all of its minions as well. It’s a pretty tall order, but the characters seem well prepared for battle … until you start playing as them.

The game packs an impressive arsenal of close to 30 weapons, ranging from pistols to machine guns and flamethrowers. All have upgrades available and the characters can equip three weapons at a time. Gabriel and Rachel each come with their own special abilities, like bullet time, dodges, and armor and health boosts. These skills are also upgradeable and up to two can be equipped at a time. Everything sounds good, until you get to the part of actually using them.

The controls are very frustrating to use. In the left corner lies a joy stick to move the character in any direction. That’s not the problem -- it works and responds well. The problem is with aiming/shooting. You aim and shoot using the right corner of the screen, and it ends up extremely crowded over there. Often you’ll shoot when trying to aim, aim when trying to shoot, and accidentally activate a special ability when trying to do both. If you just want to look around without firing, you have to use the tiny, vaguely-defined area around the gyroscope. Since the area is so small and tightly packed, you’ll generally end up spazzing out and doing something other than what you meant to do, and in a game where bullets are in short supply, wasting shots is very annoying. So is lining up your awkward sight just right, only to have it wig out at the last moment because the game thinks you’re trying to aim when you’re trying to fire. And, of course, while you’re swiveling your gun around like a drunken shootist there’s a pile of a dozen undead creatures shambling towards you, ready to beat your cheeks off. There is an option to adjust the sensitivity of the touch screen and gyroscope, which helps ease the pain some; but, there's no option to adjust the location of the controls so the basic issues of being crowded are still there.

Some games are forgiving and allow the player to fumble their way through levels -- Journey to Hell is not one of them. If you become surrounded by the undead because of fumbling with the controls, you’re going to die. After each of your many deaths you’ll have to start the level over, which makes the repetitive, “shoot the zombies in a small arena, move on to the next crowded arena so you can shoot more zombies” formula feel even more grating.

There are ten levels to traverse, varying in size and location. Some levels are cramped, giving you only a small area to work with while trying to kill enemies, while others run the length of a train or take you underground. The level lengths also vary accordingly, which is frustrating when you keep expecting a level to conclude, and yet it goes on and on.

The graphics are an area where Journey to Hell really shines, with clear, realistic 3D environments. The terrain and enemies are kind of brown and drab, but given that it’s the end of the world, that’s something we can let slide.

Journey to Hell comes with three different game modes: Adventure (your typical story mode), Survival (see how long you can last), and Treasure Hunt (exactly how it sounds). After completing each level in Adventure mode, a player unlocks the other two modes for that particular level. This helps mix things up in terms of difficulty and goals. Adventure mode and Survival mode are both exercises in frustration, but Treasure Hunt actually makes decent use of iOS technology to create a somewhat fun mini-game.

What we’ve got here is a generic, sub-par zombie game. There’s nothing that sets Journey to Hell apart from its forefathers and contemporaries, except, perhaps, for the teeth-grindingly frustrating controls. The Survival and Treasure Hunt mode are great additions, but the awkward controls and repetitive gameplay dampen any potential pleasure. The sad thing is that there are plenty of weapons and special abilities for the player to enjoy, but the game has so many other issues that it essentially renders these things moot.


App Store Link: Journey to Hell for iPhone & iPad | By Bulkypix | Price: $3.99 | Version: 1.0 | 578 MB | Must be 17+

4.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating