Disclaimer: a review copy for Mastema: Out of Hell was provided to us by developer Oscar Celestini and publisher Forever Entertainment S. A.
Mastema is a complicated game. The first thing that struck me is that the artistic design is at times brilliant at its intention of bringing us back to the days when arcades ruled the videogames market. The rest of the time it is upsetting in terms of proportions and balance. If there is a word that can define Mastema perfectly is 'unbalanced'.
Mastema: Out Of Hell revolves around an unnamed protagonist who dies, goes to hell and, one day, spectates a fight between an angel and a devil. The angel is defeated, but it drops its sword, which this main character uses to fight the demons that block his way out of hell. The premise is simple enough: use the platforms to exit each level, pick up as many "gems" (they are actually not named in any way throughout the game) as possible so you can claim an extra life once you get 100 of them, and use your sword (which you need to pick up, despite the backstory) to defeat demonic creatures and bosses every 10 levels. The thing is, it's actually not simple. Ever.
Mastema: Out of Hell is bug-ridden and filled with problems of all sorts: mechanics that don't work properly or even exist at all, character design, both for the main character and the enemies and with the designs for the levels and their backgrounds. For starters, our beloved escapee can't jump to a side. Why? Nobody knows? Is it a core mechanic of every 2D platformer? When I learned that I thought 'At least I can jump vertically, then steer to either side'. I was wrong. Jumping in Mastema is a gamble. If the planets align and you manage to make him go the way you want, the platform you are jumping onto might bug out or disappear completely, the main character might get stuck to the side of it, an enemy could fly near the platform but nowhere near you and hit you anyway or, worst case scenario, you might pick up an item mid-air, which would propel you straight into the ground, a hole, or what I'm guessing is acid.
This is how you are supposed to stand if you want to make most jumps in Mastema.
The controls and the combat system are quite simple. Move with the arrows, A for jumping, S for attacking, D for special attacks. Early in the first level you pick up the sword (after avoiding some enemies, may I add) and find the first special attack, which is a one use item you can activate whenever you want. A cool concept, taken from the old arcade games, I suppose, is that you lose the weapon when you die. Usually, that meant there was another pickup available in that level and you had a chance at not being defenseless for as much as three or four stages. That doesn't happen in Mastema. Call it hardcore difficulty, call it a design flaw, but if you die, you lose your sword, any special attacks you may have been carrying and all the gems you picked out, so no extra lives for you.
And what can you do when you have no means of defending yourself? Well, evade. Surprise, surprise! Some enemies are either too long or too tall (like the cool green guy on the picture above this text) to be avoided, so there's a guaranteed hit if you don't have a weapon. Especially because the classic and short invulnerability period when you are attacked is not a thing in the world of Mastema.
That having been said, the designs for the backgrounds are, mostly, very detailed and really convey the hellish atmosphere in which our character is locked, when they are not, you can really notice the repetition in the patterns. What I have to say about the level design, on the contrary, is mostly negative. The platforming element is not hard but frustrating because of the problems with jumping and with the different textures for the blocks. An example of this are the blocks that fade once the main character steps on them. Their colour and texture are almost the same than the regular ones. Good luck spotting them. In other cases, the scenery gets mixed up with the actual level and its platforms, like in the picture below this paragraph. It looks really cool, I must admit, but can you spot where the platform ends and death begins at a first glance?
Mastema: Out of Hell is a 2/5 for me. The ideas and concepts are great, the execution is not as polished as I think it should be, even when considering its price of $4.99 US Dollars on Steam.