The Dark Horse comic, Hellboy comes to life on in videogame form following the release of the second Hellboy film, The Golden Army. The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense has found a partner in Konami as they release Hellboy: The Science of Evil across multiple gaming platforms.
For this review we are taking a look at the portable version of Hellboy: the Science of Evil on the Playstation Portable (PSP). Developed apart from the console version, Big Ant Studios (The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night) has the task of making an appealing version of Konami’s major release on the PSP. Featuring creative direction from Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and famous movie director Guillermo del Toro (Blade II, Pan's Labyrinth) Hellboy has the ground work of what should be one hell of an experience. Although, I have heard that evil can be a science that is a little harder than it looks and I think Big Ant figured this out as Hellboy strays away from explosive to mediocre.
Putting the red horned demon as your lead character should be a clear winner. Besides the artistic help from two guys who have invested good portions of their life to this fantastic lore of the Hellboy Universe we have an exclusive storyline that includes killing Nazi’s. Nothing could be better as The Science of Evil is set up like pure science. The crazed Hermann Von Klempt is plotting for world domination calling out Hellboy and his friends to try and foil his plans and as always, save the day! This is Hellboy: The Science of Evil, transformed from sounding super cool, into a generic unimpressive brawler.
Straight Ahead Brawling
Yes, Hellboy is a straight ahead brawler. There is nothing fancy in this throw back to old school gaming when the Playstation 2 was just getting its disc spinning in the drive. The Science of Evil is as generic as generic gets in regards to its gameplay, so I am sure Konami is hoping the Hellboy name will reel in the gamers. Like beat em’ up games in the past, you run through the game level to level fighting spawning enemies with almost no individuality. Each level of the Science of Evil is themed so during the Japanese level you will be fighting mythological creatures from Japanese lore and so on. This is one plus side to Hellboy; at least it’s not the same generic thugs that seemed to populate the entire game in something like Final Fight. That is a plus, but not a huge plus, more like a small plus beside the gameplay category. Re-skinning the same enemy isn’t going to mark you too many points.
In context Hellboy isn’t afraid to keep the formula straight forward. Considering this is the direction you will be moving for the most of the game, why mess it up with the action? From clearly pointed out A-B objectives to redundant artificial intelligence and a dumped down fighting system, Hellboy goes from a hellacious mean lead character to a placeholder. Fighting is one more stripped down aspect of the game with basic combinations that are mainly punching combinations. This is true for the enemy who will either throw projectiles at you, or come in for a weakly animated attack. Add the limited feel of the combat to some awful hit detection and you have a game that instantly becomes forgettable, no matter how great the licensed characters are.
In another attempt to bring some cleverness into the action, weapons are added. These feel as out of place as the hit detection in the game. Swinging weapons in your hands or the enemies really don’t feel powerful and quickly break when used. The also don’t have to be too accurate to connect with a hit, many times during the game enemies armed with staffs would connect with a hit even though I clearly moved away from the hit. The ouch sound played a small bit of damage gets removed... damn those invisible staff add-ons. Let’s not even get into using Hellboy’s trademark pistol... now that gets a real ouch!
Static-- Static--- Boring
The environments carry over this attitude with a static atmosphere that leaves nothing to the imagination with straightforward level design with obvious gameplay elements added within. In each level you can pretty much tell what’s going to happen before it does. Clear area, well here comes the spawning, statue that looks like a bad guy isn’t moving, well get ready for the surprise when it does. The whole design feels a little too clunky and that goes for the puzzle elements, combat, and environments. One good word to sum up the action in Hellboy: the Science of Evil is “boring”. I hate to say it, but it is true.
The Silence of Evil
The thing with Hellboy: the Science of Evil is that it’s marketed towards a teen to adult audience and the gameplay shouts to gamers of a younger age. It’s not like Hellboy isn’t trying. The art direction is cool and the art stays close to its comic book origins. The cut scenes are drawn art depicting the storyline advancing feel distant from with game because the PSP version lacks dialog overdubs. The lack of a voice behind Hellboy really hurts the delivery of the game which impacts the storyline. I found it hard to get into the lines between the action, Hellboy starts off weak in the department and keeps rolling with it.
You would figure the game version of this cult icon character would give him the most freedom, however it Hellboy: the Science of Evil missed its mark on making a cool video game version of the popular comic / movie. Really, Hellboy should have been called ‘The Science of Generic’. There isn’t too much to go on here even if you are a huge Hellboy fanatic. Sure, the characters are there, the plot tries to do good, but nothing feels in place. I can not recommend Science of Evil on the PSP, if you want a good Hellboy experience pick up a comic, or check out the film. Hopefully the bigger consoles give a little bit more, but something is telling me Hellboy has fallen to the curse of bad comic videogames.
Gameplay: 4.5, Graphics: 5, Sound: 5, Innovation: 4, Mojo: 4. Final: 4.5 / 10
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 07.09.08