|System: PSP, X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Krom Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 24, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
When a big summer blockbuster is released in theaters, it frequently comes with a video game adaptation in tow, especially when the film in question is based on a comic book. So, when Hellboy: Science of Evil was announced to come out at roughly the same time as Hellboy 2: The Golden Army's theatrical release, no one was really surprised by the news. However, the surprise came with the realization that the game didn't really have anything to do with the upcoming film besides the fact that they both involved Hellboy. Although this may be considered an unconventional approach when compared to the industry standard, I still applaud the choice.
Instead of just playing through the upcoming movie in video game form, players are given an entirely different storyline and experience. Hellboy somehow discovers an evil Nazi plot involving Hermann von Klempt and is tasked with stopping it. Unfortunately, even with the creative direction given by both Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and movie director Guillermo del Toro, the story is still a bit of a mess. You are actually given very little explanation of what is transpiring and perhaps more importantly, why. Science of Evil plays out both in the present and past, with the segments taking place in the past being seemingly unrelated to what is occurring in the present. The result is an incoherent experience that has you battling absurd enemies, such as mechanical apes, with no clear purpose.
Furthermore, Science of Evil's level design is transparent to a fault. The majority of the game boils down to walking from one enemy-filled arena to the next, destroying all your foes, and then repeating this process countless times. A few very basic puzzles will appear from time to time but require little more than finding and interacting with the only dissimilar object located nearby. Exploration is mildly rewarded with some hidden Spirit Shards that will unlock extras such as concept art and interviews, but is certainly not required. Most levels are actually quite linear, with a few involving multiple paths that all seem to lead to the same place.
Platform jumping is also a mainstay in Hellboy's new title. Players will frequently be required to jump over bottomless pits, resulting in instant death if you do happen to fail. Sadly, since the game often gives you a poor view of your surroundings, expect to retry many jumps as the result of numerous cheap falling deaths. Thankfully, Science of Evil employs incredibly frequent checkpoints that help reduce the frustration that otherwise would have been caused by having to replay through longer sections of the game multiple times.
Although the game does lightly sprinkle some puzzles and platforming into the experience, Science of Evil is, first and foremost, a straightforward brawler. As a character who is well known for his strength and durability, Hellboy and melee combat should be a natural fit. While the game's combat isn't exactly terrible, it does very little to keep the player interested. Hand to hand combat is managed with the square and triangle buttons, with a few basic combos present. Players also have the option of picking up and throwing enemies with the circle button. This often proves to be your most effective attack, allowing you to simply throw foes over cliffs to their doom.
The biggest problem with combat comes in just how unresponsive the controls feel. Sluggish and clumsy really are the best two words to describe Hellboy's battles. Instead of pressing a button and watching Hellboy respond, it feels more like you are writing him a note, sending it through the mail, and waiting for him to receive and read it before he actually executes the desired attack. This becomes especially problematic when trying to string together combos. There is frequently enough of a delay that it is often difficult to judge when you should be pressing the next button in the series. This issue is further accentuated when enemies attack you during these combo attempts. Any time you are struck during a combo you will have to try it again from the beginning.