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Hellboy: The Science of Evil


Mike Mignola's Hellboy franchise has certainly done well for itself since it got started way back in 1993. Two feature length films, some animated adventures, a legion of devoted comic book fans, and a couple of games have solidified the red demon as a mainstream series. For me, Hellboy is all about atmosphere and attitude and it's Mignola's unique vision and the mythos he crafted that makes the series so compelling. While the second film, The Golden Army has already come and gone, a game of a different name Science of Evil came out around the same time.

Science of Evil takes place outside the storyline of Golden Army. When it comes to games based on franchises you typically see a game attempt to take you through the most current narrative. I think it should be appreciated when a development team bucks the trend and puts together a new tale. In this particular case Mignola and Guillermo del Toro lent their talents in some fashion. Ironically it's hard to tell where their inspirations went during the project because the story is downright awful.

The basic premise here is that Hellboy and company find out about some sort of Nazi plot involving Hermann von Klempt who is up to no good. This prompts an adventure for Hellboy who takes you through the past and present in a jumbled plot that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The shoddiness of the story is only one of Science of Evil's faults though since the rest of the game simply screams "bound for the bargain bin".

Gameplay


I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that the gameplay in Science of Evil is strictly action-oriented. I mean, after all, Hellboy is a bad ass who loves to punch and shoot stuff so naturally that translates well to the gaming environment. Unfortunately the combat engine is extremely underwhelming and the entire game plays off as a cheap God of War meets Devil May Cry hybrid set in the Hellboy universe. The atmosphere may be decent but the rest of the game fails to match it step for step.

As Hellboy (or Abe and Liz in co-op) you'll pound your way through stage after stage of bizarre enemies, Nazi creations, and monsters from the deep. A repetitive wave of foes stands between you and the end of each level and you essentially mash the buttons to perform the same attack combo over and over again until they are all dead. Sure there is a little variety available and some enemies require different strategies to defeat but the diversity just isn't there. Because this gameplay engine is easily comparable to something such as God of War, the simple fact that it feels dated right out of the gate just doesn't do it any favors. It lacks polish and the battle engine grows tiresome after only a couple of stages.

Boss fights shake things up a bit as do the myriad of objects that you can pick up and use. Over the course of the game Hellboy will also bust out some special attacks to allow you to shake things up now and then but that's really too little, too late. Oh, and you can expect timed button-press events littered throughout the game as well. Yeah originality!

When you're not growing bored of smashing in robotic monkey skulls you'll probably be doing one of two things: solving puzzles or cursing out the shoddy controls. As far as the brain-bending aspect is concerned there really aren't many real noggin teasers packed in here. You'll have to pound certain walls and doors repeatedly, hit some switches, and pull some levers. In other words it's all the stuff learned in "Design Games 101: Action Game Puzzles".

The controls themselves are very wonky at times and it's not uncommon to die many a cheap death because of them. Platforming is particularly gruesome thanks to the camera and response of the controls and it will lead to you redoing sections again and again. The same can roughly be said about the ranged targeting system which simply chooses not to work whenever it wants to. Add all of this together and you have a game that feels rushed in order to make the arrival date of Golden Army.

There is some multiplayer capability through the ad-hoc for you and a buddy to tackle the game co-op style but some lag and the overall paltry design of the game makes undertaking the trip questionable. Overall Science of Evil is simply a game that dropped the ball with regards to the Hellboy license. Konami could have really pushed the envelope and crafted a game that would do the franchise proud but it sadly lands in the bargain bin pile of other movie/comic related games that are marketed to the Joe Sixpack masses. Don't bother with this one.

Graphics


Hellboy is known for unique visuals and dynamic design. The characters and world in which they live are mostly dark, vibrant when necessary, and very atmospheric. Unfortunately Science of Evil's version of Hellboy is essentially none of those things that make the comic and movies so good. The textures are bland, the animation is choppy, the character designs don't quite work, and the environments are rather bland. There are much better looking PSP titles out there and quite frankly this one looks like a first generation release.

Sound


While the graphics and gameplay disappoint in most every regard the sound quality is actually pretty decent. The music scores are pulled right from the films and you can expect to hear Ron Pearlman droning away as Hellboy. Unfortunately the dialogue isn't quite as sharp as you'd expect and Pearlman doesn't exactly bring his a-game to this title. Even so the audio is at least unmistakably Hellboy even though there are some generic sound effects and poor voice overs scattered throughout.

Conclusion


Whether or not you're a fan of the Hellboy franchise there really is no reason to play through Science of Evil. The game feels unfinished and sloppy from start to finish with a terrible story to back it up and greatly varied presentational merits. It's a run-of-the-mill do nothing new kind of experience and its gameplay harkens back to about four or five years ago (if not further) in terms of development and creativity. If you're on the lookout for a good action title then pass this one over and keep searching.