Video Game Backlog Attack: Hellboy: The Science of Evil

Released in June 2008, one month prior to the theatrical release of Hellboy II: The Golden Army, one might reasonably expect that Hellboy: The Science of Evil might fall into that lowest caste of the video game heirarchy: The Movie Tie-In.  After all, it features voiceover work from the film franchise’s three principal actors, not to mention FREE HELLBOY MOVIE CASH INSIDE.  Surprisingly, it’s not a movie tie-in at all, but sadly this is one case where that may have actually been preferable.

Instead of anything related to the Hellboy films, developer Krome Studios opted instead for a lazy mash-up of elements that ends up feeling like a last minute Cliff’s Notes book report on the first few issues of the Hellboy comic.  The game knows that there are frog monsters, some undead Nazis, and that at some point Hellboy was in Japan battling some Oni.  It does not, however, know or seem to care why.  Krome claimed on the box that creator/writer/artist Mike Mignola and director Guillermo del Toro were creatively involved with the making of this game.  If that is in any way factual, I will turn in my journalism badge and gun right now.

Hellboy takes a quick break from fighting the same witch over and over again.

The lack of a compelling story might be forgiven if the gameplay were any more interesting, but it’s not at all.  There are a few grapple attacks and unique finishing moves that Hellboy can use on the different enemy types, which in theory are there to provide relief from all the punch button mashing you’ll be doing.  Unfortunately, all but one type of enemy must be in “stunned” mode before these attacks can be utilized.  That stun window varies between unpredictable and nonexistent, and many special attacks won’t register if the target is too close to another object, so trying to do anything other than just punching creates an unwelcome hassle.  The only thing to break up the monotony is Hellboy’s trusty sidearm, the Samaritan.  Several different ammo types can be found, which again looks promising at first.  Anything other than the basic type is scarce for most of the game though, and some are mainly used as “keys” to progress through the levels.

Level design is uninspired, and bears little resemblance to the source material.  Most of the game is spent plodding from one end of a giant village or cemetery to the other, punching one or two enemy types over and over again until you get to the boss.  Which, about half the time, is the same witch you just fought in another level.  Each level does contain one hidden artifact, but they serve no purpose and some aren’t reachable unless you backtrack later via level select, so there’s absolutely no reason to look around or explore.  The catacombs level where you encounter the frog monsters is literally the most grueling death march of a video game level I’ve seen in years.  It’s not difficult or anything, it just goes on for what feels like a hundred years.

One of the game's ten million frog monsters.

The only positive aspect of the game that I encountered was Ron Perlman’s voice work.  He was such a spectacular choice for the role of Hellboy in the movies, and his voice is now what I hear in my head when I read the comics.  He does a good job in the game too, although several lines felt inappropriately monotone for the situation.  His voice work in the animated Hellboy movies was excellent, so if I had to guess here I’d say he was given a list of his lines, with no direction or context, and he just delivered them in the safest way possible.  I unfortunately can’t comment on the voice work of Doug Jones (Abe Sapien) or Selma Blair (Liz Sherman), because they are confined to the online-only co-op mode, and do not appear at all in the single player.

Speaking of voice work in The Science of Evil that I’ll never hear, guess who else is sort of in this game?  If you guessed Bruce Campbell, you’re either a liar or you work for Krome, because there’s really no other way you’d know.  You see, he was brought in to voice 1930’s vigilante adventurer Lobster Johnson, sort of a “comic book character within a comic” in the Hellboy universe.  Playing through a level as a Bruce Campbell-voiced Lobster Johnson may have actually been enough to save this terrible game for me, but nooo….  You see, the voice work was done, the level was made, and then it was locked out of the main game.  Locked out to be released as DLC, which never materialized.  The achievements for the level are on here, and they’re not even extra points-they’re part of the 1000 gamerscore that every Xbox 360 game is supposed to ship with.  Krome is barely still in business, and Konami, the game’s publisher, has long since moved on.  What may very well have been the only redeeming factor in this game will never see the light of day.

This is probably one of the three or four worst games I’ve ever played on the Xbox 360.  Offhand the only thing I can think of that I liked less was Clive Barker’s Jericho, which I happily traded to GameStop for 50 cents (the only 360 game to ever leave my collection intentionally).  Although I bought The Science of Evil three years late and thus did not receive the FREE HELLBOY MOVIE CASH, I only paid about $7 and thought that a super low price plus my general love of all things Hellboy might result in a worthwhile experience.  I wasn’t expecting greatness, but at no point during my playthrough did I have anything resembling a good time.  Now when I’m scavenging the racks at Buyback’s or wherever, and I’m trying to justify a risky purchase by saying “Really any 360 game is worth $10”, I have to add “except Hellboy“.

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About Ryan Searles

I like watching movies, and then talking about those movies. Sometimes I write things about them, which you should read. Other interests include boxed wine, video games, the works of Harlan Ellison and HG Wells, and being a general curmudgeon.

Posted on February 22, 2012, in Reviews, Video Games and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Bruce Campbell was in it?! As awesome as he is, that’s game poison right there. Even if he didn’t really make the cut. I think I would have bought The Bruce DLC on principle alone, though.

    Jericho was really almost good. It just needed…a lot. Okay a hell of a lot. But an ending would have really helped.

    • I wanted to like Jericho but it just felt dumb for the whole first stage. Then somewhere around level two my character got stuck in the ground (not in rocks, Skyrim style, just walking on a flat surface). I took it out, traded it in, and never looked back.

    • I thought I could dig up something to dispute the automatic video game poison claim, but no, you’re absolutely right. I had forgotten he was even the narrator in another of my bottom 5 360 games of all time, Spider-Man 3.

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