The Hellboy comics, with their cast of classic movie monsters and folkloric freaks, wear their influences proudly on their sleeves. Likewise, Hellboy: The Science of Evil doesn’t make any show at pretending it’s not a thoroughgoing God of War clone. It’s got the same controls: a light and hard attack, an overpowered grapple move, a roided-up “Rage” mode, and plenty of “Tap Square! Tap Triangle!” contextual finishing moves and interactive cutscenes.
But if you’re going to ape the leader of the pack, you might as well do it well or not do it at all. Surprisingly, The Science of Evil almost pulls it off, and despite its flaws is still probably the best portable God of War clone you’ll play for awhile. The combat is brutal and satisfying, if a tad wonky and not requiring much thought. The boss encounters, aside from a couple duds, are epic, multi-tiered, environment-spanning affairs. And believe it or not, this piece of movie-merchandising pulls off some of the best graphics yet seen on the PSP, with beautifully designed environments rendered with eye-popping comic book color and neato lighting effects.
Sadly, the numerous highs experienced playing The Science of Evil are matched by plenty of lows. Aside from a horrible camera and a few PS1-looking levels to counter those aforementioned jaw-droppers, the main problem is that the game is just a beat-em-up plain and simple, and while the combat is fun, it starts to wear thin as the game goes on. It seems that The Science of Evil’s creators weren’t unaware of this issue, and, seeing the looming threat of monotony, decided they’d just end things before they got even worse. It’s unexpected, anticlimactic, and disappointing at the same time when the credits roll after only five hours, on the heels of an abysmal final boss that could pass for an early game miniboss.
You’d think that with licensed games like this, we’d be happy if they got themselves over with more quickly so we could move on to better things. Generally, this is true. But when The Science of Evil met its early demise it felt more like a wake than a birthday party. It could have been a contender, but The Science of Evil is merely above average, and leaves a sour reminder that the cynicism we harbor toward licensed games isn’t exclusive to the people playing them. It’s a real shame.
Jul 11, 2008