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PSP  header logo

Hellboy: The Science of Evil

For: PSP   Also on: Mobile

Hellishly poor

Product: Hellboy: The Science of Evil | Developer: Krome Studios | Publisher: Konami | Format: PSP | Genre: Action, Fighting, Film/ TV tie- in | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
Hellboy: The Science of Evil PSP, thumbnail 1
Although they're blessed with astonishing powers and are generally adored by mere mortals, being a superhero isn't exactly a bed of roses; you have to endure garish, figure-hugging costumes and the indignity of wearing underpants on the outside of your clothing. However, even these inconveniences pale in comparison to the kind of issues that Hellboy encounters.

But then he's not your 'average' superhero.

Thrown into our world thanks to the malevolent dabblings of insane Nazi occultists in World War II, Hellboy is actually a demon who has willingly relinquished his naturally nefarious ways in order to fight for the forces of good. His appearance is highly unconventional, given his heroic profession – he sports a blood-red complexion, a chin that would make Bruce Forsythe blush and a colossal stone arm (known as the Right Hand of Doom) with which he can quite literally smash through solid walls.

He's also something of a smart-arse, but you wouldn't say that to his face.

With that kind of background it's hardly surprising that Hellboy has become a firm favourite with comic fans since his fiery inception in 1993. Over the years we've been gifted with a range of graphic novels, animated productions and full-length feature films, and now we have a PSP adaptation.

Although the game has been produced in order to take advantage of the considerable hype currently surrounding the new movie Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, it's actually an entirely new adventure – although sadly the actual content feels so familiar you could swear you've played it several times before.

The visual style owes more of a debt to the original comic than the recent live action films, with characters exhibiting a cartoon-esque quality and cut-scenes retaining the bold colours and dark, shadowy style of the original comic book. In terms of ascetics, The Science of Evil certainly has a little appeal. Sadly, whatever goodwill is generated by the presentation is swiftly dissipated as soon as the player is granted control.

Assuming the format of a rather straightforward fighter, Hellboy: The Science of Evil definitely doesn't attempt to break any conventions. In fact, it's shamelessly generic, gleefully snatching ideas from games such as Capcom's gothic classic Devil May Cry and Sony's endearing PSone fantasy adventure MediEvil.

Hellboy galumphs around each stage tackling enemies and solving insultingly straightforward puzzles with nary an innovative element in sight. The level design is visually appealing, at least; again, we found ourselves reminded of MediEvil's cartoon gothic environments while playing this PSP outing.

The enemies you encounter through Hellboy's quest suffer from a crippling lack of intelligence, though. Some will simply stand motionless, waiting for you to approach and pummel them out of existence, whereas others will steam headlong into your attacks, practically offering themselves up as fodder for Hellboy's sizable fists. Meanwhile, the foes that actually have the forethought to avoid the carnage rarely place themselves in a position that is likely to cause you serious grief. As a result, the combat is rendered distinctly staid and unchallenging.

The wholly unsatisfying fighting engine isn't helped by the fact that Hellboy's attacks lack any kind of weight or power. He's able to throw either light or heavy punches and can even pop his 'rage meter' when enough energy has accrued in battle, and thereby power up his standard attacks and create extended combinations. Sadly, even when dishing out insane amounts of harm to multiple enemies, the whole process feels surprisingly feeble.

Secondary offensive moves should help to spice up proceedings a little but these too fail to make a lasting impression. Hellboy can grapple with enemies and throw them into walls and other bad guys, but this too feels curiously unsatisfying and flimsy. It's also nigh on impossible to accurately aim your throw, further adding to the frustration. Various sub-weapons can be collected throughout the game, with grenades proving to be the most useful, and although they explode an attractive pyrotechnics show whenever they detonate, like the rest of Hellboy's attacks they lack any feeling of strength.

Arguably the most important aspect of Hellboy's arsenal is his handgun (known as The Good Samaritan). In The Science of Evil the ammo for this fearsome weapon has been wisely limited to avoid the player relying on it too much. However, even when Hellboy is packing a full magazine, using this legendary sidearm never generates the kind of excitement it should do. Compared to the exquisite gunplay witnessed in leading action adventures (such as the aforementioned Devil May Cry), The Science of Evil ends up looking depressingly pedestrian.

Combat issues are compounded by what can only be described as stupefying amateurish collision detection – Hellboy's punches regularly stun enemies that are practically on the other side of the room. However, the big red guy doesn't have it all his way – it's not unusual to see Hellboy's health being depleted by attacks that don't appear to connect successfully.

Keeping track of the action isn't easy, either, as the in-game 3D camera seemingly has a mind of its own at times. It's obviously been programmed to follow the complex and twisting level design but often faces the wrong way or fails to highlight an attacking foe, usually when you're stuck between two sections of the level where the camera is programmed to shift to another viewpoint.

To add insult to these numerous injuries, the game feels too short, clocking in at less than five hours' worth of playtime. Were those five hours packed with exhilaration and adventure then it would be easy to forgive, but instead they're populated by bland levels, dumb enemies and a complete lack of challenge or amusement.

Actually, perhaps the game's brevity is a blessing.

Considering the latent potential the Hellboy universe affords it's criminal that this video game adaptation should turn out to be such a turgid effort. Graphics aside, almost every other facet of the game is fatally flawed; we had high hopes that Hellboy would powerfully buck the trend of poor quality movie/comic-to-game adaptations, but based on this disastrous evidence it seems that even he is doomed to roam the Underworld of Lamentable Licences.
Hellboy: The Science of Evil
Reviewer photo
Damien McFerran | 18 August 2008
While we certainly weren't expecting The Science of Evil to reinvent the wheel, nothing could have prepared us for this hopeless, shambling mockery of a game. Avoid as if your very soul depends on it
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