All right, let’s get this out of the way now. This is a licensed game. There are certain expectations when dealing with one of these, many of them lowered. Rarely do they break new ground, presumably because of strict guidelines that are in place to make sure that the identity of the license is preserved. Hellboy: The Science of Evil is no exception. You are Hellboy. You are a demon with a stone hand, tons of one-liners, and more strength than you know what to do with. Game start.
The good news is that Krome (who you might know as the creators of the actually-sorta-decent Ty the Tasmanian Tiger series) took Hellboy and actually built a decent fighting engine around him. Hellboy has numerous ways to wreck shop, to the point where you actually feel like the titular character. You’ll grab enemies and rip them in two, kick baddies across the landscape, demolish giant walls with your stone hand, cause earthquakes, disarm enemies, and use their weapons against them. It’s cathartic stuff. You lumber along, destroying all in your path, at the cost of agility. In fact, you could easily describe this game as “like God of War, only really, really slow” and you’d be dead-on. You’ve also got a gun that can be loaded with several types of bullets to use in different situations: some open doors, some freeze enemies in place — that sort of thing.
The bad news is that, after creating some decent fighting mechanics, Krome sort of stopped there. Hellboy’s fighting style is already slow as it is, but when combined with long, drawn-out levels that consist of nothing but waves of enemies that take a while to go defeat (especially when they start blocking, quintuple-teaming you, or jumping on your back), you have a game that moves like molasses. This cancels out much of the fun that the actual fighting holds. As a consequence, some people may find the game mechanics tougher to handle than others. (I was able to cope, but Wanderer was spouting curses at the screen every other second. Your mileage may vary.)
In addition, the camera makes gun-aiming a chore, and moving the camera around has a good chance of making one nauseous. There are also a fair number of collision glitches which, while they don’t completely drag the game down, can result in inefficient play, and sometimes unfair deaths. Too many times have I tried to grab someone with Hellboy, only to have his hand go through the enemy, who then takes advantage of the grab’s recovery and hits me in the face. When the fighting works, it’s quite awe-inspiring. However, again, only some people may have the patience for it.
The graphics are passable, but are mostly high-res, last-gen stuff. The music is also average, but the voiceovers using the actual movie characters are good. There’s also co-op play (both local and online) involving Hellboy’s partners, and that’s as far as the bells and whistles go. Unfortunately, the co-op actually works to the game’s detriment. Local co-op is needlessly split-screen in a linear game, making the characters quite tiny. Furthermore, Hellboy is required to get past most of the game’s obstacles, leaving the second player (whose moves aren’t very different from Hellboy’s) to twiddle their thumbs.
That’s about all there is to say about Hellboy, honestly. As far as licensed games go, it isn’t too offensive, but it could have been so much more. Less derivative game design, a more responsive fightng system, fewer glitches and more varied enemies might have helped it out. Sadly, it is still a much better game than, say, the Ghost Rider game. If you’ve got kids to keep busy or a gigantic Hellboy fan around, you could do worse than this, but you could also do much, much better.
Versions Reviewed: Xbox 360, Playstation 3