NOTE: ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON COMICBOOKMOVIE.COM 10/13/2013
The history behind Hellboy: Asylum Seeker may in fact be more interesting than the game itself:
In the 1990’s, Cryo Studios (the original developer behind this game) was intended to be branded as DHI, or Dark Horse Interactive, and tasked with making games based on properties that the comic studio held. Cryo Studios eventually broke away and became independent of Dark Horse, yet was still granted the Hellboy license to make Hellboy: Dogs of Night for the PC and the original PlayStation.
Work was completed on the PC version of game and it was released, but Cryo closed in the early 2000’s before they could finish the PlayStation port. Four years after the PlayStation 2 was released, the game would make its way to shelves thanks to publisher Dreamcatcher interactive under the new name Hellboy: Asylum Seeker, just in time to line up with the theatrical release of the original Hellboy film.
Asylum Seeker is an uninspired classic Resident Evil knock off, down to the awkward combat and tank like movement controls, that would’ve been outdated had it actually been released when it was intended. That being said however, I’m a mark for those type of games and it’s been a long time since I’ve had a new game of that type to play around with, and for that I’m a little bit forgiving of the software’s short comings. Emphasis on “a little bit”.
Hellboy and Sarah from the B.P.R.D (the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) receive a distress call from a mutual acquaintance that leads them to an eerie asylum where nothing is at it appears to be. The two are promptly separated and Hellboy must get to the bottom of the mysteries of the asylum all the while seeking out his lost partner.
Asylum Seeker is a very, very rough game for a game that took so long to come to market: the voice acting is up to the standards of the ORIGINAL Resident Evil, Hellboy himself looks ridiculous with one of the more hilarious looking walk cycles in all of video games. What’s even funnier is witnessing the game’s “combat”. You use the square button to punch awkwardly with your non-rock hand, that’s right, you have a hand made of stone yet you lead with your regular one, go figure. To get Hellboy to use his stone hand, you have to hold down the button and wait for the third punch where in he decides it’s MAYBE a good idea to use the one that would cause enemies some serious hurt. Later on you’ll get access to a gun, but ammo is scarce and punching is still way more effective.
Running down the list thus far you’ve got tank controls, awkward combat, but does the game’s puzzles borrow from classic survival horror games as well? The answer is of course yes, but whereas well designed games provide clever and subtle hints to aid the player in coming to a solution, trail and error is your best weapon in your arsenal as early as chapter two. Expect to find yourself running to an online FAQ for both puzzles and navigation, as their is no map to reference whatsoever as well. Have fun getting turned around when you hit the sewer maze at around the halfway point, as you get slowly infuriated running around aimlessly getting stopped by some fairly long load times.
Along with the character models, the environments in AS do not stand up to other peers in the genre on the system. To be positive for once though, you’ll visit some varied environments in your adventure, from the asylum itself, the above mentioned sewer maze, a short trip back in time to the medieval ages and even hell itself. The music in the game, a Gothic style soundtrack with a nice use of organs, does add to the creepy atmosphere of dilapidated asylum.
Hellboy: Asylum Seeker is a poor man’s survival horror game that is lucky to even exist. Hardcore fans of the genre will find little to like here outside of an obscure experience they may not even know existed. I did manage to squeeze some nostalgic enjoyment out of AS as it did being back memories of playing things like Resident Evil and Dino Crisis for the first time, but it stands no where close to those games in quality.