NOTE: ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON COMICBOOKMOVIE.COM 10/13/2013
Through a crazy, unforeseeable series of circumstances, Hellboy: Asylum Seeker turned out to be an unintentional tie-in game to the original Hellboy film in 2004. Publisher Konami was a bit more proactive with the release of Hellboy: The Science of Evil on the Xbox 360/PS3/PSP, getting it out just ahead of the July release of Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
I could talk about the story in Science of Evil, but in all honesty it’s a tad confusing. The game kinda has one….and it also kinda doesn’t. The game starts off in a dark, dingy and rainy European village where the titular character is in hot pursuit of a witch who is terrorizing said village. After an impromptu transition the game, it then jumps to Japan, then back to the village and eventually to the Sahara desert. There is somewhat of a connection to the events, but it feels more like six different Hellboy anthologies than a linearly structured narrative.
I hope you sure like punching, because you’ll be doing a lot of it in SOE. From the very start of the game the progression goes as follows: Move forward, punch some things, progress, ad nausem until the end of Chapter 6. Every so often the monotony is broken up when a foe throws a curve ball, such as having to be taken out by a throw or with a certain item, but the rest can be won by hitting the strong and heavy punch buttons. The PS3 version of the game comes from the era before developers were allowed to add rumble to their games, so the punches in that version seem fairly week compared to the feedback enabled Xbox 360 port.
On top of your standard fisticuffs, Hellboy will gain access to his famous oversized side arm, which you can pick up several different types of ammunition for throughout the game. Word of advice though? Stick with your punches, you’ll be fine. Oh, did I mention there was punching?
Should you be able to track down another soul to play this boring game, you can play co-op with one of the other players taking the roll of characters like Liz Sherman and Abe Sapien. Despite the roster all having different abilities, the combat still boils down to the same strong/heavy attack punching as Hellboy. It would’ve been nice if the characters were all present on screen and could be swapped out to complete even simple puzzles, like Liz having to burn something or a short underwater section with Abe for some additional variety and a break from the constant barrage of bad guys.
The cast from the film reprise their roles from the film, but you’ll never see anyone else other than Hellboy if you play solo. Ron Perlman provides a solid performance, but he doesn’t really say anything funny or memorable. It’s not really Perlman’s fault though, as it’s difficult to pull off comedy when your main character is flying solo through the entire adventure. Again, it would’ve benefited the game significantly had the game had the B.P.R.D as a group not locked into multiplayer, even if they just showed up in the cut scenes.
SOE on the PSP uses the same level themes from the PS3/Xbox 360 versions but the similarities end there. There are no voices in the game, other than a random grunt by Perlman when you get hit, and the cinematics are replaced by terribly animated motion comics. The graphical style is more stylized to fit the limitations of the handheld, and aesthetically it’s more appealing. The game feels much shorter than the console versions, which is also a plus. Co-op is present in the PSP game as well, but good luck tracking down someone with another PSP and a copy of this game.
The first Hellboy game, Asylum Seeker, was a mess but in many ways it’s better than the Science of Evil, as it tries to be something other than a pointless beat-em-up. Even with Ron Perlman and Guillermo Del Toro on board, Konami couldn’t put forth a better effort for Hellboy’s second video game outing. At six chapters, SOE is incredibly short, but if you make it to the end you’ll feel like the game took an eternity to complete.