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1995-2001
GamesFirst! Magazine

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by THQ

psx_s12-01.jpg (4536 bytes)I never thought the sound of a chainsaw would be comforting, but when you’re fighting a legion of Deadites as well as the "inbred and undead," its rev is music to the ears. I’ve been an Evil Dead fan since the first feature, and I can’t think of many other franchises which have consistently made me laugh while grossing me out and giving me the willies at the same time. So needless to say, I was waiting impatiently for Ash to appear in the console realm. THQ brings us a two disc undead adventure which takes place after Army of Darkness, but begins in the quaint little shack in the woods that we all know and love. Ash has been plagued with nightmares which have affected his job at S-Mart, so he and his girlfriend Jenny (the S-Mart assistant manager of Arts & Crafts) have decided to return to Knowby’s cabin to confront his fears. Unfortunately, the evil has returned, Jenny is possessed by evil spirits, and the pages of the Necronomicon are scattered to the four winds. Ash must once again strap on his chainsaw and do battle to win back his girl and save the universe.

psx_s13-01.jpg (3780 bytes)To those of us who have followed the series, the plot is extremely familiar (although it does give us an unexpected twist) and in a way it’s nice to be able to inhabit Ash during these adventures. However, most of the uniqueness of this game comes from the new enemies and the specifics of how the story unfolds. Altogether, the chance to be a part of this world is the main appeal to a Resident Evil style game, and for those of us who are diehard Dead fans, it’s enough to get us excited about playing this specific title. However, nostalgia can only go so far in sustaining the game, and I left this one wishing a wee bit more work had been done on the execution of the gameplay.

psx_s14-01.jpg (3303 bytes)The first element under scrutiny is, as always, the graphics. On the whole, the visuals are marginal, with occasional exceptions. Scenery and objects lacked detail, which often made it impossible to visually distinguish between items you could pick up and use from other items or nearby scenery. The designers therefore had to "cheat" and make the objects glint with light to get your attention. I must add, however, that there were moments that really stood out as well done. One of the best (although this is terribly gruesome to admit) was the skinned human body hanging in the Hellbilly house. If all of the graphics had been given this much attention, the game would be (wonderfully/terribly) lifelike.

psx_s17-01.jpg (3160 bytes)Movement and camera are also problematic. Although Ash pivots, walks, and runs well on his own, interaction with the scenery and topography causes problems. Many of the objects have boundary problems, which makes it seem like tables and chairs have a forcefield surrounding them. It was so frustrating trying to move through a living room where you had to walk an invisible maze to get from point A to B. The rooms and landscapes are also separated into sections that don’t flow easily into one another. This, along with a camera, which was often placed in awkward positions, made navigation difficult. This was the most problematic when you were under attack, and I wanted to scream when the camera backed away during a fight or chose a difficult angle that made it impossible to aim at your opponent or left you unknowingly open to attack.

psx_s20-01.jpg (3146 bytes)The design of the landscape is also a wee bit frustrating. The segments and camera shifts reminded me of the old side-scrollers where you couldn’t see what came next until you made it to the other side of one screen and entered the following one. After two or three screens, the game then needs several seconds to load the next segments. And when the camera insists on focusing on a sideview of Ash (rather than front or rear), navigation was even more problematic. Most of the screens were just chances to get attacked on your way from point A to B instead of having chances to interact with the scenery, and there really wasn’t much choice in what kinds of actions you performed or directions you traveled. I would even have been OK with this in the woods, but Damascus really should have had more options. Although the limited options save time in the long run, they decrease the fun of exploring and discovery.

psx_ss1-01.jpg (4752 bytes)I also had issues with the fact that many of the activities that you had to perform were fairly obvious, but you couldn’t perform them until a predetermined time in the game, even if you had the items which were required. If something works, it should work all the time, rather than at some magical predetermined moment during gameplay. I also object to a Labyrinth which only opens some passages when you have completed objectives. Half the fun of a Labyrinth (as opposed to something like, say, a locked door) is trying to figure out its secrets, and that seems to defeat its purpose. OK, so maybe I’m being petty and whining here, but these are the little things that add up.

psx_ss2-01.jpg (3765 bytes)The game doesn’t seem to have much in the way of replay value, which for me is not uncommon with this type of game. The objectives in the first half of this game took me about an hour each, with required time lengthening as I moved onto the second disc. The objectives were fairly easy to figure out and since the game didn’t really lend itself to distractions of exploring and complicated landscapes, the thing which took the most time was fighting streams of Deadites and a scarcity of save locations and tapes.

psx_ss3-01.jpg (3795 bytes)With all of this negativity, what can I wholeheartedly endorse in this game? Two things immediately come to mind. The sound and music were pretty phenomenal and the sense of humor in this game was superb. The soundtrack was gothic and pulsepounding and never really seemed repetitive or annoying. Sound effects ranged from chilling screams and bone-chilling voices that would do the demon in the Exorcist proud to the humorous quips of our main man, Bruce Campbell himself! I also loved the humor that showed up throughout the game in all of the items you could pick up and in some of the events that occurred. And finally, as an old-school horror buff, I loved the fearless way the game approached some of the gruesome aspects of the evil and undead.

For most regular gamers, this title probably doesn’t hold much appeal. If you’re in that category, you’d probably be just as happy picking up the latest Resident Evil. However, if you’re an Evil Dead fan, this is a fun title to check out. It has tons of problems, but has moments of fun along the way (and a nice twist mid-game) that makes it a fun rental. I can’t say I would purchase this game, but my chainsaw packing hero Ash is enough reason to take a quick trip to the world of the undead.

Monica Hafer

Snapshot

Ups: Awesome story; Bruce Campbell as himself; really nice musical score.

Downs: Control; graphics; level design; gameplay.

System Reqs:
Sony PlayStation

 

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