Thursday, 8 October 2015

Gruesome Games III - Evil Dead Special (No.28 - No.25)

Animation by Gary 'Army Of Trolls' Lucken

I'm a bit later than I anticipated with this post , but I'm sure by the end of it you'll see why! ;)

I first saw Evil Dead 2 at about the age of 10, on a loaned pirate VHS from one of our neighbours.. It wasn't my first horror film...I'd been watching old horror triple bills, 50s sci-fi and other random things that had made it on to TV for years...but it quickly became my favourite. Its mix of humour, silliness, gore and proper outright freakiness just seemed to click with me. The fact that the neighbour who lent us the VHS looked slightly like Bruce Campbell in my eyes, and lived at the end of our row of cottages just across from the biggest, oldest tree in the area, helped make the experience even scarier when my brother and I went to return the tape...


Eventually I saw the original Evil Dead, which was even scarier despite having plasticine entrails and things wriggling around the place...and I waited patiently for a new sequel. Then Army Of Darkness appeared, and was disappointingly more fantasy orientated, but still had enough charm and groovy-ness to make me want more of Ashley J. Williams adventures against the Deadite hordes....


Of course, if you're a fan of the Evil Dead series, you'll know that we've been waiting for more adventures on film ever since, and that until the reboot and soon to be screened Ash Vs The Evil Dead TV series, the only way we could get our Deadite dose was by playing the severed-handful of Evil Dead video games.. (Well, apart from the comics, T-shirts, books, references in other films, tv shows, etc....look, just go with me on this, okay?)..




No.28 - The Evil Dead (C64 / ZX Spectrum / BBC) ~


The first of these video games was based on the original film, and appeared way back in 1984 on Speccy, Commodore 64 and BBC Micro. The Speccy version never actually got a proper release, coming instead as an added extra on the B-side of another Palace Software game, Cauldron.... 



Playing as Ash, you've got to run around the cabin in a top-down view, closing all the doors to keep the Deadites at bay and picking up any weapons you can find lying around. If the main Evil baddie gets in, it can possess one of your friends turning them into an enemy you'll need to defeat as well! If it touches you, it's instant death...

After you've fought through loads of baddies and slammed lots of doors, the Necronomicon will appear (see pic below) and you'll need to grab that, take it to the fire in the first room and fling it in! This supposedly stops the craziness, but all it actually does is  give you more points and the game continues exactly as before...


There's really not too much to this tricky little game other than that, and although fun for about 3 minutes, it's a bit boring and difficult to spend very much time playing. Of the two versions I played, the C64 is slightly better than the Speccy effort, but none can really be recommended. A disappointing start to the Evil Dead's videogames....








No. 27 - Evil Dead - Hail To The King (PS1) ~


It took 16 years for the next Evil Dead game to show up, with this one being a sequel to the movies! Taking place 8 years after the events of Army of Darkness, Ash is settling back into life reasonably well...he's got a new girlfriend, Jenny, and is back working at his job in the S-Mart. However, Ash is plagued by recurring nightmares of his previous run-ins with the Deadite hordes, and Jenny decides to try and help him by taking him back the cabin in the woods where it all started.....



This of course, is a bad idea...but Ash has never been known for his cleverness, and so they make the journey to Professor Knowby's cabin. Once there, Ash meets up with someone he used to be very, very close to indeed...his self-severed, demonically-possessed hand! It flicks on the old tape of Knowby's incantations, and before Ash can stop it, the ancient evil is back with a vengeance and wastes no time in kidnapping Jenny! Grabbing an axe, Ash is suddenly attacked by his evil twin from the mirror and falls into unconciousness...


And so when he wakes up, control is passed over to you as you search the cabin for Professor Knowby's notes, in the hope that they'll be able to help you stop the big bad and rescue Jenny! And it's here that your hopes of getting a decent game quickly disappear. Clearly inspired by Resident Evil, Hail To The King manages to completely ruin what could have been a great game with messy graphics and irritating combat.


There's just too many enemies, they respawn in seconds after you kill them and the controls are far too awkward to fight them effectively, so you end up getting frustrated very quickly. Quotes from Ash, voiced by Bruce Campbell himself, are wasted as you end up hearing them too often....mainly because the game awards you extra items from chainsaw kills where a quote has been uttered before you slay the enemy, and you'll be losing so much energy that you're pretty much forced to try and get those extra items by using this kill/quote feature!


It's a shame, as once you get a bit further in to the game, the exploration becomes a bit more fun, and the plot twists of the story make things interesting.....but you need to battle with the never-ending deadites and the broken controls to see the okay stuff, and all it is is just okay so it's not really worth the hassle...

I did complete this when I picked it up for my PS1 years ago, but I kind of felt like I'd been through almost as much pain and trauma as Ash would go through in one of the films to see the end of the game. Hail To The King is a  real missed opportunity, and now that you can see the cinematics on Youtube, there's really no point in playing it unless you're a massive fan of the series. Another disappointment!





No. 26 - Evil Dead - Fistful Of Boomstick (PS2) ~


Playing again as Ash, voiced by Mr. Campbell once more of course, you'll battle your way through yet more Deadites in this arcade-adventurey-shooty-shooty-bang-bang-type game, which plays quite a bit better than the previous two...

Ash's girlfriend Jenny from the previous game was apparently killed in a bus crash, and he has apparently spent a lot of time drowning his sorrows in local bars. This is where we find him watching TV at the start of the game, as journalist Trisha Pettywood interviews a Professor Eldridge, who has written a book about the Necronomicon. Somehow, Trisha has also managed to get her hands on the original tapes from the cabin, and to Ash's obviously well-founded horror, starts to play them over the airwaves... 



Obviously things go from bad to worse for our hero, as he sets off once again to try and put things right. Unfortunately, despite this being better than the other games so far, it's still not quite the game Evil Dead fans have been after. Developed by VIS Entertainment, this uses the same engine as their previous game State Of Emergency...an engine that was primarily developed to allow huge numbers of onscreen enemies to appear on screen at once!


And so it's strange that, to begin with at least, the numbers of enemies here are pretty thin. It's not necessarily that bad a thing, as we've seen that too many enemies can ruin a game...but it just seems like the graphics and gameplay could have been improved if it had had its own engine developed.  As it is, it plays like an average hack 'n' slasher with slightly annoying item fetch-questing, and feels like it can't quite make its mind up what type of game to be!


Combat this time is initially a bit more satisfying though!  Ash will deliver his famous quotes and aim over his shoulder to show off his trademark come-get-some shotgun moves, and there are spells you can learn to throw a bit of magic lightning and the like around. Sadly, due to the nature of the game, this gets a bit repetitive after a while too..


I often found myself not knowing where to go too, due to not knowing where to use a specific item. I eventually worked it out, but it's just another part of the design that taints the game. But at least with this one, I can actually recommend playing it if you're an Evil Dead fan, as it is fun to run around as Ash....and if you pick up the original PS2 release you'll get a copy of the Evil Dead II DVD to watch as well...so it does feel like a step in the right direction.It's just that it's still not the best game that an Evil Dead game could be..






No. 25 - Evil Dead Regeneration (Xbox) ~


Disregarding the previous Evil Dead games, and even most of the second and all of the third film, the plot of this game plays as a sort of  'what-if', with Ash getting sent to an Asylum after the events of The Evil Dead... After a brief tutorial section that takes place in the cabin, we learn that Ash's lawyer Sally has just discovered that he has been telling the truth about the horrors he has faced. She found this out by paying a guard to bring her Ash's file from his doctor's office, the file also containing Professor Knowby's notes.... 


Ash realises that these notes were right beside the Necronomicon in the cabin, and wonders why Doctor Reinhard would have them. Meanwhile, Reinhard is in the basement researching the Necronomicon and experimenting with its powers...however, with Knowby's notes missing, he accidentally unleashes the evil back into the world, and it rushes through the asylum possessing people, causing mayhem and luckily, freeing Ash!

Filling Ash's shoes once more, we get to finally play a game that's a pretty good use of the licence! The controls finally feel as they should, and finishing off the enemies with special moves is really enjoyable! Sure, these become repetitive, just as they were in the previous games, but somehow they're nowhere near as annoying.


It's not long until we meet up with one of the results of Reinhard's experiments...a living-dead little person called Sam ( voiced by Ted Raimi ) who as Professor Knowby's spirit tells us is integral to stopping the crazy doctor! As Sam can regenerate, Ash can kick him into mechanisms to open doors, onto enemies backs to control them, or into the many portals that need to be closed in order for Ash to stop Reinhard. He can also be possessed by Ash and used to access areas to small to usually progress through! Naturally Sam isn't a huge fan of this idea, and his complaints help add a little humour to proceedings....

Also helping Ash out this time, is his ability to control when he can turn in to Evil Ash after being possessed by a spirit. This works by killing enemies to fill up a rage meter. Once the meter is full, Ash can bring out the badness in him and go on a rampage until the meter runs dry again.


As you can probably tell, this game just feels more finished and enjoyable than any of the previous Evil Dead games. The only real complaints are that it can be a bit buggy or glitchy every now and then, and that some of the platforming sections could have played a bit better...but all in all, it's not a bad game at all.

Even Bruce Campbell seems more pleased with this game, giving a voice performance that feels a lot more natural than in the other games! So there you go, we finally have an Evil Dead game that although not perfect, manages to at least almost do the series justice!



There's still room for a proper, scary, less humorous take on it though! Oh and there are a couple of other Evil Dead games that I can't comment on as I haven't played them.....

There's the free Army of Darkness Defence for iOS which seems like it might be quite fun...


...and then there's this.....



And then there's other things that aren't official games at all, like my brother's game Dead By Dawn that I reviewed in this previous post..... and then there's things like Duke Nukem.......but I think that's enough to be getting on with for now! So much for my shorter posts this year! Hehehe.......





 Animation at top of page by Army Of Trolls!

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