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Malice PlayStation 2

Published by Evolved Games
Developed by Argonaut Games PLC.
Released - Out Now
Price : £19.99

Here's a turn up for the books. If you would have told me around 3 years ago that the console I would have been playing Malice on first of all would have been the PlayStation 2, then I would have thought you were silly. It was after all one of a few titles that were used to show what the Xbox could do. However the road to release has been a bumpy one for Malice and for one reason or another we now have the game released on PlayStation 2 first.

The game begins with Malice, that's the name of the girl you control, being chased and eventually coming face to face with the evil Dog God. It's not a meeting that lasts long and with a quick snap of the huge Dog God's jaw, Malice is beheaded. That's not the end of Malice though as instead of remaining dead, she's given another head and a chance to exact revenge on Dog God. She visits the Orrery, which is the clockwork heart of the universe, and is soon given the task of recovering all of the logic keys that Dog God has stolen. She will have to fight her way through a variety of levels that contain various enemies and puzzles in order to recover the logic keys. There are 7 different bosses to battle before she'll have the final task of finishing Dog God off for good.

In order to defeat the many enemies that await her Malice will have access to a variety of weapons and will also obtain special abilities along the way. Malice begins with the Mace of Clubs and eventually gains the Clockwork Hammer with which to splat her enemies. She'll also gain abilities such as the ability to temporarily float in mid-air and the ability to speed around her enemies. Malice can also collect heart containers and for every 10 she collects an extra life will be earned. Every time an enemy manages to hit Malice she'll lose a life, so an increased number of lives is always welcome. Using special abilities will also use up manna but thankfully Malice can collect manna crystals to help replenish her supply.

Like most Argonaut games Malice has a feel of quality about it. What does work against the appeal of the game though is the difficulty level and the length of the game. First of all the game is just too easy for gamers who have ever played a platform/action type game. We mentioned above about the ability Malice has to earn extra lives but the truth is that most won't need to do this. Many enemies, once slain, will leave hearts that can be collected and these will replenish those that have been lost. The boss battles, which usually provide a challenge in a game of this nature, are just too straightforward and present very little challenge and the same can be said for the Dog God too. The easy nature of the game also means that you're going to be progressing through the game at a fairly quick pace and given that the game is very short, this is bad news. In fact dedicate an afternoon to playing the game and you'll be finished, which is disappointing for a game that many have waited a long time for.

Of course with the game being used to demonstrate the power of the Xbox you would be forgiven for thinking that the PlayStation 2 version is, visually speaking, a downgraded version of the game. I haven't played the Xbox version yet but from what I remember of those technology demos (and comparing the look of the game to the Xbox screen shots) the PlayStation 2 version definitely appears to be the graphically inferior version. The main difference appears to be the loss of detail in the textures and bump mapping. As a PlayStation 2 title though, it looks quite good and compares favourably to other titles of this nature on the console. The game camera is controlled with the right analogue stick and it's quite well behaved throughout the game. The game performs quite smoothly although your jumps seem to be in slow motion, I wonder if this was intentional to make them easier to perform (and given the low challenge in the game this could well be the case).

Malice is OK for deaf gamers but there are omissions and this does take the shine off the game somewhat. Take the introductory cutscene for example. The opening cutscene which sees Malice beheaded by Dog God is not subtitled. However the cutscenes immediately following it are subtitled. Malice will often make comments during the game and these aren't subtitled but they don't really provide any information. All tutorial tips are shown in text and an icon for the triangle button appears whenever a device/item can be used. An R1 icon also appears when an objective is gained and as the icon suggest pressing the R1 button will allow you to see your objectives. Before you fight a boss you are told how to defeat him in text, which is good although this is also another aspect that makes the game even easier and therefore shorter. All in all the game is quite good for deaf gamers but it's a shame that it's not fully subtitled.

A game that seemingly takes forever to be released is almost always a disaster however that's not the case with Malice. In fact the only real sticking points with the game are that it's too easy to anyone who is comfortable with these kind of games and that it's too short. Thankfully the game is sensibly priced at just £19.99 but if you're the kind of person who likes to play a game for a few hours at a time then you'll be through the game in, at most, a couple of sittings. With this in mind it might be better as a rental for gamers such as this. Still what's there is good and enjoyable but it's just a shame that it wasn't at least twice as long.

Overall Game Rating: 7.0/10
Malice is actually a very enjoyable game but it's just too easy and the game is far too short. However the sensible price tag of £19.99 compensates somewhat for this.

Deaf Gamers comment:
Not fully subtitled but it's possible for deaf gamers to enjoy Malice.