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Mini Review: Malicious

And now for something a little different! Up until now, my mini reviews have been on boxed titles and I haven’t really done a review for download titles found on XBL or PSN. The reasons are many, like how I often don’t pick them up until much later than release or that, due to their nature, I don’t really have that much to say about them.  Even the best ones, like hard corp: Uprising, tend to fall into either category or both but a few weeks ago, I bought a PSN game which kinda needs to be talked about, mainly because nobody is!! That game is Malicious!

I first learned of the game via some gameplay trailers from youtube. It was released on the Japanese PSN back in 2010 and the trailers gave it an almost Bayonetta like flow to the combat and I was immediately interested.

This was the original launch trailer for the game. But afterwards, we didn’t hear much until late last year when it was announced that the game was to be given a western release. And it arrived earlier this month in the UK!! There is pretty much no story to the game. You are a vessel given a power to defeat a great evil but are told that other beings contain parts of your power and you need to beat them in order to be powerful enough to defeat the big bad! There is a backstory which is contained within the game and it’s loooooooooooooong! When the game itself gives you a bookmark to allow you to come back to reading it later, you know it’s long! It does provide the setting though and also hints at the name of your avatar.

You can choose between a male and female character, though the impact on gameplay is negligible at best. Your character attacks with a mantle around their neck. Initially, only 2 abilities are available. Punch and shot. they’re pretty self explanatory but you get more as you progress. The game starts in a white hub world and gives you access to the first 5 stages and you are able to tackle them in any order you wish, though ones tackled later will be considerably more difficult compared to if you took them on earlier. The stages themselves are rather small and the objective is to take out the boss which appears at the start of the stage. To do so, you are expected to take out the smaller enemies which appear to collect “aura” which can be used to augment your attacks to make them more powerful. Each boss holds a special ability which is passed onto you once you defeat them. For instance, one boss wields a sword and defeating her allows you to change your mantle to a similar sword which allows for wide, powerful but slow attacks.

There’s no lifebar as such in the game either. Instead, when you take sufficient damage, the screen flashes red and your character loses a limb. If you lose 4, then you go into a “sudden death” like state. Limbs can be restored by using aura and the more limbs you need to repair, the more it costs. Sadly, you can’t restore 1 at a time so if you lose 2 or 3 and don’t have enough aura to restore them all in 1 go, you aren’t able to!

That’s pretty much the game in a nutshell. So, how well does it play?

LOVED

  • Beautiful to look at – for a downloadable game, it looks really stunning. This isn’t the kind of art-y “look at me” style of limbo but genuine “this could pass off as a boxed title” beautiful!
  • surprisingly deep – despite only having a rather limited set of moves, even after you unlock them all, the game still has a lot of depth and allows you to combo attacks surprisingly easily
  • Instant gratification – by making the stages somewhat small and showing the boss off straight away, you get right to the thick of things and take things on with aplomb from the offset!

HATED

  • Ridiculous difficulty spikes – Some of the stages are just insane. I did the red queen last and she was bale to completely destroy my character with a handful of moves if I was not careful. None of the other bosses came close to that level of power, save for the final one.
  • Really crap camera – Remember how crap the camera was in ninja gaiden? Yeah, this one is at that level. It easily gets stuck around corners, locks onto the wrong enemy and can leave you totally blind in certain moments.
  • Story? What story?? – For all the effort the makers went to in order to establish a setting and story in the prologue, it means jack shit when you actually start playing!
  • Really short – With only 6 stages available and each one taking an average of 30 minutes for me on my first run, that doesn’t add up to much gameplay time, but what it does provide is fantastic!
  • Lives? in 2012?? The game provides you with 3 lives at the start of the game which allows you to continue exactly where you left off when you die to make things easier for you but there’s no way to gain any more so if you use them frivolously at the start of the game, you’ll end up in great difficulty on later stages. But if you don’t use them, you have to start the stage you’re on from the beginning. And just in case you didn’t get this from the description, that’s 3 lives for the WHOLE GAME! if you find youself stuck on a later stage and have no lives left, you have 2 choices, get a lot better so you can complete the stage (and subsequent ones) on 1 life or start from the beginning…

With its emphasis on boss fights and short stages, Malicious reminds me of Alien Soldier, a treasure game for the Mega drive/Genesis which was basically nothing but boss fights! Malicious isn’t terribly long but it’s wonderful to play while it lasts and you can’t really argue with the pricetag of a mere £7. The game was able to distract me from Catherine until I managed to complete it, and that says something (not sure what though, as I can’t say I was a fan of Catherine. I’ll probably post my thoughts on that game soon). There’s also a vita version in the works. If that gets a UK release, I’ll be sure to get that too since my purchase of a Vita is pretty much a forgone conclusion. It’s just a matter of when! This is definitely one PSN title which deserves more exposure than it has been getting and a genuine but pleasant surprise! Just go play it!!

  • subaruhess

    Agreed with most of your points by my main gripe is the lack of a practice mode (remember bayonetta) and the in game manual is just too vague and doesn’t properly explain the combo system. Also when fighting the bosses it doesn’t throw any hint on how to attack them or what their weak points are, considering your up against a time limit if you what a good score!

  • http://lookingglass.kokidokom.net gundamjehutykai

    I ended up practicing my moves in the hub area. It was kinda limiting since I think you need enemies to hit in order to get the combos flowing properly but it gave me some familiarity with the moves. I do agree about the poor explaination of the combo system. but aside from the red queen, I didn’t really have any problems with the bosses. I just double tapped the target button to lock onto the boss and where it landed was usually the weakpoint so I just wailed on it, usually with my fists after charging up my aura attacks. It wasn’t the cleanest way to win, but I did manage to get a B on my first try against the courtyard Golem. Probably could have gotten an A but I messed up near the end and died. The only 2 I thought were bitches were the flying one (who kept running away) and the red queen…

  • subaruhess

    I found the Red Queen easy to beat but I must admit it did take me a couple hours to figure out her attack pattern & how to damage her plus the shield, lance & fist upgrades helped me the most.

  • http://lookingglass.kokidokom.net gundamjehutykai

    Really? I had a bitch of a time beating her. Would never have done it without the shield and fist upgrades, but can you blame me when I would die almost instantly when she reached mode 2 and I got caught with her spike move from the ground? If she caught me with that, she would just juggle me until I died!

    And those damn exploding balls which threw you across the map and followed you everywhere…

  • subaruhess

    I used the lance upgrade which can damage her through her guard, and once I had enough aura I would attack her with a charged attack which would take a good chunk of her life away & destroy the soldiers around me charging up my aura. Then I would immediately activate the shield to block her spikes & energy attacks, rinse & repeat I ended up with an A rank.

  • http://lookingglass.kokidokom.net gundamjehutykai

    Impressive. I used the lance during her stage 1 but when she started firing those balls around, I couldn’t use them because I was more likely to crash in to them or get too close and get blown away. Either that or she would stop my lance attack dead and I’d have to fight my way out into space…