When Microsoft’s Xbox was released, it arrived with a list of launch titles that were supposed to come out for the new console – and one of those games was Malice. Well, it got stuck in development limbo for many years before publisher Mud Duck finally picked it up. Now, suddenly, and as if from nowhere, it’s on store shelves all across America.
Many gamers were looking forward to the day when Malice received its release; after all, it has a female lead character – which is great – but, unfortunately, the game falls someway short of all our expectations.
Don’t Lose Your Head
When the game begins it lets you in on what’s been going on, story wise. Apparently brave Malice was battling the evil Dog God when she suffered an untimely demise by having her head bitten off. When she arrives in the afterlife she meets Death, who explains to her that she is a Goddess and that Goddesses simply cannot be in the afterlife. So she is then sent on to some type of ethereal limbo where she meets what seems to be a large clock with various mechanical abilities. Subsequently, the clock sends her on a quest for eight keys. As she collects said keys she will acquire different hammer weapons and special powers that can be used to fight the bad guys. Incidentally, if the story seems somewhat confusing, please don’t be alarmed; having played through Malice I can honestly say that I have little or no grasp as to why I’m gathering keys or collecting new hammers. The story is so poorly constructed and confusing that it offers little motivation to even continue playing the game.
Don’t Fall Asleep
When you first fight the Crows (and there’s no explanation for why you’re fighting them in the first place), you’ll find that they are beaten incredibly easily. You can pretty much stand in one place, wait for them to run at you, and then just keep swinging your hammer until they’re all dead. However, later in the game they acquire guns, which do prove a little more difficult to dodge; though you’ll eventually acquire a power-up that allows you to evade gunfire. Should Malice fall in battle she’ll be returned to the afterlife, where she’ll talk with Death again, and then be sent back to the fray – getting hit too many times will cause her to actually die (no transitional limbo) and, at that point, it’s game over. Malice has three basic moves, as well as some power moves that she adopts later on in the game. The main moves are: jumping, or double jumping; hitting things with a hammer, or power hitting with a hammer. As Malice traverses through each level she’ll gain power-ups from various NPCs. You, as the player, will have to use those power-ups to get past the level bosses, which prove to be the only slight challenge this game has to offer – aside from staying awake while you play it (Ouch! Ed). It doesn’t take long to grow accustomed to their patterns, defeat them, and claim your ?end of level’ prize.
Don’t Be Fooled By Gloss
While playing through Malice you’ll get to experience some poor looking characters, which don’t seem like they were given enough life and personality to even warrant being in the game. They don’t move much and they’re not very smart, either. There’s one particular level that was a mostly metal environment and proved to be somewhat entertaining, its backgrounds were exceptionally shiny and reflective; all in all it looked very impressive. However, character animations are very poor throughout; you’ll be lucky if anyone’s lips move when they talk and, at times, characters have no motion at all while they’re conversing. I can accept this graphical oversight when I’m talking to the clock, or a tree, but not when I’m talking to people I meet. The game’s cut scenes look satisfactory and they have a definite cartoon feel, but, to be frank, I had no idea what was going on during them because the storyline is so confusing. If the backgrounds look better than your central character then you’re doing something wrong and need to correct it. Just for developer Argonaut’s future reference.
Don’t Sound Satisfied
Even the sound in Malice is way under par. It isn’t really entertaining to listen to and not particularly innovative or exciting, either. Granted, it does get the job done but, when utilizing in-game sound, the developers really should be expected to make full use of it. Arbitrarily throwing whatever’s to hand into a game when the opportunity exists to produce something innovative is unforgivable. It’s tragic when a good opportunity goes to waste, and Malice is a good example of it in action. The sound effects are poor and so is the music; when we actually hear the music it’s nothing awe inspiring and, in fact, rather boring.
Don’t Pay The Price For Bad Judgement
The relative non-existent challenge and replay of this game leave me with no alternative but to not recommend it. If you have your heart set on seeing (or playing as) a girl who wields a big hammer then rent it, you’ll probably be able to beat Malice in about six hours anyway. I know it has a slightly reduced price tag of $29.99USD, but I’d still advise a five dollar rental. After you finish the game, you’ll have no reason to revisit the dull and boring lands you’ve just finished trudging through. Malice’s low challenge factor may be acceptable for young children, but the game is rated ?T’ for Teen. I have no idea why – except maybe because the main character gets her head bitten off and is a little sassy, but those facts aside the game is extremely tame for a teen title.
This is a prime example of a game that I wanted to be good but was simply so bad that I couldn’t stand it; it was certainly a waste considering all that Malice went through in order to finally get published. This game should be buried in the desert, along with the ET games that hurt the Atari so badly. And, Argonaut, please don’t make a sequel unless you’re willing to direct appropriate time, care, and attention toward it. I don’t think I need to plead here, though, I’m sure Malice’s sales figures will speak for themselves.