Welcome to Hell. May I take your coat?
Welcome to hell... where all of your nightmares come to light. Dark alleys, twisted labyrinths and fiery caverns set the stage for some of the most chaotic clashes of evil vs. evil to date. The demon lord Malebolgia must be of Roman descent, because bloodshed is what floats his boat. He derives pleasure from sensing the tension of two warriors in a battle to the death, and nothing could be more relaxing to him than watching the blood of a slain combatant run green in the gutters of his arena.
Indeed, the world of Spawn is a violent, gruesome pit where you can almost smell the remains of hundreds of years of carnage, and somehow you must prove to be the victor. The comics have helped make Todd McFarlane one rich geek, but the video games have served only to piss off gamers. The latest effort, Spawn: In the Demon's Hand, is a step in the right direction...though still only a step.
Along the lines of Playstation games like Ehrgeiz and Destrega, Spawn: In The Demon's Hand is a free-roaming fighter. Each round takes place in various arenas, and each arena contains several rooms or areas. Players are free to roam from room to room, beating the heck out of each other. It's like one giant frat party of the damned!
Each character has different abilities such as projectile weapons, double jump and second forms. However, character abilities seem a little unbalanced. The buff characters are really buff, and the weaker characters are pretty weak. There just doesn't seem to be as many complimentary abilities as there should be. There are power-ups scattered throughout the levels, most of which can be found by smashing open crates (you mean "hell crates." - Ed.) The power-ups increase abilities such as Speed, Defense, and Offense, but not enough to balance the scales.
The control is intuitive, making slaughtering second nature. There are a few basic moves that apply to all characters - shoot, jump, and change weapon; the others fall right into place in the button layout. The only thing that is awkward is dodge/roll, which requires a combination of one button and two taps on the D-pad. I'm sorry, but if I gotta dodge, I don't have time to think about how.
A game this action-oriented needs a consistent camera, or you lose valuable lives to cheap shots. Well, welcome to cheapsville, because the camera is aggravating. It bounces back and forth from just the right spot to "damn, where in Jeebus' name did that come from!" You can reposition the camera to directly behind you when it strays, but usually by the time you do it's too late. This can be more than a minor setback, and it's definitely annoying.
Graphically, Spawn is nice and clean. The textures are crisp and detailed, and the characters animate well. The levels feel gritty and appropriately covey the world of Todd McFarlane's imagination. There are even options for turning on and off elements like fog or 'night fight', so the levels don't need to get redundant.
Arcade mode is broken into three categories: Boss Attack, Team Battle and Battle Royal. The Battle modes allow for up to 4 players, and are basically fights to the death, either teaming up or every man for himself.
Boss Attack mode is where the extra characters and weapons are earned. There is a series of battles against some pretty formidable opponents; namely, huge freaking monsters from the world of Spawn. You will fight against Violator, Vindicator, Vacillator, Cy-Gor, and tons more names that end in "or." You, or you and a buddy, either human or AI, go in and defeat these demons one at a time until the coup de gras with Malebolgia. Beat him and earn a new playable character.
Tournament mode is basically just practice sessions for the battle modes. The tournaments are for one player only with AI teammates.
The fight can get pretty hectic pretty fast, as there can be as many as four players battling against each other in a variety of teams or joining forces to tackle some pretty serious bosses. In this sense, Spawn: In The Demon's Hand is chaos at its finest, offering a new twist on an old genre. However, the camera problems and bad play balance hold it back from the hellish glory it strives for.