Infinite Lives

Pity the man with the
red right hand

The great red giant plods through the graveyard, his pixels shifting and
sliding as he methodically paces through the prelude to adventure. This is
Hellboy, demon spawn and dragon of the Apocalypse, brought to earth through
the power of Nazi technology and ancient magic, raised American and bloodied
in dozens of bare-knuckle fights against the agents of darkness, lover of
kittens and pancakes… and he’s slow as molasses. Also, he seems to be
able to move only in straight lines, maneuvering instead like a cheap
bump-’n’-go tank: stop, rotate in place, resume. Hardly the
paranormal ass-kicker we’ve come to love.

But love’s a funny thing, you know? Through its power we are able to
put up with so much, and at that very moment our love of Hellboy—fanned
to new heights by Guillermo del Toro’s wicked film
adaptation—kept us going through his surprisingly lousy PlayStation
game Asylum Seeker. That’s PlayStation One, by the way, though it was
released just last year. (PSOne development licenses are dirt cheap; just ask
Mary-Kate and Ashley.) Your PS2 will play it just fine, but be warned: in the
world of shoddy 3D games, backward compatibility can be a painful curse. Your
eyes and mind, mollycoddled by the polygon-pushing systems of today, may not
be able to deal.

Old-school 3D or no, we pushed on into adventure! Some zombies got in our
way! Hellboy didn’t have his gun at this point (nor did he, or does he
ever, have his coat; it’s nothing but gonch for Big Red this time out!)
and he seemed a bit shy about whipping out his big stone hand in an
anti-zombie capacity. But after a million years of making their one annoying
screaming sound, the zombies had finally had enough of our spastic flailing
and went back to ground. Plod, plod, plod onward. Then we slapped the shit
out of a harpy! Plod, plod, plod….

“Okay, seriously. There has to be a way to make him go faster; this
is excruciating to watch, and your knuckles are turning white from pressing
the pad so hard. Even the worst designers wouldn’t release a game
without a ‘run’ button.”

“I know, but I don’t have the instructions. I tried
double-tapping, I tried every button, I tried… Oh, wait. Hang on. I
didn’t turn on the analog control.”

[Chorus of groans.]

“Sorry. Sorry. I’m so sorry.”

The saddest part of it all isn’t that I played Asylum Seeker for an
hour without actually activating all the controls, though that is sad. The
saddest part is that I was fully prepared to accept the fact that the
game’s designers, given the task of rocking the Hellboy license, could
have been so lame as to force you to walk slo-o-o-o-owly through their
crappy, pseudo-spooky door-and-key puzzle adventure. It’s not because
it’s a PSOne game—I’m no system chauvinist, man—but
because that’s just what happens with licensed properties: with all but
a handful of exceptions, games based on (i.e., cranked out to cash in on)
comics and movies stink up the joint. No running? Sure, why not? It’s
not that much more stupid than the glitchy graphics, retarded fighting
system, chunk-style character models, weak story and dumb puzzles.

I’m not in the business of slagging things, generally. Why bitch
about a crap game when there’s plenty of non-crap games to be praised
and plenty of other issues to discuss? I only bring this up now—I only
took that long walk through that spo-oo-ooky asylum—because the
movie’s making money, the comics are selling pretty hot…
there’s a good chance you’ll spot Asylum Seeker (value-priced, to
be fair) on a shelf or in a cutout bin somewhere and (if you’re a nerd,
and I assume you are, having read so far) be tempted to pick it up in order
to continue the rush of your Hellboy trip. And I want to warn you away. You
will have a boring time. Might I suggest spray-painting a hockey glove red
and pretending to punch down doors instead? V

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