Here he comes, the one and only - Hellboy! Ah, don't get all enthusiastic and start thinking this is some mind-breaking comic-like adventure game. You'll probably spend a single evening on walking through this one. The game is, as you might already know, a conversion of Mike Mignola's Dark Horse comics (1993), and it introduces the bone-chilling quests of the main character - an ex hell-demon who became a paranormal investigator, dedicating his life to solving mysterious crimes and peculiar mythological puzzles. Developed by Dark Horse Interactive, Hellboy: Dogs of the Night takes you through the world of ancient graveyards and dark dungeons, which withhold all sorts of secrets and riddles to be revealed.
The plot is very similar to Mignola's stories: one of your fellow agents went sightseeing somewhere in the backwoods of Czechoslovakia and has mysteriously disappeared. He was last reported scouting on an ancient graveyard. You're sent to find him and discover what it was that he stumbled on to... Shortly after your journey begins, you find yourself in the middle of a very interesting plot; which unfortunately soon comes to its premature end. Just when you start enjoying the new weapons and enemies the whole game simply ends. With only six episodes and very few locations Hellboy: Dogs of the Night is really not something that you should add to your game collection...
OK, so where do I start? The thing I found most irritating (it seems trivial, but it's really irritating as hell, 'cause you have to deal with it throughout the game - notice how I use the word 'hell' very often in this review), was the frustrating control of your handgun (and believe me you're going to need it, a lot). Firing at the enemy triggers a very confusing camera angle, which makes aiming extremely difficult. Another drawback is that there are no energy or health readouts for the opponents you encounter. So you'll frequently be shooting like crazy and wasting your precious ammo, not being able to aim properly and not knowing if you damaged or even scratched the enemy. And speaking of weapons, I have to mention that you'll be able to gather a simple, but interesting collection of arms. For example, if you are short of weapons you can sometimes use surrounding objects against the brutes. This was rather original, but it hadn't been used too much. Besides the gun, you will often have to use your gigantic bone-crushing fist. And with that annoying gun-aiming aspect, the fists proved to be much more effective than bullets (making gameplay really nerve-shattering at times). I guarantee you that the only thing you will enjoy using is the magic wand, and just when you get the hang of it, your little journey will abruptly end.
Your character's moves may sometimes seem poor. Crouching, jumping, and crawling have all been left out for some reason. On the other hand, controlling Hellboy won't be too difficult to grasp as it comes down to walking, running, and punching innocent little beasts. Going from one location to another is reminded me of the Resident Evil series.
The user interface is small and intuitive, granting you quick access to any object you may be carrying. Using items from the inventory is as simple as it gets. You can browse the inventory during gameplay without any annoying pop-up windows that fill the entire screen and slow the game down. Proper function of certain items may not appear to be logical at first. However, I've almost instantly gathered that solving the problems is really childishly simple. Generally, the game has easy-solving tasks and doesn't require any particular brain involvement.
Hellboy alo features some humorous moments. In the library, for instance, you're going to come across a few interesting titles like 'Inquisition for Dummies' or 'The Politics of Torture' etc. The humorous details could have been used more often in the game, in order to avoid monotony. The main character has a unique and cool personality, which gives the player an uncontrollable impulse to become part of the whole story. If the developers concentrated a bit more on emphasizing these aspects, as well as game length, Hellboy: Dogs of the Night would certainly be a far better game.
The few starting locations in Czechoslovakia look quite disappointing. The impression changes once you plunge deeper into the mystic caves and dungeons. The 3D engine boasts nice frame rates, and some of the interior textures appear very rich. The outdoor environment however, lacks details, especially background objects, plants, and similar elements. As for the model animations, they're generally not too bad, with the possible exception of the main character model (ironically enough). To begin with, I was pondering for quite a while who Hellboy reminded me of; I couldn't put my finger on it, I guess that it was a symbiosis of a poor image of Diablo and Michelangelo's David. Some of the monsters appear much more lifelike and believable than Hellboy himself. Do not get me wrong; Mike's image of Hellboy looks great. The way he looks in the game lead me to believe he is not Hellboy, but some poor red-skinned sap with an attitude. Anyway if we're to narrow it down just to the character modeling, then we wouldn't come up with a particularly high score.
Games that mix the adventure and action genre often fail to produce an interesting and lasting appeal as the adventure aspect longs for more puzzles, and the action part definitely requires more weapons and character moves. And I must say I expected much more from the first computer rendition of a famous comic character like Hellboy. All I can say is Hellboy: Dogs of the Night calls for more features and some graphic enhancements.
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