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SummaryA simple, yet fun action game coupled with light puzzles and a sharp sense of humour.
The GoodThe iconic Bruce Campbell returns again in the flesh, um, er . . sorry, I meant to say texture-mapped polygons, with accompanying voice over track - as Ash, as he again puts yet another wave of deadites on the receiving end of his trusty chainsaw, in this latest video game outing.
It must be said, the previous two entries from the THQ stable were hardly anything to write home about, and that’s why I was quite surprised to find Regeneration was actually better than I had anticipated. It is easily the strongest game entry in the series thus far. It was kind of like having a coffee from a vending machine, and discovering it actually tasted like coffee, and not dirty dishwater.
In the past, the Evil Dead games have traditionally leaned toward Alone in The Dark/Resident Evil style play formula, though quite notably lacking the freshness, polish and overall strong design of the aforesaid games. With Regeneration, this mind set has been entirely scrapped in favour of a more straightforward approach. Instead, opting for a combination of arcade style hack n’ shoot action, also with platform elements, and some light puzzle solving, which proves a step, or perhaps more aptly several steps, in the right direction - as I’ll expand later.
The game sets the tone from the start by opening up proceedings in the old cabin in the woods, where you can get to grips comfortably with the basics, by carving up a few deadites. The games’ premise is actually meant to be sort of an alternate sequel to the events from the ‘Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn’ movie, where instead of Ash being sent through time to the medieval era, instead he is convicted of murder after the gory events that took place at the cabin is interpreted by the court as simply a mass killing spree, he is then sentenced to be institutionalised.
Now Ash finds himself in the Sunny Meadows asylum for the criminally insane, whilst the resident Doctor Reinhard has gotten hold of the Necronomicon Ex Mortis (The book of the dead) and is using it for all kinds of diabolical experiments in the basement, and has managed to unleash the evil again, so it’s up to Ash to put things right as only he can, . . though with a little help this time around.
I did say little, Ash is teamed up with a knee-high half deadite half human midget called Sam (one of Reinhard’s experiments) - who favourably adds the contrast to the game-play. Sam follows Ash everywhere, and even pulls his own weight by fighting with the deadites alongside you. Sam also proves to be an effective weapon - you can kick him onto deadites and he will pluck off their heads, or else leave them vulnerable for you to polish them off. Sometimes puzzles’ requiring Sam is also presented, where by he can get booted to high places Ash can’t go. Sam can be killed, but he always comes back again. Hence the subtitle of the game, Regeneration. Clever eh, er, . . okay, very droll.
The combat side of Ash’s exploits is amicably very simple, yet remains suitably gratifying - you will dual-wield two weapons at once, e.g. the classic chainsaw & shotgun duo, and can perform a variety of attack combos simply with a series of mouse clicks. Something interesting here is you no longer have to collect ammo for your weapons. Rather, it is quite refreshingly infinite.
During the course of the game, Ash comes into different hardware to play with; Particularly entertaining is a multipurpose harpoon gun, which can be used to snag the enemies, and draw them back for an up close and personal finishing blast. When the deadites are softened up, they will start emanating a glowing green gas, cuing you to perform a finishing blow. These finishing moves are like a vigorous chainsaw blow to the chest, or the SO chic over the shoulder shotgun blast. These are like mini cut-scenes, where the pace goes into dramatic slow motion, and are fun to watch.
Similar in fashion to The Suffering, Ash has a rage-metre - which can be built up through collecting deadites mana essence, which they leave behind after being dispatched. When Ash’s rage gauge is full, he can turn into ‘Evil Ash’, which will make your attacks much stronger for a limited time. This is at no time necessary to progress, yet still adds a little extra variety to the play.
On a regular basis Ash’s progression is halted by some kind of obstruction. Ash has the ability to ‘possess’ Sam at these points. Usually when playing as Sam, you will have to find some small opening to crawl through, and then find a means of opening up a path for Ash. During these sequences, Sam still has to contend with deadites, though notably fewer. At times there will be a huge deadite. In this instance, Sam can jump on the monsters’ head, and literally control the rampaging beast, in order to smash open a new area. These frenetic moments proved to be quite entertaining.
Just for some added exploration incentive, you can find notes to collect scattered throughout the game world. These will unlock extras like video interviews with Campbell and Raimi.
There is a handful of suitably ‘classic’ Guardian battles along the way. These sections remind one of like-minded encounters on some old NES platform game. You know the drill - learn the bosses attack patterns, and never relent on your trigger finger.
What I liked most about this game is the fun repartee between Ash and Sam. Throughout the game, Sam chatters nonstop, and Ash always has some wisecrack to dispense. Of course, some of the speech gets quite repetitive. But I really didn’t mind for this game. The lines are often genuinely funny, and the readings are simply superb.
The BadThe platform sections don’t come off strongly. This is because Ash’s jumping is rather rigid and stiff. So this often results in Ash plummeting. But the flip side of this is, Ash simply climbs back up, and you can try again straight away.
In terms of visuals, Regeneration looks as if it could have come out five years earlier. And yes, the game originated on the PS-2. Of course, on the PC you can run it on higher resolutions, but this only makes so much difference. The set pieces presented are often quite dull, with not much going on. The deadites you face are fairly detailed, and don’t look bad by any means. Though there is nothing here which is going to grab your attention in a huge way.
The overall game-play is very methodical. And once you are familiar with all the routines, there really isn’t any extra depth to it. On top of this, the game only offers about seven or eight hours of play.
The Bottom LineIt seems what THQ/Cranky Pants set out to achieve with Regeneration was to simply get back to basics, and cut out most of the tedious and frustrating elements which plagued the previous games’ in the series. Of course the downside to this simplification of the play formula is that the game is perhaps just too easy. That said, for the (albeit short) time Regeneration lasted, I had trouble putting it down, and it grew on me in a big way.
My final words are, if you’re looking for a serious challenge, then give this one a miss. But, if you don’t mind a bit of mindless hack n’ blast em’ up action with some generous dashes of puzzles & humour, I think you can have some fun with this.