Format: PS Vita
Publisher: Square Enix
Imagine if Nintendo’s Pikmin met the devil, liked the temperature down in hell and decided to pit their considerable strength in numbers to helping Satan put down his enemies; if you did you wouldn’t be too far from envisioning Army Corps of Hell.
Quite why the devil isn’t in sole charge of the seven circles is never really explained, what the story does flesh out however is Beelzebub’s continuing campaign to regain both dominion of the underworld and his powers with the help of his goblin forces.
Said goblins come in three flavours (soldier, spear and magi) each following the devil as he charges about hell. Soldiers are your bread and butter, equipped with sword and shield and eager to be hurled onto the backs of the many hideous beasts of hell.
Spear wielders meanwhile can be sent charging over long distances in a lance-like formation – perfect for rapidly tackling far off foes – while finally, magi goblins can unleash bullet-like spells whose effects – fire, lightening, etc. – vary depending on the type of magical staff equipped.
In fairness Entersphere’s real-time strategy doesn’t entirely mimic the gameplay of Pikmin, ACoH’s goblins are of an all together more violent nature, befitting a force commanded by the devil himself. As such their idea of dispatching a foe is to make the ordeal as bloody as possible – ‘Overkill’ points being rewarded when a surplus of goblins are used to hack your hapless prey to death.
On the field tactics come via formations unique to each goblin type. Select your soldiers and they’ll circle around you, allowing you to throw two at a time on to your enemies. Spear goblins as mentioned form into a lance to charge over distances or down narrow paths, and magi come with a fast-moving square line-up, so enabling them to side-step incoming attacks while charging up their magical bolts.
Meanwhile, resource management owes more to Patapon than Pikmin, as the various spoils (mainly the cleft body parts of monsters) collected during levels are totted up to be spent on new weapons, armour and items via the devil’s continually expanding repertoire of alchemy skills. It’s also possible to go to previous stages to collect rarer items for more exclusive creations.
So far, so good, however ACoH does begin to come a tad unstuck when you examine the games presentation. You can forgive a certain roughness in a launch title, but menus, stage select screen and the alchemy area leave much to be desired and offer nothing by way of creativeness.
Ditto the graphics which look PSP quality at best, so much so in fact that you’re left to wonder whether the game was originally created for the Vita’s forebear. Where’s the gothic architecture of hell, the tortured souls, the rivers of blood? Instead we’re left with stages which invariably offer muddy squares upon which you must destroy every monster before a bridge appears and links to the next muddy square.
Despite the criticism however ACoH does somehow manage to remain immense fun. Enemies, though not found in a huge range of types, throw up just enough surprises to keep you interested, while the aforementioned muddy squares feature just enough obstacles – electric fences, lava traps – to maintain the attention.
Boss fights however remain the game’s best reason for progression, the site of your army of goblins up against the major demons and dragons of hell never anything less than fun, while most pose a serious threat to the player’s devil with their range of attacks.
A mixed bag then all in all, if this were a PSP title then praise for an interesting, original and genuinely fun game would be being lavished. That it’s actually a Vita game however does tend to make us question the design choices taken – as does the heavy metal score (unless you’re into that type of thing). One to consider if you’re looking for something a little different, but here’s hoping any potential sequel offers a more developed package.