Malicious Review

By Shawn Collier on August 27, 2012

Upon hearing of a game with the title of Malicious, the first thought for most would either be a horror game or a action brawler - in this case, it's the latter. The title would probably lend itself to difficult, yet rewarding gameplay, which is true. The issue with this type of gameplay is that is always falls into being too complex for its own good or allowing the player to excel once its intricacies have been mastered. With its $10 price point on PSN, is it worth your money? That depends on your skills level.

Malicious revolves around a male or female entity known a Spirit Vessel. The game doesn't explain much of the reason as to why they have been called from the outset, instead relegating the story to text-based screens in the game's menu, so it can instead focus on the core gameplay. Imagine a Mega Man game with only the boss fights and tons of helper enemies and you'll get a good idea as to how Malicious works. Similar to Mega Man, you can pick from any of the bosses as you desire in whatever order you want. If you successfully beat the boss you will obtain new powers and weapons which can be used against the next boss to make things easier.

That isn't to say Malicious ever becomes a cakewalk, though. Malicious's gameplay is centered around third-person combat which pits you against a central boss and a never-ending stream of lesser enemies. Most of the bosses can deal damage hard and quickly, so the purpose of the lesser enemies is to build up your aura which builds up your special attacks and abilities and also lets you heal yourself at the risk of being defenseless during the healing's duration. Each battle lasts up to 30 minutes, so unless you are a pro and can take down the boss in record time you'll need to fully grasp the mechanics of the game.

One fault for most players with this requirement is that Malicious doesn't really do a great job at explaining any of the mechanics to the player. Instead of a brief tutorial at the start of the game and after every new ability is unlocked, the game puts everything, including yet-to-be-unlocked abilities, in the dialogue of one of the NPCs present in the game's hub area accompanied by some grating fake voice sounds. If you read through this dialogue it does a great job at explaining things, but players shouldn't have to wade through this in this day and age.

In addition, the camera system has its own share of issues. Part of the gameplay mechanics require the player to lock onto enemies to defeat them in succession and boost the combo counter. The issue is that this mechanic wildly moves the camera around and gets quickly disorienting when you also are having to keep track of where other waves of enemies and the boss are located so you don't get hit with massive damage. The manual camera controls, however, work quite well in practice. It's quite odd how schizophrenic it is between the two modes and makes you wonder what caused such a rift between the two.

If you can overlook these faults, however, you will find a rewarding game hidden underneath. The graphics, while slightly dated, are complimented by some pretty color palettes and designs and the soundtrack has a unique ephemeral quality to it. And control issues aside, the Shadow of the Colossus-style battles are quite fun once you master the game's intricate but responsive controls. In addition, after beating the game a number of modes open up, which includes unlockables such as "free play" (where you can re-fight bosses at your leisure), "time attack" and "score attack". These modes also include an online leaderboard.

Final Thoughts

Malicious is one of those titles that separates the interested from the hardcore. Most casual players won't have the time to master the good aspects of the controls and manage the bad aspects in tandem to get to the eventual reward that lies once both are successfully completed in tandem. If this sounds like your type of challenge you'll enjoy every minute of it, but for everyone else the title should stand as a warning that this might not be your cup of tea.

If you can master the good and the bad aspects you'll love the this game's fluidity.
A unique art style.
Old-school Mega Man fans should relish this game.
If you aren't hardcore you will get incredibly frustrated.
A god awful auto-targeting system.
The story and controls aren't explain well, being hidden in menus and dialogue.
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