Though it looks nice and contains many favorite characters from the comic book, Spawn: In the Demon’s Hand is a severely flawed game that only fans of the source material should really consider checking out.
While Spawn may be ranked among the elite of comic book heroes, his translation into other media has sometimes been problematic. Certainly, the HBO series was watchable, but the movie . . . well, was not. It seems that further damage has been done when trying to bring Spawn into the video game arena, and though Spawn: In the Demon’s Hand allows the player to select from a large number of characters from the comic books, its severe flaws prevent the game from being much fun.
The developers did a very good job of rendering the comic book characters in 3-D, and just the thought of being able to play as Dark Ages Spawn (which actually looks like Medieval Spawn to me, but it’s been years since I’ve read the comic book) got me a little excited about the game. When you do finally get to access Dark Ages Spawn (he is an unlockable character), his power does not disappoint, but by that time, you will probably be so fed up with the game that you won’t care.
So what is so bad about Spawn: In the Demon’s Hand? For starters, it is a 3-D game that uses the control pad instead of the Dreamcast’s analog joystick! I can’t imagine why this choice was made, but it was a very, very bad decision. It feels awkward moving around using the control pad, and the greater control would have been appreciated. Also, there is no lock-on feature so that you can focus on one enemy and ignore all others. This can be very, very frustrating, especially when you start getting surrounded by boss helpers who fire powerful lasers or machine guns at you. The computer chooses who your character attacks based on which direction you are facing as well as the proximity of your enemies, and not surprisingly, it often chooses the enemy you care least about, leaving you open to the attacks of others. This system also can be problematic whenever you try to break open crates to obtain items. Sometimes—this happened a lot with Cy-Gor—you will turn 180 degrees to swing at an enemy you can’t even reach instead of breaking the crate right in front of you. Another source of frustration is when you attempt to open ammo boxes. There will be times when you have a moment to try to find a new weapon, but instead of opening the box, you will attack. By the time you recover and attempt to open the box again, the enemy is often upon you, ready to land some cheap hits. Add to all of this a terrible camera, and you have a game that controls horribly and isn’t much fun.
Of course, even if the controls were solid, this game would still not be that good. The game has a few different game modes, such as boss attack, multi-player boss attack, and tournament mode, but I didn’t try tournament mode out at all. Perhaps I should have before writing this review, but that would have needed to be an outstanding tournament mode to even come close to saving this game. The boss attack modes pit you (or you and another human or CPU player) against a series of bosses. For some reason, the single-player mode is much shorter than the multi-player mode. If you don’t have any friends around (I didn’t while playing this game and preparing to review it), you are forced to use a computer player. Given the other flaws of this game, it should not be surprising that the computer player is a horrible teammate. Often, you will find yourself the victim of the CPU players attacks as it attempts to fight the same boss you’re battling. Also, the CPU player will often get in the way of your attacks, and you are penalized on your score whenever you kill your teammate.
The way the boss battles are played also don’t really seem to promote a lot of strategy. You are given a set amount of time to beat each boss (you can change this to be up to an hour in the options menu), and you can die and continue to come back to life as long as you have time on the clock. Each time you die carries a penalty with it, plus you lose whatever items you pick up. This should motivate you to try to stay alive as long as possible, but some of the boss attacks got so cheap later on in the game (too many quick kills), that I found myself a lot of time just standing toe-to-toe and dishing out as much damage as I could before dying. Yeah, that is as boring as it sounds.
I could continue to point out flaws in the game, but I don’t see a need, as I think I’ve made my point. Though it looks nice and contains many favorite characters from the comic book, Spawn: In the Demon’s Hand is a severely flawed game that only fans of the source material should really consider checking out. For anyone else, this one should be an easy pass.