Genre : Action
Developer: Konami HWI
Release Date: June 15, 2004
Ah, Evil Prophecy. What a title. In the prologue, we are informed that the events of the game have all been foretold in a book of poems or scriptures, some religious text or something… anyway, they were foretold; they were an Evil Prophecy of sorts, as a matter of fact. This brings us back to the title of the game itself. I am convinced that McFarlane's (Not Todd McFarlane's, just McFarlane's) Evil Prophecy is in fact a prophecy of the horde of games to come, a new breed of "retro" (if you think of B quality Nintendo 64 games as "retro") styled hack, slash, and collect cards and wood-a-thons. It is a tome meant to be revered and worshipped, but it is simply too hard for our simple minds to comprehend, you see. Since most of us can hardly comprehend the wily masterpiece, the elusive will of this tome, I must report my findings within its depths through the filter of my own lacking intellect, though I will try my best to support my reasoning that Konami has created a new breed of terror for us all to breathe in and maybe enjoy, but I'm sure only our children's-children's-children's children will be able to fully understand the societal, intellectual, and yes, spiritual value of Evil Prophecy.
I'm sorry if your state of mind is too rudimentary to understand why this inspiring game based on a line of "doomy" action figures deserves the attention I am about to give it, yet at the same time I am right with you in the dark, as I still have not fully elevated both my tastes and my senses to appreciate Prophecy to its fullest.
I have closely analyzed all aspects of The Tome of the Evil Prophecy, but none are as important to the game player as the game play. Game play is something not to be taken lightly by a developer; for a video game, it is meant to be an electronic representation of fun. Here is where the Evil Prophecy changes everything you thought you knew about electronic amusement: there is no amusement whatsoever. This is not an exaggeration. In what I am sure was a deliberate attempt by Konami (and perhaps a product of divine intervention!), the game play does not present any sort of feeling reminiscent of actual fun! You don't follow me now, but believe me, if you don't understand this twenty or so years down the road, perhaps a family member a bit further up your yet-to-be-formed branch of your family tree will know the Evil Prophecy and know it well.
Like what the New York noise trio Black Dice has done for music with their post-entertainment noise art, Evil Prophecy brings to light a new kind of art to the world: post-entertainment game play art. [Please remember my name the next time you hear that genre title thrown around – you heard it here first.] But unlike Black Dice, who layer their impressive sonic textures with massive amounts of hidden substance that give the listener a delayed sense of enjoyment, Evil Prophecy lives up to its foreboding moniker by leaving the user with only pain and irritation. But this is something new for humanity! I'm sure now that we're in the post-labor society, soon enough it will develop into the post-human contact era, then we'll have to create our own electronic trials and tribulations in order to stimulate the reptilian complex that will surely not have devolved itself right out of our brains by the time all of this post-whatever occurs. And once this definite future becomes current, the world will suddenly realize the genius of Evil Prophecy's non-game play.
If I had to compare it to something, Evil Prophecy would be most similar to Hunter: The Reckoning, though it is a great disservice to that game for me to reference it in this review at all. But the goals are the same: quickly wipe out hordes of enemies with a four-character party in a crazy "ye olde times except kinda modernized!" universe. The game has few elements besides smashing enemies to death. "But wait!" you say. "Aren't 99.99% of games out there based on the premise of bringing lots of poor creatures to their Doom?" Well, yes, but this game doesn't offer much else besides that. And even THAT it does poorly.
What makes so many games bad are the sudden moments of incredible and buggy difficulty, right? Evil Prophecy is of a new breed of video games. Its game play is so completely mind-blowing in its maddening structure that it can only be viewed as, well, art. The movement engine is the first major flaw, bringing an amazingly unique and innovative feel to simply moving around. One would think a flawed movement system would be the result of a lack of effort on the part of the developer, but oh no!, not here. Your on-screen persona will not turn immediately towards the direction you want him or her to hop along off in, but will instead opt to rotate slowly to that point. Walking around made me laugh out loud like a young child playing with a brand new bucket full of Play-doh for the first time. If pac-man was originally designed with full analog movement in mind, and the poor guy's maze was for some reason filled with molasses, that's how Evil Prophecy controls.
Ah, but I digress. The movement is torture, but does it really matter whether or not you get exactly where you need to go, since you don't have to worry much about the hordes of wolf guys and lizard dudes the game will constantly throw at you? Some of you may have read that sentence twice. "Worry much? About hordes? What's not to be afraid of about hordes? Aren't hordes scary? They are hordes, after all." Yes, yes, yes, I understand your queries. And the thought-provoking answer is: the enemies, no matter what numbers they arrive in, do not present a challenge in any way, shape, or form. Yes, contrary to what in-game characters like "the guy who stands by the gate and doesn't let you through because the monsters are harder ahead", who will tell you things like, "I can't let you through because the monsters are harder ahead", are complete liars. This brings us to two distinct situations that the developers went through in the process of this title, which I will present here in the form of short plays:
Developer 1: This level isn't hard enough.
Developer 2: Oh, I think you're right. Probably. I didn't play it, I wouldn't know. (shrugs)
Developer 1: Well, none of them are really that hard. But we've got to change a bunch of numbers and stuff in the program if I want to make it any harder. I think.
Developer 2: We could just make the art dude on the fourth floor throw in a guy who says it's hard. You know, like in the level before, have some guy scare the poor kid who plays the game. Make him say something like, I dunno, "I can't let you through because the monsters are harder ahead," or something to that effect.
Developer 1: I'll just right that down on this cocktail napkin here… Damn it, the pencil keeps ripping it! …There, got it. I'll talk to you later.
Developer 2: Yeah. (snorts loudly and spits glob of mucus onto the floor) I still haven't fixed that problem with the music not kicking in until two minutes before the levels end, by the way.
Developer 1: Eh, don't bother. We spent way too much time trying to get the text to scroll properly. And if you've got any other lame brained additions floating around in your head, scrap 'em. I'm creatively bankrupt after designing that pointless card dropping system.
Developer 1: (adjusts beret) This level. There is something wrong with it, this level. It is lacking, lacking something.
Developer 2: Yes, yes, I know. I know exactly what you mean. It is lacking in that it - (pauses to sip a twenty-three dollar cup of coffee) – it has too much. It is sorely missing everything because it has all it needs.
Developer 1: Ah, you have read my mind. The balance, it is too stiff. We must free the player to experience something far beyond a video game. We must tap into their very emotions, their feelings, their souls. We must remove the difficulty.
Developer 2: You are a genius. This is why I love you. Ferdinand! Come!
Ferdinand (in a black unitard): Yes, pretties?
Developer 1: We have decided that this latest stage we have devised is not up to par with our artistic aims. It must be changed. Remove all varying difficulty from it, and make sure none is left in the rest of the levels.
Developer 2: We are creating something completely different from all that has been done. We cannot sit on our hands and allow something of actual quality to pass from our fingers to those of the consumers!
Ferdinand: I will make this so. I will also add a multiplayer feature that hardly feels functional and turn down the brightness so far on important portions of the stages that the player will have no chance to navigate them in any methodical manner. (begins to dance away)
Developer 2: Wait, Ferdinand!
Developer 2: Make sure to make switching characters an unnaturally hard process. The emotion conveyed by a conventional, fully functional character swapping system is completely out of sync with our canon of concepts. And if you plan on messing with the multiplayer, here's a capital idea: only allow multiplayer functions to be available in a certain pointless mode. We can't allow our players to escape our preordained state of mind.
Ferdinand: Understood, lovely. This is art, after all. (dances away)
Sometimes, you just have to wonder if people have any pride anymore.