Evil Dead: Regeneration (Video Game)

Developed by Cranky Pants Games

Published by THQ

Both previous Evil Dead games sported snappy subtitles, Hail to the King™ and Fistful of Boomstick™ were classic homages to the Ashisms™ that help make the Evil Dead movies so very popular. Regeneration lacks this throwaway nod to the movies, and the reason is clear when you play the game: Regeneration needs no superfluous attempts to make it a part of the Evil Dead mythos; thematically and visually it stands out as the game that “gets” the movies more so than any predecessor.

Regeneration begins within the movie Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn. A series of training exercises set within the notorious cabin in the woods lets the player get used to the controls of Ashley J. Williams and his various weapons. The character of Ash lends himself well to video games, as he is a double barrel threat all unto his own. With his signature Chainsaw and Boomstick, Ash can carve his way through the swarms of Deadites rising from the depths of hell. I just wish they were a bit harder to kill at times.

The game play in Regeneration is easy. The controller has one setting and cannot be altered; yet, this setting does lend itself well to the fighting techniques that Ash employs. The enemies, on the other hand, are not the brightest bulbs in the box. They do not swarm, and very rarely does more than one of them attack at the same time. A lot just stand and watch until it is their turn. Good thing to teach the kids, but kinda disappointing within an Evil Dead game.

Weapons upgrades that are available are cool enough with some interesting combinations. I think that the addition of the Harpoon Gun is the most inspired of the new weapons with the Flamethrower being the dumbest. I mean why do we need the capability to make fire in each and every horror game on the market? All I ever end up doing is burning myself and never using it again. Sure, there are a few moments of game play where the developers try to give the Flamethrower a reason for existing, but in the end, it was lame. The Harpoon Gun, on the other hand, is interesting to use and actually useful to boot!

Speaking about game play, THQ has again struck out when it comes to variance in content. Similar to Destroy All Humans, Regeneration bases too much of its game play off similar repetitious tasks. I mean I enjoy feeding “Peepers his Sleepy Treats” but to do it 5 times in one game and have each level hinge on that act is a bit of a disappointment.

The look of the game is good (the XBox version was used for this review), but already I’m wondering if the next generation of game systems will get Ash’s signature look better. The character looks great when compared to the laughable version from Fistful of Boomstick but still lacks from poor design and animation. I know nothing about polygons and physics, but there were a few times where the characters just looked bad, and these video game terms popped into my head. One hopes that in the future closer attention will be given to the look of the characters and in time someone will get it right. I understand that creating a likeness in video game format is difficult, but I have seen other games get it a lot closer than this. Ash is an icon and unfortunately easy to get really wrong.

Oddly enough this brings me to a new character: Sam, the sidekick.

Lovingly named for Sam Raimi and voiced by his brother (sounding like Bugs Bunny and James Cagney rolled together) Sam is a half-Deadite during the story of the game. A crazy psychologist has been fiddling around with a certain book that is essential to the Evil Dead series, and Sam is one of the by-products of this. A potential Jar-Jar Binks, Sam actually is a riotous addition to the Evil Dead community.

With his inability to die, Sam leaves himself open to a lot of abuse by Ash. Sam is a Deadite; Ash hates Deadites. Ash works alone, but Sam is needed to play the game. A frustrated player can kick Sam into various deadly areas at any time. (You can see where this is going.) Yet Sam holds his own thanks to the witty writing of the developers, the voice acting by Ted Raimi, and actually being fundamentally useful to the game rather than just being a gimmick. The music that accompanies Sam on his adventures must be heard to be believed.

Evil Dead has a foot firmly in the Lovecraft mythos thanks to the inclusion of the Necronomicon Ex Mortis (has anyone ever told Sam Raimi that NECRO-NOM-I-CON means book of the dead, and that Necronomicon Ex Mortis means . . . Book of the Dead of the Dead?) While the movies ignore this mostly, this game is the first to revel in it. Creatures straight out of Yuggoth and from the Moons of Saturn plague the travels of Ash and Co. It was refreshing to see such things along the way — a nice twist/nod for us Lovecraft fans.

There are a few places where the game could use a bit of tightening. The targeting is awful and very annoying, which makes some levels way more frustrating than they should be. The actual game play is a bit short, and the whole thing seems a bit derivative of The Suffering even with the potential to change into Evil Ash in a way that is eerily similar to Torque’s metamorphosis on Carnate Island. It should be said though that Ash’s alter ego is way more effective and useful than Torque’s, but that may be due to the nature of the beast itself. Evil Ash is real, and Uber-Torque is, well, a hallucination.

The best part of Regeneration is that it’s cheap; that is its saving grace. I would have been pissed if I had shelled out any more than 20 bills for this game. This installment of Evil Dead is fun and faithful. It introduces non-nausea inducing characters, has a snappy little story, and is a hoot at times to play. I don’t see myself sitting down to redo it anytime soon, but for the few hours I did play it, I was heartily satisfied and at times downright giddy to be immersed in such a frenzied universe full of people and situations I have come to love over the years. Maybe it is best said that Evil Dead: Regeneration is one for the fans.

Press “Y” to Ride the Deadite . . . Groovy!

3 ½ out of 5

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