Review: "Are all men from the future loud mouthed braggarts?" ... "Nope. Just me baby, just me."
Listen up, you primitive screwheads! This is my review of Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick. For fans of the Evil Dead movies this review will only consist of four words: Buy. This. Game. Now. For everyone that's never seen the movies, shame on you. But I will educate you. So here's an Evil Dead primer to get you up to speed:
Boomstick - The 12-gauge double-barreled Remington. S-Mart's top of the line. You can find this in the sporting goods department. That's right, this sweet baby was made in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Retails for about $109.95. It's got a walnut stock, cobalt blue steel, and a hair trigger.
Deadite - Ugly ass zombified demons who came back from the dead to chow on the flesh of the living after the incantation is read from the...
Necronomicon AKA The Book of the Dead - Bound in human flesh and inked in blood, this is the evil opus that awakened the Deadites after it's pages were read by Professor Knowby and recorded onto a tape.
Bruce Campbell AKA God - The man that plays Ash and quite possibly the greatest B movie actor ever. If you've seriously never seen any of the Evil Dead movies, his performance alone, melding horror, comedy, sarcasm, wit, and Rambo is worth the price of admission.
Now that we're all caught up let's get down to business. A Fistful of Boomstick takes place several years after the events of the Evil Dead last game, Hail to the King. Trisha Pettywood hosts a local cable show on weird occurrences and occult practices and tonight her guest is Professor Eldridge, who plays the lost tape of the Necronomican. Playing the words of the Necronomican over the television airwaves opens a portal to hell itself and Deadites come pouring out into the town. So Ashley J "Ash" Williams must saddle up and give these demons what for with his boomstick. Again.
A Fistful of Boomstick was developed by the good folks at Vis and uses their State of Emergency engine. This means two things: at times there will be twenty to thirty Deadites on screen and to compensate for that the graphics will take a slight hit in the detail department. We'll get to the graphics in a minute but the action in this game is top notch. Ash's entire arsenal from the movies makes a return. His trusty chainsaw and boomstick, the shovel, explosive rounds, incendiary rounds, and of course dynamite. Ash also gets some new toys to play with including a flamethrower, a gatling gun, and Molotov cocktails.
The action of Fistful of Boomstick is vintage Evil Dead. Ash is able to carry a weapon in each hand and is able to lock onto Deadites regardless of what direction he's moving in. This system naturally allows for the Evil Dead staple of the behind the back boomstick shot that Ash perfected in Army of Darkness. The only thing that would have made the weapon system perfect would be if Ash could use his chainsaw on one Deadite while locking onto a different one with his shotgun at the same time. As it is there's a slight delay so that both weapons can never be used at the same time. It's really more of a wish than a problem with the game, but that would have been great and truly fulfilled the Evil Dead spirit. Fistful of Boomstick is also the first time Ash is able to use magic spells to fight back the forces of evil. The spell selection is pretty impressive the use of the "shaky cam" POV and sound effect from the movies during a Possession spell was an especially nice touch.
While the game is non-stop action and the blood predictably flows fast and furious, over the course of the game Ash will have to perform many tasks from his To Do list. Not surprisingly this is the one and only place where the game falters. Many of the goals on the To Do list are incredibly obscure and will require more than one trip to GameFAQs to solve them. It's a problem that could have been made tolerable if the developers had just seen fit to include a map. Without a map the levels are just too big and it's easy to get lost and then in turn have no idea where to go to solve you're latest item To Do. A map option was obviously excluded to pad out the length of the game, but it's amazing how close to perfect this game could have been by including it.
OK, I'm having way too much fun just hearing myself talk about this game, but in a nutshell that's what it comes down to. For Evil Dead fans this game is just plain fun. And at the heart of that fun is Mr. Bruce Campbell. No one else will ever be able to take up the severed hand of Ash and Bruce Campbell proves that by providing the best voice work in a video game ever. He is funny, witty, sarcastic, and plays off of the other characters perfectly. The writers of this game really know their Evil Dead. In addition to the scripted sequences, pressing triangle when Ash has no one to talk to will make him talk to himself (or you, the player). These quips are great and I was getting new ones well into the final level. All of the other voice actors hold their own, but this is Bruce Campbell's world, the rest of us just worship him in it.
The rest of the sound effects complement the game nicely. The constant whir of the chainsaw is a nice touch. The other weapons explode with their appropriate sound effects. The Deadites also provide plenty of comedy with rants and raves. I just wish there were more of them. The music stays mostly in the background where it belongs in a game like this. It sounds like it would fit right in with an Evil Dead game, but doesn't overpower Bruce's outstanding voicework.
Now to the graphics. The graphics are solid enough, not earth shattering, but they get the job done and allow the framerate to stay up there even when Ash is battling forty Deadites. That is more important than any graphical effect. But even still, Ash looks great, the Deadites feature some nice designs, and it's very cool to see the town morph from present day to colonial times to Civil War times and back again.
A few odds and ends to wrap up the review include a fun Arcade Mode and a major problem with the level opening cut scenes. The Arcade Mode opens up as you beat each level and it's just fun. No puzzles, just Ash, his boomstick, the Deadites, and a fenced in piece of level. Definitely good for a few hours of your time. The level opening cut scenes are also worth a few hours of your time, and that's because you can't skip them. Every time you die and start over at the level opening save point, you have to watch the level opening cut scene again. It's very annoying and I can't believe Vis didn't see a problem with this.
At six levels, A Fistful of Boomstick is not a long game. If you want the reason for the $20 price tag, it's right there. However, A Fistful of Boomstick's score is inversely proportional to it's price. At $50 this game would not be half as fun due to it's short length and extremely obscure goal structure. These problems would just loom too large over the rest of the game. But at $20 it's a requirement for Evil Dead fans and worth a look for anyone that needs an action fix. Hail to the king baby!