Malicious is an interesting game. It seems to have been built for those of you who can’t stand dragging their way through a level, itching instead to get right to the boss fight. And while that may seem like an advantage to some, there are those who will play it, get through the two-something hours of gameplay time the first run through, and then wonder if there’s more to it.
In the game, you’re the Spirit Vessel, a character with the motivation and drive to challenge five powerful enemies using suave fighting abilities. Do that, and you’ll gain access to their special abilities, which you’ll need when it comes to battling the big boss at the end. What’s cool about Malicious is that you don’t have to face the guys in any given order. Instead, you choose the stages you want to play out, and then reap the rewards when the boss battles come to a close, in the form of power-ups. I almost wanted the screen to say “Get equipped!” when that happens, just because of the old Mega Man way of thinking. Ah, well.
But here’s the thing – the bosses aren’t the only thing you’re going to come at odds with in the game. The first are the elements surrounding them. You can’t exactly draw a straight line when it comes to a combat situation, as you’ll need to figure out a strategy to beating each boss. For some players, this strategy will be useful. However, as a result, some fights tend to drag on a little longer than we anticipated, and we ended up in bouts of repetition as a result. While Malicious does serve an interesting learning process that will eventually make you a better combatant, it’s also tiresome and takes a lot of getting used to.
That said, you’re also going to battle the in-game camera, which is really asking a lot. There are times it almost suffers from the same things that plagued a number of lackluster PlayStation 1 games, getting stuck on walls, going into a rear view where you can barely see anything, and working through a lock-on system that’s barely palatable. Seriously, if a camera can’t even keep a big, lumbering figure that’s right in front of you in focus, you know something’s up.
Finally, you’ll find yourself at odds with figuring things out. Malicious doesn’t have the best tutorial system in the world, and while tinkering with certain aspects of your combat has its moments, it would’ve been nice to learn a bit more up front, rather than through defeat. What’s more, the story tends to drag on a bit, and considering the arcade-style nature of the game, it’s a bit unnecessary. No one likes being kept in the dark, but providing too much information can be a hindrance as well. Where’s the middle ground here?
These problems aside, something about Malicious still clicks moderately well in a way. Once you get the feel for combat, if the camera isn’t such a stickler, you’ll find yourself lining up some great tactics for bringing down the bosses. Also, the graphics and sound, for a downloadable game of this nature, are actually very good. The in-game arenas reminded us of a mixture between the PS2 Castlevania games and the fighting space of Virtual On, but with their own artistic touch. The soundtrack, though a little short-handed, also has its heart in the right place.
Malicious, for those who get into it long enough to endure its problems, also has some great bonus modes, including a Free Play mode where you can challenge the bosses at any time, and leaderboard-supported Score Attack and Time Attack modes. Hardly original, but they do extend the replay value. Again, that’s if you can overlook the flaws.
I like how Malicious gets right to the point of beating up bosses severely and reaping the rewards, but it piles on a number of issues that are hard to overlook, mainly with camera and story. It’s a decent game, but we suggest trying it before you buy it, just to see if it’s a journey you can handle partaking.