The survival-horror genre has been in need of a swift kick in the tail as of late. After about five years of Resident Evil sequels and clones, gamers, myself included, have been waiting for somebody to spice the formula up a bit. Carrier and Resident Evil: Code Veronica brought the genre into the third-dimension. Then more recently, Capcom's Onimusha on the Playstation 2 took it to new graphical levels and even traded in its tried-and-true, zombie-killing, roots for a story set in medieval Japan. Yet through the years, the basic gameplay elements have remained the same; shoot the monsters, collect items, and solve simplistic puzzles with a few boss fights thrown in for good measure. In my humble opinion, gamers deserve something new.
Crazy Games, (formerly Climax Graphics) creators of the lackluster Dreamcast launch title Blue Stinger, decided to take another stab at the genre with their latest, Illbleed. Instead of following the formula that had been laid out by other survival-horror games, the company opted to change the feel of their title by adding a load of new gameplay elements in addition to a whole lot of sick and twisted, B-movie styled humor.
Now, I've got to be honest with you. I had very little hope for Illbleed going into this review. So when I found the game enjoyable, it was quite a surprise to me. Is this the game that turns the genre on its ear? Or is it just good enough to warrant a rental at your local Blockbuster? Read on, fellow reader types, and find out!
I suppose I should give you a little bit of background about Illbleed's story. Deranged horror movie producer, Michael Reynolds, has attempted to one-up his film efforts in terms of sheer terror by creating a psychotic theme park called Illbleed. If anyone can make it through the entire park without meeting an untimely demise, they will be awarded 100 million dollars. So where do you come in? Well, I'm glad you asked, my friend. Enter Erico Christy, a purple-haired, high school girl with a taste for the occult. She and her friends come across invitations to the park. Passing up the invite, Erico watches as the others leave for Illbleed. When they don't return, it is up to her to play the heroine and save the day. As you can tell, the game doesn't try to hide the fact that its premise is silly. Like numerous B-movies before it, the game thrives on its ability to throw around tons of gore, and splash our young, scantily clad, heroine with buckets of blood. Strangely enough, it works. The game is meant to be cheesy, so the fact that it is never really takes away from the experience.
As stated before, the developers at Crazy Games decided to add a load of new gameplay elements to Illbleed to differentiate the title from the current crop of survival-horror games. First, and most importantly, the number of battles has been cut way down. In the later iterations of the Resident Evil series, there's usually an average of 4-6 zombies in every room. Not so in Illbleed. There's usually a fight in one out of every five rooms in some levels, although this does vary. Keep in mind that the emphasis is not on fighting. "Then," you may ask, "...what is the emphasis on?" The game is filled with traps. Whether it is a trap door or a ghastly painting that comes alive to frighten you, there's always a trap around every corner. So your main objective, while moving from the beginning of one of the game's six levels to the end, is to avoid these traps. This is done in two ways. Te first is a bar indicator at the top of the screen that displays the activity of four of your character's senses: sight, smell, hearing, and her sixth sense. (Sorry, taste and touch!) When any of the senses are active, that means that something is near. The sixth sense helps you locate items and enemies while the others respond to traps. The other way to identify traps is your "Horror Monitor." Located near the beginning of each stage, the Horror Monitor is an item your must locate in order to effectively navigate the levels. With this tool you can sense traps and items, warning your character about them using the first-person view. When something is sensed with the HM, you can choose to mark its location with a blue sphere, but you can't mark everything. Each mark you make decreases the amount of adrenaline you have. When that number reaches zero, you can no longer use the HM. If you do successfully mark a trap, instead of scaring and hurting you, you'll actually receive adrenaline points. By successfully completing a level, you will have saved one of your friends and secured yourself a cash prize. Characters saved in the game can be used in the following levels.
The environments are huge and just waiting to be marked with balls!
As you can tell from the rather lengthy description above, the gameplay is drastically different from the other games I mentioned earlier. The main reason I would advise anybody to pick up this game is that these new elements do provide an all-new game experience.
Illbleed, while not the prettiest game in the world, is very nice to look at. Each different level, which is based on a different movie created by Michael Reynolds, has a very different look and feel. Haunted mansions, scary campsites, and department stores are all rendered with a good number of polygons and detailed textures. There is plenty of detail spread throughout the environments to give them atmosphere. The controllable characters could have used a bit more detail, but again, it's enough to get the job done. You won't be blown away by Illbleed, but you won't be horrified either, and that is a plus.
The game sports quite an interesting soundtrack. The music is eerie but light-hearted which means it is perfectly suited to the game. What's more important though are the environmental sounds. Agony-filled screams, strange echoes, and mysterious whispers fill the halls of the locales you'll visit in the title. Combined with the aforementioned traps, and you'll be on the edge of your seat as you make your way through the levels. Overall, I'd say they developers did a good job with the sound. Still, it's not perfect...