Among nearly a dozen launch titles of the Sony PS Vita handheld gaming system, several games got lots of attention, such as Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Little Deviants and Everybody's Golf, thanks to the pre-released bundle packs and big marketing efforts. But the sleeper title among the launch titles comes from 3rd party, Square Enix, if you can call taking a dirty fighting army to hell a sleeper. Army Corps of Hell for the PS Vita is a finger-thumping action game that's filled with humor and great sound tracks and sound bites. The gameplay has plenty of content, albeit with somewhat repetitive sessions, and it's great for the pick-up-and-play type of gamers.
First and foremost about the gameplay is that it's kicking arse fun! You are the king of hell with skeleton for a body and two large horns to scare people, and you commend increasingly number of goblins in an unstoppable army to take on anyone or anything gets in your way in hell. In other words, Army Corps of Hell is an arena style fighting game that pits your army against the enemies. The game includes 40 stages; and each stage includes a few platforms on which the battles between your goblin army fights with evil monsters including bosses at the end of most stages.
Fighting controls are quite simple. There are three goblin units you can pick to join your army before each stage, and as you clear stages, the number of units in your army increases. The three classes of goblins are Soldiers, Spearmen and Magi, each has their way of fighting and you unlock the Spearmen and Magi as you clear the levels. The goblin soldiers can take down a few stages, but be sure to pick the spearmen and magi as you go deep into more hellish stages, as the bosses will get harder to fight. The controls are simple and repetitive: use the right shoulder button to "throw" your army onto the enemy and when you have enough of them (the circle fulfills), you use the "O" button to inflict damages. You can regroup using the left shoulder button, and fast move with the "X" button. The only issue we find with the control is that the gameplay requires fast tapping on the right shoulder button which isn't as ergonomic as using the PS buttons with your thumb.
While the game makes it easy for you to pick it up and play a stage any time you have a few minutes, it also offers deep upgrades and "mini" game integration. After your army of goblins takes down your enemies, they aren't done. They must feed on the body parts left behind by the dead monster to salvage materials for your to forge more monsters, items and more. An evil eye can give you a monster lens, a limb can provide flesh and bones...yumm...enemy heads, torsos, feet never look so good, at least to your goblins. After each stage, you can visit your alchemy lab to see what kind of new weapons you can forge, and new goblins you can make. There are also items in the game you can use the salvaged body parts to make. The game doesn't give you "health" straight up, but make you play musical instruments in "mini games" using the back touch panel on the PS Vita. You can unlock and make the music instruments like drums, bugles and guitars in the lab, and when you lose health in the game, you can play these instruments to earn more health.
The Army Corps of Hell also offers multiplayer mode that lets up to 4 ad-hoc players to play together which is very handy when fighting bosses like the Scylla, Demon and Beelzebu that my need more hands and eyes than a single mortal. You can host a lobby or hop in on your friend's lobby.
Army Corps of Hell has great graphics that work for the theme of the game and the gaming platform. The game plays out in a top down view, and the goblins, even when you have hundreds of them, move smoothly with you. The funny "thought bubbles" are nice touches and give you a hint what to do next. The fast moving on bridges is a fun and cool design. Even though you know you are fighting in Hell, the bunny-like goblin movements make you laugh and keep the game fun and light. The UI in the game is straight forward and easy to get around.
Besides the fun gameplay, the audio package is the star of the game. For Metal fans, you get seriously awesome metal tracks that go very well with the hellish fighting. The King of Hell wears a mantle in the game and you can unlock new mantles as you clear stages. With each mantle unlocked you get a new Metal band's sound track, which is something you can look forward to if you are a metal fan. For those who can't wait for them, the Metal bands who made sound tracks have posted "passwords" for their fans to get their sound tracks early. You can enter the passwords in the title screen. Here are the password codes for the mantles:
Sound tracks aren't the only attraction in Army Corps of Hell. The sound FX and voices are also excellent. The sound effects for fighting match the intensity of the metal BGM and give you the satisfaction for your hard hitting when you hear enemies explode. The goblins have the best voices. While they are fighting the foulest creatures in Hell and dying left and right, they manage to sound forever cheerful, enthusiastic and funny.
Army Corps of Hell is a non-stop action fun game that's very much suited for the handheld gaming console. There are plenty of gameplay and a good amount of replay value. Each time you replay a stage you get something for making more items, and Square Enix has announced that there will be more free downloadable content for both the goblins and the King of Hell: the "Pumpkin Equipment Set" will be available starting February 28, the "Frog Equipment Set" on March 13 and the "Bunny Ears Equipment Set" on April 3. We love the humorous aspects of the gameplay and sound FX as well as the multiplayer mode that comes very handy for beating tough bosses.
We made this sneak peak gameplay video for ya:
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4 - Smooth animation, nice moves and lots of different monsters. Sound: - 5 - Awesome metal BGM and excellent sound FX and voice bites. Controls: - 3.5 - Simple, easy to use. Wish the right button's function were on a PS button to use the thumb. Gameplay: - 5 - A good mount of gameplay and good replay value. It achieves the balance with frenzy fighting in short stages. Good for pick up and play.
Playing Hints and Tips:
-If you can't beat a boss, try different goblin unit. Use Soldiers for slower moving bosses, Spearmen and Magi for fast moving ones where you don't have time to wait.
-New mantles not only unlock new music tracks but also give you health bonuses. So be sure to upgrade when you unlock.
Publisher: Square Enix Release Date: Feb 22, 2012 Price: $39.99