IntroductionTom vs. The Armies of Hell is a game made by indie developer Darkmire Entertainment from San Francisco. The most interesting thing about Darkmire Entertainment is that it's a one-man game studio. So that one man, Sean Burgoon, made this game, however, it could have easily been made by a team. It's quite a good game. If you ever played Dead Nation on last generation consoles, or Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition on current consoles, then you'll see this game as similar. If you're thinking it's more than control similar, you're wrong.
The game starts out quite differently. No logos or anything that you're used to. It starts with the HD animation of the story. While you're watching this story unfold, you will see some sick yet funny humor. This game isn't for everybody, but the humor is the only thing that might turn someone away from this game. If you can handle or look past the humor and you love platformers, you'll enjoy this game.
Tom vs. The Armies of Hell is available on Steam.
NarrativeThe story is not deep, but quite funny. We see our nerdy protagonist Tom working in a cubicle looking like he hates his life. His computer tells him to take a mandatory 2.13 minute quality of life break. As he walks to the coffee machine, crazy over dramatic things can be seen. First, you see a supervisor saying he must have the report done, and his employee's leukemia will have to wait. Next, you see another employee killing himself by crushing his head under a photocopy machine top loader. A poster behind him says that suicide is stealing from the company. Another poster says work is life and everyone in the poster is all smiles. It's quite odd, but funny if you're into that type of comedy. After the short scene of him taking his mandatory break, we venture down his company's underground research projects area. In one room we have two maintenance workers arguing about their job. One says they are to test the equipment. With that, he pulls a lever. The machine opens a portal to hell. Right away these two workers are killed by demonic creatures.
Meanwhile back in the office, more creatures show up and kill some of the office workers. Now Tom being scrawny and nerdy runs to the men's room. There we see our guide Beezle holding Tom's arm. He says this is gonna hurt. After all that, the game starts.
gameplayFrom the start, the game goes into HD as opposed to the normal, somewhat crude animation you used to watch. The thing that Beezle mentioned would hurt is your new limb. He put a demon arm when you were dismembered. This arm has powers and makes you stronger among other things. The demon arm is your classic melee attack. You have to be in close, and the one button allows you perform a three or four hit combo. Also, completely at random, you can teleport forward a few feet in a purple puff of smoke. It usually happens when you're running towards an enemy, and it teleports you right in front of the enemy after pressing the attack button. Beezle explains all this to you as text on the screen. That is most of the game dialog style. As soon as you walk outside the men's room, you have your first encounter with the hell creatures. The guy you tried to save is dying, and he gives you the prototype gun that your company was working on. That's your second attack style.
You get the energy to power up the gun by absorbing dead souls of the creatures you kill. You can absorb them with the gun. Different colors have different abilities. For example, blue is electricity, my favorite. As you make your way through what is left of your office building, you'll encounter more enemies. There're about three different types, but they are all weak. Also, in the game, there are crates that upon opening, they give you the upgrades for your gun and your arm. The gun upgrades in the first level range from increasing the power of the gun to allowing you to hold to different colors of gun ammo and being able to switch with the push of a button. The arm receives some blue claw like Wolverine has.
This game is Capcom hard. For those of you not familiar with that term, it's unforgiving. Health in this game is scarce, doesn't matter the difficulty. I started playing on normal and died twice before the first level boss. On easy, I got to the boss without dying. Then the boss killed me twice. At least you can start off where the boss is.
Boss battles are pretty straight forward. You're in a fixed area unable to leave. The one thing I realized is that all the bosses have one thing in common. Patterns when they attack you. That is classic boss fight mechanics. The easiest example is the first two boss fights. The first boss you encounter is stationary. Literally, it doesn't move from the area it starts from. It is a crab-like creature. It swipes at you with his claws if you get too close. It also shoots a steady stream of fire from its mouth. There is an area where you can stand to be safe from the fire. The second boss it a big dog-like creature. Let's call it a hell hound. The hell hound moves towards you constantly. Usually, it's a lunging swipe. Using your evade is key. Mastering evade, you will beat him. Once you figure out how far he can jump and you just run farther away, you can shoot him with your gun. You have a big area so running away is not that difficult.
Here is where the game teases you with a Devil May Cry ability. You have a demon state. Yes, you turn into a bad ass demon who will kill everything in a manner of 1 second. In addition, while you're in this state, your health regenerates. It lasts for about 10 seconds then your return to being Tom. There's a catch with your new found power. It's not at will transformation like Devil May Cry. You must find a charged demon crystal. That's the only reason you change.
sound, music, and other audioTom vs. The Armies of Hell has a classic style to its sound. The crude opening is fully voice acted which is nice. All the HD in-game scenes are just text on a screen. Major scenes may have a voice over, but that's it. You can read the dialogue and go to the next line. Of course, if you think there's no valuable information, you can skip the entire sequence holding down the button it shows you on the bottom of the screen.
The music, while you are running around battling, suits the situation. It can be repetitive sometimes, however, it isn't always the same. And the boss music is different than the other parts of the game. It is not Hardcore Rock music like the fighting scenes in Devil May Cry have. The music is more like a movie score. No lyrics, just instrumental. The lack of voice acting bothered me a little, but the humor in the on-screen text made up for it. I can't stress enough how the controls are a copy of Dead Nation. There are a few differences.
Again, I am using my Xbox 360 controller, so that's what I'm going by. First off, if you ever forget the controls there is a pause screen option to check. Aiming is with the right stick, moving is the left stick. Shooting is one shoulder button with the aiming stick. Melee is the A button, jumping is the X button, and when you unlock the ability, B changes your ammo for your gun. Absorbing souls is a two shoulder button combo with aiming in the direction of the soul. If you collect a different color soul than your currently equipped tank, the new color will overwrite the old color. Luckily you will still have the same amount of ammo, it won't start you from zero. If you have no soul ammo, don't get scared. The gun can shoot single shot bullets. They're weak and don't do much damage, but gunslingers with no soul ammo can't be picky.
Final thoughtsI've read Sean Burgoon's page for this game. He was heavily inspired by Army of Darkness. I love that movie so that helped me to like this game a little more that just watching the trailer. The game while Capcom hard, is also Capcom fun. Just because this game is hard it doesn't make it not fun. This is for any older gamer that enjoys a new age look with an old age feel.
+ Familiar gameplay
- Not having voice overs in most scenes
+ Fabulous HD graphics
- Even on easy the game is hard
+ Selectable difficulty
GAME SCORE: 7/10