My days of headbanging ended a long time ago, but when the title screen for Army Corps of Hell booted up, I’ll admit that I slowly started to nod. Square-Enix’s first effort for Sony’s new handheld is not shy about being in your face with a thrashing soundtrack and a mix of strategy action akin to Overlord and Pikmin. At first, this combination makes for a fun ride and a unique approach to the system’s launch lineup. The real question is, “Can it go the rounds without becoming too cyclical in the process?”
You are the King of Hell. It is your mission to work your way through the underworld and slay as many demons to prove your worth. Seriously, I cannot make this stuff up. Dialogue is handled with comical text from your minions. The story never really serves as the focal point of the game, but it does entertain. I especially love the quips from your minions; it really gives it that Overlord vibe.
Once you dive in, you will see the comparisons to Pikmin and Overlord. You work in third person with an army at your disposal. You can use the left trigger to toss them at enemies and press the face buttons to perform attacks. The premise is simple and, at first, unique, but the game starts to suffer after a bit with repetitious enemies. There are three types of minions that you can use, and you can upgrade their abilities in between levels using alchemy. You have soldiers, spearman and magi, all of which are pretty self explanatory, but the variety is nice, and deciding which ones to use for certain situations can be fun.
As you blast through the demons of the underworld, you collect loot that can be used to create new weapons for your army. I loved the upgrade system, as simple as it may be. You can also move your minions into formations for better attacks. The system is actually relatively deep and intuitive, keeping you focused more on the action than fighting with the mechanics.
All of this is well and good, but where the game starts to suffer is from lack of variety. Each area is chock full of the same enemies and tactics. Wipe them out, grab the loot and cross the bridge. You will do this a lot and it tends to wear on you. The bright side is the boss battles at the end of each stage. Here, you will get a much-needed dose of variety and strategy. I really enjoyed taking on the bosses and wish there was as much diversity in the rest of the game.
Visually, I liked the look of the game. The colorful environments really give the title its own identity. The character models are certainly disappointing when compared to other games on the system, and the lack of enemy variety hurts, but I did appreciate the overall presentation. The music, though, is a perfect fit. Whether or not you enjoy the thrash of guitars and screaming of angry men, you cannot deny how well it fits here. It also helps make you simply want to smash through enemies without remorse, so it works on two levels.
Army Corps of Hell is a unique title in the Vita launch lineup. While it might fall short in several areas, it still remains an entertaining experience. With the current slew of games on the system, Army Corps stands on its own as unique, but the repetition will definitely wear on you after a while. If you can play it in short bursts (granted, it is portable so this is a perfectly viable option) you will definitely find enjoyment from this distinctive title.
Review copy of the game provided by publisher.