Originally released in October of 2010, in Alvion’s local Japanese market, Malicious is a PS3 exclusive that has finally made the long odyssey to our shores, albeit with little to no fanfare. Every once in a while the accumulated change from my sporadic PSN shopping sprees leaves me with a price tags worth of unredeemable currency that I simply must spend, because I can do absolutely nothing else with it. So as I backed through the menus of the PSN the title art of ‘Malicious’ caught my eye. Discount for plus members, it said. I’ll have me one of those then.
You choose your gender, which will define the pre-set name and appearance of your non customisable spirit vessel, and you being you adventure in a great vast void of almost serene white. A narrator explains the plot, something something something you can save the world, and points out the five fractures pieces of room scattered around you. With prompting, the hero rises from their thrown of cinders and from there you’re on your own. So far, so boring.
So then you select a room and after a brief loading sequence the object you selected will corrupt the void and slowly turn it into what can only be described as a very large scale boss fight, complete with subordinates and a very fearsome foe. Now things are getting interesting. Malicious is a lot like an arcade game, with each area serving as the battleground for your epic clash of the Malicious, the name given to said monstrosities, so those not interested in a challenge should back out now! Malicious comes with a learning curve much like sprinting into an unforgiving wall of steel; cool, dry and crushing. The combat comes with a small text of instructions in the corner of the screen which you are expected to read while trying to rage war on whatever the hell you chose to fight first, in my case it was a massive suit of levitating armour and his army of stooges. User friendly? Hell no. Fun? I suppose.
Visually the game is a delight, with the aesthetic painting design flowing beautifully through the battles. It can, and will, stutter with a few frame rate problems against the more burly of foes but don’t let that spoil the portrait for you. Malicious is a very attractive looking game, one that can bait you in even while you’re suffering a beat down. Once more, each of the stages represents a stark locale from the others, showcasing a variety of design and range of viewing pleasure that stretches from an aesthetic courtyard to a soaring airship and beyond.
The combat itself is much like a watered done hack’n’slash game. You begin with a limited arsenal of mystical weapons in the shape of forms. Your actual weapon is called the mantle of cinders, a dark wisp which billows from your neck and can take on a variety of forms. As the story progresses, i.e defeating malicious, more powerful forms become available as you unlock more of your original power. The controls are simple, you control the shape of your mantle using the directional buttons, while other combinations of buttons control the attacks you can use. Each form as a set of attacks, with more attacks possibly being unlocked later. The key strategic point in battle, however, is how you ration your aura. Aura is, I assume, what powers the nasty little creatures that bite at your heels in each stage. By defeating them, you absorb their aura which accumulates in the corner of the screen. Much like any other currency would in a game, but with a twist. Aura is also your power source, and the fuel needed to use your most powerful attacks. With me so far? It’s okay, you’ll get used to it around about the time you discover you only have three lives. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that part? You have three lives and a lot of bad guys to cover, run out and you’re sent packing to the title screen to restart. Yippee.
The good news is that if you manage to defeat all the stages without losing faith in the product you unlock a variety of new modes such as time trail and online ranking, and yes some of the times posted on their are ungodly. Essentially this game can be defeated inless than two hours for the normal player and only those charmed by the game itself will want to devote more playtime to the additional modes unlocked after the first playthrough. I can’t recommend Malicious as something I myself would enjoy, but I know there is a market for it and many will be taken the astounding visuals and visceral combat for such a cheap price of entry. I, however, will pass on a second helping.