In Konami’s “Hellboy: The Science of Evil,” the science involves pounding disposable enemies into nondescript turf, while the evil emanates from stunted battle tactics and an unintelligible story. Hellboy may look better than ever clutching his Samaritan revolver, but Aussie developer Krome Studios’ riff on Mike Mignola’s comic series about a crime-sleuthing demon with a wrecking ball for a right hook feels like a couple of strung-together demo levels instead of a cohesive videogame. Given that it has nothing to do with Guillermo del Toro’s forthcoming film “Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” “Science of Evil” should see a temporary sales spike before plummeting to the bottom of the summer pile.
“Evil’s” plot unfolds in chapter-framed levels that visit Hellboy at different moments in his evil-smiting career and eventually coalesce in a wrap-up that’s too late and too simple to matter. Players maneuver Hellboy through foggy graveyards and root-choked caverns, taking on enemies who mostly just charge on sight. The only real trick to whomping the baddies involves running into crowds of hostiles and wailing on the gamepad. A handful of combo moves spice up the melee with grapples and slams that replenish Hellboy’s health, but it’s quite possible to blaze through the game by simply mashing buttons.
Firing Hellboy’s revolver doesn’t take ballistic skill, since it auto-targets everything, and players only need to time reloads and be familiar with which type of bullet best suits the creature at hand. A few timed button sequences add some variety to the drab fight tactics, but rather than flesh out the combat, they foster stale interaction with environmental obstacles like punching through walls or pulling lids off coffins.
It doesn’t help that the game’s graphics are incredibly bland. Levels never really evolve, and it often feels like a camera revisiting the same set from different angles. The characters themselves look terrific up close, but get lost in recycled panoramas as players tick off checkpoints and body counts. Garden-variety sound effects and a muzzled soundtrack lessen the game’s audio-visual impact. At least Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, and Doug Jones do an admirable job reprising their filmic roles as Hellboy, Liz Sherman, and Abe Sapien, respectively.
Simple puzzles turn up on occasion and briefly impede progress, but more often turn out to be abstrusely complex. At one point after wiping out a cadre of enemies, for instance, players have to do something with Hellboy’s hand without pointers, hints, or anything approaching intuitive logic. Moments like these disrupt the forward momentum in a game whose only redeeming attribute is the fast pace of its action.
Cooperative online and local split-screen multiplayer aspects make ‘The Science of Evil’ less offensive with a couple of friends, but the game’s bottom line never strays from crudely and repetitively punting demons around cursed graveyards and popping their heads off like the tops of soft-drink bottles.