Good…Bad…I’m the Guy With the Bad Game. Evil Dead: Hail to the King – what would possess you to play this?!
The nostalgia gene has taken my body by storm and inspired my game-buying decisions lately. Most game critics would have you believe this is a bad thing, but because of this I was recently inspired to purchase a Sega Dreamcast. Why the Dreamcast? The wannabe critic in me will tell you it was an underrated system that was ahead of its time. The graphics were better than anything else out and it had hardware capabilities the future was still dreaming of like online access.
I’ll be real, though. It’s because I wanted to play Crazy Taxi.
While hunting for Crazy Taxi I stumbled across a copy of Evil Dead: Hail to the King. Years back I had borrowed the Playstation version from a friend I still remember the first time I saw the game disc in my hands. Here was my opportunity to play as Ash. I was about to chainsaw some undead pricks into stumps. I had already decided I would like this game before I even played it…and then I didn’t. I didn’t even know the game was released for Dreamcast, but for a few measly bucks I was willing to play into my nostalgia gene and own a copy. At that moment all I could think was playing through this game looking a hell of a lot smoother than the Playstation version.
I have a lot of feelings about Evil Dead: Hail to the King. Like a bad day you tell stories about now, it may have sucked then but you can revel in the badness. This is not a good game. It is frustrating, short, repetitive, hard to control, and this day in age straight-up inaccessible. The only people who would find this title enjoyable or even playable for that matter are fans of the series. Falling under that category I have now powered through this mess twice.
Evil Dead: HTTK is a Resident Evil clone, which will become apparent within the first few seconds of the game. The story takes place eight years after Army of Darkness and the game is constantly self-aware of how recycled the storyline is. Ash and lover return to the cabin, Ash’s severed hand turns on the reel to reel, demons come to life, bad ash wants the Necronomicon. The Dreamcast version sure looks a hell of a lot better than the Playstation version but still has that “lookit the old developers trying out 3D models, how cute…” charm to it. The backgrounds are pre rendered and lush looking and the character models…aren’t. Like early Resident Evil titles, there is a fixed camera and as you walk around the room it changes. This works to the games advantage and for fans of the series it’s pretty neat shuffling Ash through Knowby’s cabin and seeing familiar sites from the movies.
Ash makes progress throughout the game by collecting pages ripped out of the Necronomicon. This consists of find item, kill enemy, bring item to spot, kill boss. Sometimes the first few tasks are in a different order. It’s pretty simple and gets you through each set piece rather quickly, which is unfortunate as there are a few moments such as a hillbilly cabin full of body parts and the aforementioned cabin that are really neat and creepy to play through.
Killing enemies is the most daunting task and the only reason you won’t finish this game in an hour. The standard deadites, which pop out of the ground and are floating apparitions here, need to get beaten into oblivion before they even consider dying and you’ll use up all your ammo and patience dealing with them. I have yet to find a way to kill an enemy in Hail to the King without taking some sort of damage. The nice thing about killing the deadites is they drop much needed health packs and eventually ammo. The deadites don’t stay dead for long, though. Between the time the items drop and the time you pick them up another deadite will more often than not respawn. This means an endless cycle of these motherfuckers which are already hard to kill in the first place. The only option you really have is to run. Eventually, I found myself running away from enemies not out of fear but out of sheer boredom with the combat. Some of the enemies are adorably broken, though. The first boss in the game is a possessed granny that turns into a giant spider. I literally stood under her and kept mashing attack with my axe and had her dead after only getting hit once. Another looks like a little dog creature and it can’t actually hurt you. I actually stood still for two minutes just waiting to see if this was true. Nope, just yapped away until you smash their face with your axe. The end of the game has a barrage of bosses which are broken in a way that allows little strategy but run around and button mash hoping you don’t die. During one of the later boss fights, I was in the fruit cellar with an old-girlfriend-now-deadite. Her body had broken and her spine jutted out with a long neck where she attacked like a snake. I was running away and about halfway across the room from her when she attacked the air. Despite hitting nothing, Ash took damage and was knocked off his feet. After this I went in all chainsaws blazing and mashed until she died. The amusing part is that I succeeded.
The best part of the game are Bruce Campbell’s voiceovers. Throughout the game as you kill off the endless horde of deadites he’ll occasionally spout some good ones. “Say hello to disco for me!” “Groovy” yadda yadda. There is even a useless one-liner button. I say useless because it doesn’t improve your attacks or anything and there are only about three lines he actually spouts when you push it. The best way to get one liners is your impale/kill finisher. Ash’s witty buffoon banter during the cutscenes are still amusing despite being a rushed rehash of the storylines in the films. He often mocks how every character will stab him in the back, or by the end of the game he rolls his eyes and states the formula the entire game has pushed him through.
I almost finished Evil Dead in one sitting. The Playstation version of this game sits across two discs somehow, but despite the game being ridiculously short I wish it would have ended sooner. The entire premise of the first 90 percent of the game takes you through the woods surrounding Professor Knowby’s cabin but by the end they shoved in an unnecessary time travel segment basically so they could recreate the premise of Army of Darkness for fifteen minutes.
There I was, finally done with the game…again. It seems like an obvious comparison to compare this game to a b-movie but it can play just like that. As a fan of the series, a majority of the game was a lot of fun to play through, I was even looking forward to the task. It’s too bad the game wears out its welcome fast considering it’s only a couple of hours. Like a b-movie, I recommend you play this around friends. You can share the tough controls. You can marvel at the silly visuals. Watch them get beaten into oblivion by the ever-spawning deadites. Laugh as your pals try to find the sparkly items and doors that have hidden themselves in the backgrounds that are so dark it’s hard to see. Watch them get mad when they’ve used their last save tape and have to start over.
You guys can have fun with that, I’m going to go play some more Crazy Taxi.
Final Verdict: 2/5
Available on: Dreamcast, Playstation (reviewed), PC; Publisher: THQ; Developer: Heavy Iron Studios; Players: 1; Released: Dec. 4, 2000; Genre: Surival Horror