Corporate jobs are certainly one hell of an experience
I’ve never worked an office job, but I’ve heard plenty about them. Between the long hours, the under-appreciation for what you do from the higher-ups, and the ease with which you can constantly get burred in work that you couldn’t possibly do all on time but are expected to do anyway. Okay, okay, I know that what I just said was a bit of a stereotype; I’m sure plenty of you hard-working folks out there are just fine with, or even love, your office jobs and I’m sure that you do quite well at what it is that you do. But for some people though, it’s just as I’ve said; life at the office can be hell. At least it’s only hell in the metaphorical sense, right? I mean, how scary would it be to actually work in capital-H Hell? Unfortunately, it looks like the people in Tom vs. The Armies of Hell didn’t get the memo about things being “metaphorical” (hah, office puns). Let’s take a look at how that’s working out for them.
Tom vs. The Armies of Hell is an incredibly tongue-in-cheek twin-stick shooter surrounding the adventures of an unsuspecting software engineer aptly named Tom. As a cog-in-the-machine software designer for the mega-corporation Questionable Technologies Inc., life is pretty joyless for Tom. Day in and day out he sits at his desk, quietly working on whatever it is he needs to do without even so much as a thank-you from the higher-ups. All is not as it seems, however, at QTI. Far beneath the earth, and quite out of reach to normal office workers, lies a special section of QTI dedicated toward technologies of natures far more dubious and far less ethical. One such technology was none other than a machine that would allow for travel to other dimensions… dimensions that are perhaps less hospitable than our own. You would think that, around such technology, people would be pretty uptight and careful in order to avoid any sort of mishap; alas, this is not the case. It seems as though the workers in QTI’s underbelly are just as dim-witted and careless as those topside, because someone accidentally started up the portal and directly connected Earth to Hell, unleashing scores of bloodthirsty demons upon the entirety of QTI’s corporate office and, shortly thereafter, the world. Now, as the world teeters on the brink of destruction, it is up to Tom to put a stop to the chaos once and for all (but only because he was forced into it).
As far as gameplay mechanics go, Tom vs. The Armies of Hell is a fairly standard arcade-like twin-stick shooter. Game progression is made as players go from level to level, slaying hordes of hellspawn and, of course, the all-important end-level-boss in order to progress. Each level contains its own unique theme (all of which are appropriately dreary or nightmarish), and are decently varied in terms of overall level layout. Rather than being forced into the next level right upon completion of the previous one, the game allows players a brief respite in a hub world. Though essentially just a long, dark cave, the hub contains a few secrets here and there, and allows for some optional banter between Tom and his demon pal Beezle. Upon leaving the hub, players are able to continue onto the next level. Going back to previous levels is also an option, and a nice one at that, but I never quite saw the point of it aside from trying to either beat your own high score or in certain cases farming for Achievements. This is mainly due to the fact that, while the levels are varied from one another, the levels are a tad boring overall. I appreciated each level while playing through it, but there really wasn’t anything that particularly stood out enough to warrant going through it again.
Now, let’s focus on the actual gameplay itself. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, Tom vs. The Armies of Hell is a twin-stick shooter and largely consists of gameplay falling into the “easy to learn, hard to master” category and, while fairly standard, comes with a few unique quirks. First and foremost is the way in which Tom’s gun, the Soulblaster x9000, works. Rather than trading firearms on the fly, Tom’s Soulblaster collects souls and converts them into ammunition. When enemies die, their soul sometimes becomes detached and begins floating around aimlessly (they kind of look like little ghosts, it’s pretty cute) and that is your chance to strike! By heartlessly capturing those dear departed souls a la Ghostbusters, your gun will quickly and efficiently turn them into ammunition. The kind of ammo you get depends on the kind of soul that you suck up with purple souls utilizing a shotgun effect, orange souls turning your gun into a flamethrower and so on. The idea of using your enemies souls to keep your ammo supply going, as opposed to picking up guns and clips as you run around, is a fairly novel idea and works well in this kind of game. On top of that, it’s pretty satisfying to think something along the lines of “you just tried to kill me, but now you’re going to help me take down your friends.” Aside from the gun, Tom has also (rather forcefully) been equipped with a large, purple, demonic arm that allows him to deal out some serious melee damage. Tom also has a special energy gauge. As he fights the gauge fills up, eventually allowing him to use all of his stored energy in one single and powerful attack. Saving energy rather than spending it on an attack is also an idea, as you actually gain passive buffs so long as your gauge is above a certain point; talk about a win-win! Finally, there are demon crystals. Though rare, these powerful pickups temporarily allow Tom to go full-on demon, granting him increased strength, HP regen, and even access to a powerful laser attack. While the fact that there is only one kind of transformation, you can at least take solace in the fact that it’s a pretty darn cool one.
While I really don’t want to get this personal, I feel like I have to take a bit of time to talk about the script of the game; mostly about how it was less-than-stellar. Within the first 10 minutes of gameplay, Tom vs. The Armies of Hell reminded of two things; Family Guy, and Newgrounds. No, that isn’t a compliment. The story itself is about Hell literally being unleashed on Earth; that’s honestly a pretty terrifying concept if you think about it. I understand that this game wanted to take something scary like the End of the World and make it into something that we could all laugh at, and I would say that they were successful… in a way. Unfortunately, this success came at a price; the fact that it’s probably only appealing to those within their younger teens. Every person or demon you talk to is overly-mean for no reason, there’s a ton of pointless cursing, most of the item descriptions boil down to either “it works just because” or “it works but you’ll get cancer but that doesn’t matter right now”; it’s trope, after trope, after trope. Look, I’m not goading any of this because any of this stuff is silly or inappropriate; I promise. It’s okay to have fun with things, in fact I highly encourage it, but there are more clever ways of doing so.
The visuals within Tom vs. The Armies of Hell are a bit hit-and-miss. The three-dimensional aspects (which make up most of the game) were solid. Odd as though it may sound, the best way to describe the three-dimensional visuals with would be to compare them to those found within the Borderlands series. Although the way in which the actual characters are designed are different the heavily cell-shared, cartoon-y way in which they’re rendered is really quite unmistakable. Even the way in which characters and objects interact with each other, down to the weird partially-floaty collision detection, is very reminiscent of the Borderlands series. I was not, however, quite as impressed with the game’s 2D visuals While I can very much appreciate the incredible amount of work that goes into creating 2D animation, the two-dimensional cutscenes and character portraits seemed to me to be a bit on the sloppy side of things. I can’t really harp on it too much because I know that everyone has their own way of drawing things, but it just felt a bit rushed.
The OST primarily consists of fierce rock tracks, contributing pretty well to the overall tone of the game. After all, if you’re literally fighting Hell; you might as well rock out while you’re doing it. There’s also a pretty good discrepancy in terms of tracks among the levels themselves. While things generally stick to the rock-themed feel mentioned before, each level contains its own unique track that adds enough of a spin on things to make it better fit in to the visual aesthetics of the levels. Boss themes are also present, generally consisting of a remix of that level’s theme.
All-in-all, Tom vs. The Armies of Hell is alright. It’s a decent, fully-functioning twin-stick shooter with a relatively solid half-dozen levels and a challenging level of gameplay for those interested. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really stand out among the crowd; the overall gameplay never did enough to truly get me excited while playing it. Sure, beating levels was satisfying, but I continued to play more due to the fact that I felt that I owed it to the game to get as far as possible rather than for fun (and don’t even get me started again on the writing). I’m entirely positive that, for some people, Tom vs. The Armies of Hell is definitely a fun experience; for those on the fence however, there are alternatives out there that you may want to look into.
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Available on: PC ; Publisher: Burgoon Entertainment ; Developer: Darkmire Entertainment ; Players: 1 ; Released: July 27, 2016 ; ESRB: N/A ; MSRP: $12.99
“Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Tom vs The Armies of Hell given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.”