Malicious – The PS3 Attitude Review
A few months ago, Alvion revealed Malicious for the first time. Saying that this game has stunning graphics would be an understatement. This is easily the most beautiful game released on the PlayStation Network so far. Of course, amazing visuals aren’t everything. The game needs to be fun, too. Thankfully, Malicious delivers.
The concept is similar to Mega Man. There are five stages to choose from and you can play them in any order that you’d like. There is no platforming or even that much exploration. The story is kept to a minimum as well, so there isn’t much of a language barrier here. Once you pick a stage, you’re thrown right into a boss fight. Defeating a boss will give you new abilities to use in later battles.
There are two playable characters in Malicious, a male and a female. I didn’t notice any differences between the two but having the option is nice. Instead of using normal weapons, your character is equipped with a shapeshifting cape. As you progress through the game the cape is able to shape itself into a sword, lance, a pair of fists, and even wings. Initially, you’re only able to shoot out lasers that don’t seem to do much damage. I found this to be the only time the game wasn’t all that fun.
At the start of a level, there is a brief cutscene introducing the enemies. If the music wasn’t enough to prepare you for something big, the huge creatures you face most likely will. There’s never a moment when you’re not fighting the Malicious. It doesn’t matter where you’re at, they’ll find you and come at you in large groups. This is all happening as you’re fighting the boss. It doesn’t matter how many Malicious you kill, they just keep respawning!
The controls are simple once you know what to do. Since this game is almost entirely in Japanese, you probably won’t know what to do right from the start. This game kind of feels like a visually stylized version of Devil May Cry. While the basic gameplay is indeed simple to grasp, there are advanced techniques that require quite a bit skill to master. Every time you defeat an enemy or block an incoming attack at the right moment, you’ll gain what is called Aura. This allows you to make your attacks stronger and heal your character. It’s absolutely crucial to learn how to use your Aura wisely as it will make battles go by so much faster.
Here’s a breakdown of the controls:
Square = Attack
Triangle = Strong attack
Circle = Block
X = Jump
L1 = Aura (hold this button and push either square or triangle for stronger attacks)
L1 + X = Release mode (makes your attacks stronger, but your Aura depletes the entire time it’s active)
L1+ O = Heal (The amount of Aura used depends on how much damage you have taken)
R1 = Target enemy
L3 = Uses your wings when standing on the ground. If you jump in the air and press this button you’ll crash into the ground quickly.
R3 = Resets camera and removes the auto target if engaged
Left Analog Stick + O = Dash in whichever direction you push toward.
The magic cape can shift into four different weapons with each one assigned to a direction on the d-pad. Depending on the weapon equipped, attacks can be canceled mid-combo and it’s possible to link attacks together using different weapons. You just have to press the appropriate direction on the d-pad at the right moment. You’ll notice that I do this quite frequently with the fists and sword. It’s one of the more useful combos and easily abusable. I could have done better though…
To make things easier, I recommend changing the the wings function to the L2 button and switching the camera reset to R2. This makes playing so much better when you’re in tough situations. Customizable controls are great, it’s too bad more games don’t allow you to do this.
I really liked the strategy required to defeat the bosses. This isn’t a game that you can just play and expect to mindlessly mash through. And since you don’t have all your powers available to you, it requires even more thought. Due to this, some fights might last you much longer than they should. Even though there’s only 30 minutes allowed in each fight (with 5 minutes extra given for using a continue), you’ll die often until you figure out a good strategy. The last boss fight in particular seemed impossible until I accidentally stumbled across the solution. Clarity isn’t exactly this game’s strong point but it seems like a deliberate design choice.
Despite this being a game that’s essentially in closed areas all throughout, it feels like you’re in a pretty expansive environment. Practically everything is destructible, even your character’s clothes. Instead of having a health bar, damage is symbolized by missing body parts on your character. As if that wasn’t cool enough, if you manage to heal yourself after losing a limb, it will grow back naked. Clothes don’t just magically materialize and you can expect that level of detail throughout the entire game.
Not everything is positive, though. There is some slowdown when the screen gets cluttered with enemies. While it’s not gamebreaking or even that frequent, it’s definitely noticeable. When a game is this fast, it’s really easy to pick up on such a thing. Even moreso when it changes the timing of your combos.
There are some camera issues as well. If you couldn’t tell from the gameplay video above, it’s pretty frustrating when you’re near a platform or wall. The auto targeting doesn’t help much either. It usually focuses on the wrong enemy. The angle also gets a bit weird when you’re targeting a large creature. For the most part, I barely use the target function as it tends to mess up the camera more often than not.
Malicious will last you about 4 hours your first time through, assuming you don’t magically know the strategies for each boss fight. In terms of replay value, there is a Time Attack mode and trophies to earn which feature some ridiculously difficult requirements to meet. Other than that, the game is just fun to play through again and again, maybe even learning new techniques along the way. You might even get a better score.
If you manage to get your hands on a Japanese PlayStation Network Ticket, you can purchase this game from the PlayStation Store for only 800 yen. That comes out to about $10 in the US, so it’s not even all that expensive. Hopefully enough people can convince Sony to localize and release this game outside of Japan. Malicious is a game that is just begging to be appreciated.