The Mantle of Cinders. A black cloth that, when activated, can take the form of various weapons to subdue enemies and can even sprout wings for flight. Consider it to be a much more direct form of Bayonetta’s hair suit. But think about it – a piece of clothing that sprouts fists, shoots bullets, and can even fly. Sounds like an interesting concept for a game, yeah? Nothing could go wrong, right?
The Story - As the Spirit Vessel, you’ve been summoned by the Great Prophets to combat evil beings known as Malicious. In order to put up much of a fight, he’ll need to collect the powers taken from the Prophets by warriors who refuse to relinquish them. Each power strengthens the Mantle of Cinders, a cloth worn by the Vessel, making him (or her) ready to fight the coming demons.
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Platforms: PS3 (PSN)
Price: $9.99 ($7.99 for PS Plus members)
Release Date: July 24, 2012[/toggle_box]
- Combat Flow - The Mantle gives you the ability to switch up your weapons mid-combo. For example, if you start with the fists, you can do a finisher with the sword. This helps out for managing large crowds, but the transitions are slow and even unresponsive at times.
- A Beautiful Battlefield - One of the game’s few strengths are its cel-shaded, inky presentation. The game is colorful and gorgeous for a budget title, and the levels are presented well enough to put you in the midst of the scenery. Even little flourishes, such as the Mantle’s constant flow, are nice to look at.
- You Vs. Everyone - Each level puts you in the midst of a Dynasty Warriors-esque battlefield, with continually spawning enemies of different strengths. The hook here is that the boss is present at all times, until he’s beaten. To do that, you’ll have to farm aura by taking out the various minions running around the field, or through other means such as an instant guard when attacked. Aura can then be used to both strengthen your strikes – you can hit the boss without aura, but doing so will take longer than needed. Any Aura gathered can also heal the Vessel for a certain cost. While not unique, it does manage to feel different – you’re constantly dodging and guarding attacks from all sides to find an opening.
- The Bosses - Malicious’ bosses are unique in both looks and size, and can land into the realm of the unexpected. From a swords-woman to a walking tank, each have their own tactics for your demise. Only thing is, their attacks are hardly methodical, therefore making a strategy a tad difficult. When you couple that with bombardments from the minions, the experience is at times frustrating, yet strangely satisfying upon their defeat.
- Grandstand Arrangements - The music is absolutely excellent. The instrumental selections for the levels are the perfect accompaniment, as they never let you forget that yes, you are in an epic battle. Now go for it.
- …Little Help? - I winced when I found that talking to one of the Elders about combat and movement was in fact the tutorial. I can understand that this is a budget title, but even a quick five-minute level explaining the basics would have helped. I had to talk to the old man a good few times to understand Aura and other necessities to survive (of which there are many), and I shouldn’t have had to. It’s not a damning mark against the game, but less confusion is always nice.
- Framerate Scuffs - In a game of You vs. 100, this is a key factor in keeping folks immersed in the action. The framerate had trouble in nearly every level, with slowdown occurring during the game”s busiest moments. It got to the point of distraction at times, as I found myself disconnected from the ‘flow’ of combat. Speaking of ‘flow’…
- A Bad Camera All Around - If you happen to fire up a game of Malicious, check on the game’s camera. Does it seem like it has a mind of its own? Even after setting the strangely defaulted inverted controls back to normal, I still fought through strange pans and aggravating eagle-eye perspectives. You can get into a rhythm of clicking the R3 button to reset the camera if it goes off, but you’re supposed to be fighting the baddies onscreen.
- No, Him! No, Not That Guy, Him! - While locking-on to the boss is straightforward, getting a bead on one of the minions was a problem. The lock-on would target an enemy next to the intended baddie, and while target-switching can be done, its knack for jumping from target to target before setting on yours is a hazard. Spend too much time fiddling with this, and the AI would take the opening to strike.
One level had me fighting through a giant airship as I took on a boss with some heavy artillery. He was on his last legs, and retreated to the main platform of the ship. I gave chase, activating my flight power-up to get to his level, and delivered the killing blows. With the music backing me against a gorgeous setting sun, I felt satisfied when I took him down. Malicious has the potential to be full of moments like these, but only the dedicated folks that can fight through crappy cameras and slowdown will experience them. Hopefully the recently announced Vita version (Japan) can handle these detriments, as well as give us a stronger tutorial. Malicious deserves to be played, but the middling frustrations make it difficult to recommend.
[box_light]We believe that the score is the least important part of a review. It’s tough trying to assign a numerical value to an experience. Furthermore, is there really a difference between a 7.5 and an 8? Gamers place too much importance on arbitrary numbers. This is why our scores are hidden by default. Only look at them if you absolutely need a number between 1-10 to see if a game is worth your time. You can read our review guidelines here.[/box_light]
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Replay Value: 7.5
“Very Good” – This game flirts with greatness, but ultimately falls short. Still it’s highly entertaining and worth a look.[/toggle_box]