- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 14, 2008

Superhero and cartoon characters have become integral parts of the electronic entertainment industry. With this in mind, I salute the meld of pop-culture character and video game with a look at some …

Comics plugged in

Mike Mignola’s paranormal-investigating demon makes his debut on video-game consoles in Hellboy: The Science of Evil (Konami for Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, rated T for teen, $59.99). A single player finds six missions mixing haunted settings with loads of demons and the undead.

The story: Paraphrased from the game manual: Hellboy was pulled from hell during World War II by Nazi occultists who were hoping to take advantage in the war. He was rescued by Allied soldiers, however, and was raised by the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. Sure, he’s rough and gruff around the edges, but he’s good at heart and ready to protect the world from evil.

What’s the point? The player takes control of Hellboy and battles in a three-dimensional adaptation of his sequential-art universe. He travels to Romania, a sacred forest in Japan, Tunisia and Eastern Europe to stop the Nazi villain Herman von Klempt. Amid graveyards, castles and catacombs, the hero finds a stable of classic horror-themed villains featured in his comics. They include a witch, tech-enhanced war apes (Kriegaffe), frogmen, Nazis and multiple versions of the serpentine Ogdru Jahad.

Get to the action: Equipped with a massive revolver named Samaritan, his famous Right Hand of Doom (often glowing and on fire) and various weapons he finds during battles, Hellboy blasts and smashes his enemies into oblivion.

Fighting is mainly of the button-mash variety, with a number of combos available. He also uses more complex grappling techniques than many World Wrestling Entertainment wrestlers. Some can rip the tongues or heads off creatures.

Hellboy’s revolver holds nine types of bullets, ranging from grenade to tentacle-melting tips, that he picks up along the way.

Multiplayer possibilities: A cooperative mode gives two players, either in the same room (split screen) or online, use of Hellboy, Liz Sherman or Abe Sapien.

Memorable moments: I was tickled by the assault of werewolves and unending supply of gas-masked Nazis. The final battle with Herman von Klempt’s mutated monster is equally gross and hilarious.

Star power: Actors from the movie Ron (Hellboy) Perlman, Selma (Liz Sherman) Blair and Doug (Abe Sapien) Jones provide the voice-over work for their characters. Mr. Perlman does a great job, although his constant “That was easy” comment is almost too ironic.

Violent encounters: An incredible number of defeated enemies fall into skeletal remains, piles of goo and pyrotechnic explosions. When the hero is injured, he goes down on one knee, and the player must repeatedly push a button to revive him.

Extras: Much interview footage with all of the principals, including creative consultants Guillermo del Toro and Mr. Mignola as well as Mr. Perlman and Miss Blair, is available.

Read all about it: Dark Horse Comics compiled the four-issue 2001 miniseries Hellboy: Conqueror Worm into a trade paperback ($17.95), and the story includes many of the principals from the game.

Pixel-popping scale: 4 out of 10. It’s loaded with dark, often murky and ugly graphics that never take advantage of the format’s power and high-definition potential.

What’s it worth? Considering that Mr. Mignola and Mr. del Toro were part of the Hellboy: The Science of Evil team, it is amazing how brutally abbreviated and mediocre it is. Die-hards should rent the game just for the chance to control Big Red, but the average player will have no idea why he is controlling Hellboy and fume at the repetitive and uninspired action.

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