Developer(s) – Argonaut Games
Publisher(s) – Mud Duck Productions & Evolved Games
Director – Phil Morris
Producer – Andy Pang
PEGI – 7
Malice was a game released back in 2004 loosely based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. But truth be told, the finished product is nowhere near as imaginative or culturally impacting. In fact, the most interesting thing about this game is its development history. At first, it was intended for release on the original PlayStation back in the late 90s. However, due to the first of many production management mishaps, the idea was subsequently scrapped in favor of releasing the game as an Xbox launch title in late 2001.
In 2002, having failed to get the game out in time, it was announced that members of the band No Doubt were to lend their voice talents to the project, with lead singer Gwen Stefani providing the role of the game’s titular main character, Malice. The band said in an interview that they were particularly excited to see their music reach a wider audience in the video gaming industry. By early 2003, Argonaut had still yet to get the game out to retailers. The company faced hardships, including financial problems (as they’d spent millions of dollars developing the game), further corporate meddling, and even the untimely death of one of their conceptual artists, Alecsandar Ilic, who tragically passed away at the age of 30. It was announced on May 30th that the game had been canceled.
Afterward, a different company got the publishing rights, and the project was subsequently revived, and the game was eventually released in 2004 to a very mediocre reception from both gamers and reviewers alike. And after having played it, it’s no wonder why.
Graphics – 4/10
Everything about this game is seemingly rushed, and the visuals are no exception. From the get-go, I kept thinking to myself that it looks like it could indeed easily run on the original PlayStation, as the game looked a generation old for the time. On top of that, I think the game just looks inherently generic, in that the settings and the character, enemy, and boss designs are all pretty unimaginative, and annoying in some cases, like the crows in suits who let out irritating noises as they attack or take damage. Another issue I have with it is that it baffles me how it only runs at 30 frames per second when it just looks like it ought to run at 60 for how bad it looks.
Gameplay – 3/10
Even it was released on the original PlayStation, the game’s play is too simplistic, insubstantial, and boring to have held up. A 3D platforming game, it has merely one side quest, unrefined combat, no replay value whatsoever, and terrible, drawn-out boss fights. I was fighting the second boss for about ten minutes with very little difficulty just wanting above all else for it to be over.
Controls – 6/10
The main gripes I have about this game’s control scheme involve jumping mechanics. If jumping mechanics aren’t done right in a platforming game, players will know instantly that there’ll be problems throughout, as one of the most stable elements of platforming games is the ability to jump from platform to platform. Another problem I had with this game was the inability to move my character whilst trying to attack. Every time the player presses the attack button, Malice stands completely still and swings her weapon, which eliminates any fluency in combat and unnecessarily complicates things.
Lifespan – 5/10
For even a late 90s platforming game to last less than 10 hours is absolutely unacceptable. If Argonaut Games truly wanted this game to last longer or do well, they needed an extra push in every department before they got it out to retail. But unfortunately, they couldn’t do that, presumably having blown a lot of their budget on hiring No Doubt to provide voice acting for the game, which didn’t happen anyway.
Storyline – 3/10
The game’s story follows the quest of a red-haired goddess called Malice, who is aiming to save the world by restoring power to a machine called the orrery, and defeating an evil demon called Dog God. It’s laughable at best. No character can be taken seriously because the voice acting that was eventually used in the end is farcical; in addition, the story is extremely flawed, and hardly makes any sense.
Originality – 0/10
There is absolutely nothing in this game that I haven’t seen before, and would never want to see again. I never want to see a combat system so unrefined, an in-game world that looks like someone threw up in the console, and a story that no one in the right mind would care to follow.
My biggest piece of advice to anyone who picks this game up in a shop and reads the part of the synopsis on the box that says “fantastic graphics, fluid gameplay, compelling storyline, and funny characterization”, don’t pay attention to it because of its false advertisement. Malice has none of those things.