When Square-Enix first announced their “Pikmin” meets “Overlord” PS Vita title, “Army Corps of Hell,” there was cause for excitement. After all, “Pikmin” has a cult-like following, and what isn’t improved with heavy metal and a hellish theme? Well, apparently “Army Corps of Hell” is the answer to that question. With a commonplace plot, drab graphics and repetitive gameplay, this is one title that did not live up to its potential.
“Army Corps of Hell” hits the ground running with the barest mention of the king of hell losing his power, and needing to round up an army of goblins to retake his throne. That’s about as deep as the story gets, but the focus is so entirely on gameplay, you probably won’t notice. Which is a complaint in and of itself — when a game turns as repetitive as this, it needed something to drive it forward.
The king starts off with a small army of 20 “soldier” goblins. The goblins are your main fighting force as the king serves as a director. Using the right stick to target, you can either click the R bumper to attack once, or hold to repeatedly attack. Once the attack reaches a certain mark, you can press circle to do a “salvo attack,” which is a super power attack. As you continue to kill enemies and clear levels, you gain resources which allow you to Alchemize, or create better weapons and armor for your goblins.
As you progress you also unlock additional goblin types, ala “Overlord.” There are spearmen and magi, both of which have a distinct time and place for use. While you may initially control 20 goblins, as you continue your army increases, which can be unwieldy at times. Each set of goblins (soldiers, magi and spearmen) are controlled separately by clicking circle, square and triangle, respectively. On some occasions it can feel very awkward to click R button to attack with one and then switch to the others, especially when each has a different cone of sight and specialty.
And that about sums up the game play. You enter each level with your goblins, fight some enemies, do a power glide across a bridge (the game generally provides giant arrows to make sure you don’t get turned around), and fight more enemies. Once you clear the level, you marvel in your power via comic-style placards, and rinse and repeat. In fact, you literally repeat levels to gain more resources to build new items. Which, believe it or not, is not one of the worst annoyances of the game.
One of the biggest complaints from “Overlord” was your minions’ blatant stupidity. Unfortunately, “Army Corps of Hell‘s” minions suffer from the same stupidity. While you can click L bumper to draw your minions in close to you, they will immediately stray like a pack of toddlers, as soon as you release L. This is generally not a problem until you encounter the fire pits and electric rods of instadeath. The rods shoot electricity between one another, meaning you have to time your progression forward — too bad your minions don’t always want to stay huddled. While you can just buy new minions, it is no less frustrating when you see 10 of them go up in smoke because you didn’t hold down L long enough … or something.
Despite all of this, “Army Corps of Hell” isn’t a bad game, but it’s not great by any stretch of the imagination. While initially novel, the novelty wears off very quickly — how quickly is dependent upon you. If you really like “Pikmin,” and are willing to forgive the lackluster graphics and repetition, this may be a good purchase down the road. But at $39.99, it’s hard to recommend “Army Corps of Hell” to anyone.
Reviewer’s statement: A copy of “Army Corps of Hell” was provided for the purpose of this review.
This review originally appeared on VideoGameWriters.com.