Twenty five years ago, before he had anything to do with the blockbuster Spider-Man movies, Sam Raimi directed a low-budget and zombie-filled b-movie called The Evil Dead. Starring Bruce Campbell as the chainsaw-wielding, wise-cracking zombie slayer with an attitude, the movie became incredibly successful. The original movie inspired two sequels in 1987 and 1993. Today the trilogy stands as a cult classic with a devout fan following. For playing the part of Ash Williams in the Evil Dead trilogy, Bruce Campbell is often hailed as “The King of B-Movies”.
The basic premise of Evil Dead is centered on a book called the Necronomicon Ex Mortis, or the Book of the Dead. Written with blood on human flesh, the book contains incantations with the power to awaken terrible evil. Naturally, reading the book causes no end of trouble in the movies. Ash’s own right hand becomes infected with the evil, requiring our hero to cut it off. While this might be a disadvantage for ordinary people, it can hardly stop the valiant Ash. The tough guy attaches a chainsaw where his hand used to be and proceeds to slaughtering miscellaneous zombies, or deadites to use the proper term in the Evil Dead universe.
Maintaining the spirit of the original movies, Evil Dead Regeneration gives action gamers a chance to take on the role of Ash to stop a brand new undead infestation. Ash is at an asylum at the beginning of the game. Unbeknownst to our hero, Vladimir Reinhard, the head doctor at the asylum, has been conducting vile experiments with the Necronomicon. Yet Reinhard lacks the knowledge to truly understand the inner workings of the book. Things go horribly wrong and it is naturally up to Ash to save the day.
Ash starts the game with nothing but a simple pistol. Thankfully, it won’t be long before he finds his trusty chainsaw and double-barreled shotgun. Wielding the boomstick and the chainsaw, Ash is quite a deadly adversary. He never runs out of ammunition and he is fully capable of taking on a dozen deadites without breaking a sweat. In Evil Dead Regeneration, most of the game play consists of defeating one roomful of undead creatures after another. You will encounter many incarnations of the generic deadite. However, the game does have a couple of features that provide diversity and keep the action interesting.
Upon completing the first level after the tutorial, Ash unwillingly teams up with a dwarf half-deadite. Ash’s sidekick Sam is a victim of Reinhard’s early experiments. The half-deadite has learned many of the Necronomicon’s secrets during these experiments. His understanding of the evil incantations will be instrumental in Ash’s quest to stop Reinhard. While the experiments have disfigured Sam, they have also given him a very unique talent. Sam cannot be permanently killed. When he is hurt in combat, his life energy automatically regenerates. If he receives enough damage to be slain, he comes back to life in just a few seconds. The game makes great use of this dynamic. Throughout the adventure, there will be a number of places Ash cannot access alone. Sometimes the path is blocked and Sam has to somehow die in a horrible way to open it. At other times, there is only a small opening Ash cannot pass through. Sam has to crawl in first and figure out a way to help Ash follow. Sam also helps in battle by tackling a few enemies on his own. More importantly, Ash can literally kick Sam into enemies, which results in the half-deadite grappling the opponent. While the monster is struggling with Sam, he or she is left defenseless against Ash’s attacks.
Ash’s ability to wield two weapons at the same time makes for interesting game play reminiscent of Dante fighting with his guns and sword in the Devil May Cry series. The hero can keep enemies at bay with his powerful shotgun and stay outside of their reach by quickly moving around the battlefield. Alternately, he can just as easily engage in melee combat with his effective chainsaw attacks. Ash has a number of combos that involve pressing the two attack buttons in different sequences. While the basic attacks are more than enough to get through the game, the combos allow Ash to really bring pain to the deadites.
Ash also manufactures a number of different weapons during the course of his journey that diversify the basic combat. At key points during the game, Ash runs into remarkably useless looking piles of junk. Yet the ever-talented hero manages to put together remarkable equipment using these piles. Besides his regular shotgun, pistol, and chainsaw, Ash makes a small rocket launcher, a devastating harpoon gun, and a flame thrower. The harpoon gun in particular is extremely useful. Ash can use it to pull enemies close to him, which makes it easy to fight opponents attacking you from rooftops. And putting a shotgun bullet into zombies getting yanked towards you at top speed is a highly effective method of undead cleansing.
While Evil Dead Regeneration is an action game at its core and combat makes up the majority of game play time, some amount of exploration and basic puzzle solving is required. Players will often have to take a careful look at their surroundings to determine how to access certain areas. The parts of the game where you control Sam will especially put your path finding skills to test. There are a handful of boss fights that will require some thinking to figure out how you can overcome the challenge. The solutions will often be immediately obvious, however Evil Dead Regeneration certainly benefits from having more to the game than an endless slaughter of deadites.
Unfortunately, the game does suffer from a series of technical problems that seriously hinder the experience. Playing through the PC version of the game, you are almost assured to take at least one unsolicited trip back to your desktop with a nasty error message on your screen. Sometimes the game will seem to load successfully only to have you realize that the controls are locked, leaving you unable to move. With Ash stuck in place, you will have no choice but to reset the game. And a personal favorite, once after loading the game during the final boss fight, Ash was completely impervious to damage, making what is supposed to be the last big challenge of the game a complete joke! On top of these three huge glaring problems encountered on the PC version, the game has a few minor clipping issues. Finally, on rare occasions the harpoon gun seems to have problems getting to the enemies it should be able to reach. None of the technical problems occur very often. However, there is still a solid chance that you will encounter each of them during the short game. The game should have been released in a much more stable state.
Evil Dead Regeneration also suffers from a degree of repetitiveness in level design. Ash’s journey involves finding and sealing a series of portals that open up when Reinhard unleashes the power of the Necronomicon. Blocking the way to each of these portals is a special creature Ash cannot defeat by normal means. Instead, he has to find three spirits and feed them to the creature. The spirits are trapped inside eggs Ash will have to locate. Once the egg is destroyed, Sam has to absorb the spirit that was trapped within. Ash then has to watch over Sam as he rushes back to the gatekeeper creature. The sequence ends as Ash kicks Sam into the creature’s mouth to feed it. Upon repeating the process three times, the creature falls asleep. Sam and Ash can literally walk through the creature at this point to get to the portal. Now in a game based on the Evil Dead movies, there is nothing wrong with how ridiculous and downright silly all of this sounds. It is over-the-top in a way that is very fitting for the Evil Dead setting. However, having to essentially repeat the same process of feeding different gatekeepers numerous times throughout the game does begin to get old before reaching the end. Similarly, the parts of the game where you control Sam could have used a little more diversity in terms of the challenges. Even the initially hilarious moments where Sam dies in a cut scene recur a few too many times. Even though the levels have different settings and slightly different challenges, a little more diversity in the way players have to go through them would have been welcome.
Evil Dead Regeneration delivers a solid action gaming experience that will easily appeal to the fans of the movies. The game very effectively captures and recreates the essence of the movies. Evil Dead Regeneration is full of excellent Bruce Campbell one-liners that will make the fans smile. The interaction between Ash and Sam throughout the game is very amusing and the voice work is excellent. Even gamers who have never seen the movies might appreciate over-the-top action. The graphics may not be the most fabulous you have seen, but they do get the job done. However, considerable technical problems take away from the experience. And even though the game is short, some of the repetitive elements might make you happy when it is finally over. If you are looking for an opportunity to slaughter a horde of zombies and like the Evil Dead setting, consider giving Evil Dead Regeneration a try. Just make sure you go in expecting to run into some issues.