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CONSOLE: PlayStation DEVELOPER: SCEA PUBLISHER: SCEA
RELEASE DATE (NA): December 1, 1997 GENRE: Action/Fighter
// review by Jeff

Literally a game that spawned from Hell.

I might as well just say it right from the start: this is one game you truly ought to avoid. Fate often deals us a questionable hand, and nary a hand as nasty and wart-ridden as "Spawn: The Eternal" has ever been dealt! (Okay, perhaps it's not quite as horrible as a few other dung piles that have been released over the years, but this is indeed of low-grade manure quality.) Based on the popular Spawn series created by comic book guru and millionaire extraordinare Todd MacFarlane, this game takes anything that anyone could consider enjoyable in the comic and repeatedly stomps on it with this travesty of a game. Now I'm not a big fan of the Spawn comic series (or any comic book series for that matter), so I don't know much about the storyline, except for the bare basics: Spawn is actually some fellow named Al Simmons who used to be a hitman and ended up in Hell (for SOME reason...). Now Mr. Simmons is training (above ground) to fight the minions of the hellish creature Malebolgia and win himself a second lease on life. But that storyline is not very prevalent in the actual game, so I'll just say that Spawn is out to kick some butt. Superb.

Immediately after beginning to play "Spawn: The Eternal", you'll first notice just how ugly this game truly is. The game is running on a 3D engine that looked out-of-date before it was even written. Objects and scenery look extremely pixelated from a distance, so you can only imagine what things look like up close. Deplorable! The environments are colourful enough -- perhaps too colourful and painful on the eyes. Character models are equally hideous. It's hard to tell whether Spawn is a superhero or just an oversized lumbering sasquatch. Your foes do look somewhat like what they are supposed to represent, but are still horribly blocky. I realize that I should not expect great three-dimensional visuals on the 32-bit PlayStation, but the developer should have also taken note as just how cornea-shattering their game turned out to be. The sound quality is just as interesting... or should I say 'lacking in Spawn-like awesomeness'?! There didn't seem to be any music outside of ambient airy noise, except during battle sequences (which I will mention shortly). Sound effects are adequate for the job. The screams of enemies as they fall under your weight of your mighty fist (or hoof or whatever gripping unit your mutant character actually possesses) are admittedly cool to listen to because of their sheer audacity, but turning down the volume in favour of cranking up your favourite jazz fusion compilation works just as well.

But let's talk about how the game actually plays. To put it mildly, the game controls like a scratchy defecation. There are two aspects to the methods of gameplay, both of which provide as much satisfaction as that aforementioned bowel activity. Spawn's primary objective is to explore his surroundings. Doing so in the third person certainly allows you to see what your character is doing, but he plays like a boulder. Sluggish and unresponsive, you'll find yourself wondering how he obtained his own comic book license. Each button performs a different action, be it punching, kicking, or button activating. Yes, the X button is assigned (by default) to only pressing buttons and switches on screen. How ill is that? It would have been much more comfortable to use that button for prominent fighting actions, but that is hardly the biggest issue here. The fact that Spawn cannot exactly move around too freely is painful; you have to physical turn him in order to take even slightly sharp turns. This doesn't handle like Mario in Super Mario 64, folks; I'm talking serious cement block stamina. On occasions when you encounter enemies, the game switches itself to 2D brawler where you pretty much have to make the right punches and kicks at the right times in order to avoid taking damage. But you will take damage, so don't sweat it. And besides, you have the ability to heal yourself at the expense of Spawn's numeric magic meter. (That thing's in other Spawn games too, and I never quite figured it out. I really should read that pesky manual again.) These bare bones battles aren't too exciting or well-fleshed out, but luckily they are quick (albeit painful to play at times). One other aspect of dire importance is the camera system which, frankly, couldn't possibly save an already drowning video game. The camera frequently gets attached to walls or fails to give you adequate indication of where you are headed in tight areas. Partially as a result of this, you will likely be able to see through a few walls that were not intended to be intersected. That little camera flaw may just make the game slightly more interesting as a whole, considering how dry and bland the environments are. All these factors lead up to an experience that is laughable at best, and downright mind-boggling at its worst.

So what makes "Spawn: The Eternal" actually worth playing? In other words, what redeeming qualities does it possess that might make it tolerable? Well, the introductory sequence is interesting, even if it is a little short and fails to inform the non-Spawn fan what the heck is going on. Unfortunately, an ugly menu screen is bound to follow, so there's a hefty balance of good and bad in that respect. And... um... to say that this game is the most irritating one that I've ever encountered would be a lie! I guess that's a positive aspect! But I suppose the main allure to "Spawn: The Eternal" is that it can be turned off and promptly walked away from. Yeah, just avoid this game altogether; don't add to the net income of Todd MacFarlane Productions. That would not prove useful, especially if more games like this is the result.


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