Malicious was one of those PSN games that came out in Japan quite a while ago and because of critical success, is seeing the light of day stateside. Ends up, there was good reason behind that critical success; Alvion’s Malicious is a really neat ten dollar package wrapped up in about three hours of solid gameplay.
Though the story is pretty incomprehensible, the gist is you place as an object known as the Spirit Vessel, which takes the form of either a male or a female, and you have to destroy five other “slayers” that have been corrupted, to gain their power and kill “The Malicious”. The Malicious is the embodiment of all evil and malice of the world, born from humanity. If you are truly interested in the story, you can read an in-game, five chapter book that explains the origins of the characters, how they became corrupted, and why the Spirit Vessel was born. All optional, of course.
The real shining star of Malicious is its gameplay, though, which sets it far aside from most of the other ten dollar action games on PSN. Your scarf, the “Mantle of Cinders”, transforms into multiple weapons to suit your needs in combat. It can be a basic pair of fists for simple combos, a spear to charge through enemies, a shield to guard, et cetera. It’s dynamic and leads to one of the many reasons this game has been compared to Megaman. Your Mantle gains new powers every time you defeat a boss and absorb their energy. For example, by defeating the first golem, you get the enhanced fists, which do more damage and have more combos to choose from. The game is composed of six levels: five starting levels which are all boss fights, and then a sixth level where you fight the final boss: The Malicious.
In order to tackle the bosses, you have to destroy the smaller enemies around them to gain “aura”, which is the Spirit Vessel’s source of power. You use aura to do aura-attacks, repair yourself when you’ve taken some hits, or to just release it constantly, during which time you have a massive increase of power. By chaining certain attacks together, you can kill huge groups of enemies at once, allowing you to gain thousands of aura at once, and then charge down the boss and finish it.
Though all of the combat is pretty basic, it’s still really fun. As I said earlier, there are only six levels, each of which will take you around thirty-minutes, so a three hour game with basic combat is okay: it doesn’t overstay its welcome. You have standard three-button combos you can perform, and the dynamic of killing hordes of small, weak enemies just to get to the next aura-release for massive damage is a nice and fun cycle to run though on the varying stages.
One thing I have yet to bring up is how absolutely amazing this game looks. Looking at screens of this game, you wouldn’t believe its a ten dollar download on the PSN. It looks like a retail game, and when it plays, it looks better than a lot of retail games. That is some of the best praise because where many downloadable games today have gone simple 2D route, Malicious goes far in the other direction, with an all-out 3D art style that looks amazing (not that there is anything wrong with how other downloadables look). Everything from the bosses, to the enemies, to the levels, to the main character look great, and the smooth transitions between levels on top of destructible environments and a great attention to detail add up to a beautiful game.
Of course, there is a hiccup with the great visuals, in that there are some serious frame rate problems on two of the stages that feature over one hundred enemies on screen and two of the bigger bosses in the game. It never becomes a crawl, but it does become pretty hindering.
Malicious is great, its fun, and it does not linger too long. I beat the game in about two sessions on normal mode, and found a great challenge and a beautiful game. If you can’t spend ten dollars on a three-hour action game, then don’t buy Malicious, but if it sounds at all interesting, I would say it is worth the price of entry, at the very least.