Army Corps of Hell Tries Way Too Hard, Which is Why It’s Fun «

When I was in junior high school (centuries ago), I always found the metalhead clique at my school intimidating. Rangy boys with long, oily hair and a collective uniform consisting of boots, black-washed jeans, and black T-shirts imprinted with art from album covers by bands whose names bore gratuitous double consonants and lent themselves to harsh, angular logo designs, the metalheads always hung out together at the side of gym class, discussing their heroes’ latest wailing guitar concoctions and glowering at the rest of the world. They sported the shifty desperation unique to 14-year-olds jonesing for a drag on a stolen cigarette.

It was all kind of alarming for us clean-cut students whose main ambition for gym class was to avoid notice by the jocks and dropouts while hanging out on the sidelines discussing the latest Zelda strategies with each other (dude, if you just keep going up when you get to that one spot in the mountains, there’s a dungeon there!). In hindsight, though, I realize that the metalhead kids were harmless. They never picked on anyone; they never caused trouble outside of skipping class to hang out and listen to noisy music. They were as geeky as the video-game-fixated A-students; the only difference between us was that their obsessions were wrapped up in an affected antisocial style. Their music may have been about volume and screaming and satanic posturing, but it was just that: Posturing. Underneath it all, those guys just wanted to do their own thing, and they wore their ragged Dokken shirts with pride because they sincerely thought that airbrushed zombie warriors chained to naked, guitar-wielding sex slaves was, like, so awesome.

Click the image above to check out all Army Corps of Hell screens.

I can’t help but think of them when I play Square Enix’s Army Corps of Hell.

My first encounter with Army Corps was at last year’s Tokyo Game Show, and my gut response to the game was to describe it as “heavy metal Pikmin.” After spending more time with the actual Vita game outside the bounds of a trade demo, I have come to realize that this description is, in fact, almost entirely accurate. Army Corps is not “Pikmin-inspired” or “Pikmin-like,” it is Pikmin with a thrash metal patina. The main difference between this game and its direct antecedent — a connection justified by the fact that Army Corps shares staff in common with Nintendo’s originals — is that it’s way louder. The sentimental Captain Olimar is replaced with a demon lord, and the pikmin themselves are now goblins, but the underlying systems are the same. Not-Olimar leads an army of critters, which are grouped into three types (mages, spearmen, and swordsmen), and he attacks enemies by tossing his minions at them. Those targets are now horrible eyeball monsters and other hellspawn rather than outsized ladybugs. Otherwise, it’s all about the same.

This would make for an absolutely awful experience if for a moment I suspected that Army Corps takes itself the least bit seriously, but fortunately someone somewhere along the chain realizes how utterly over-the-top (and ultimately harmless) it really is. Not that ad campaigns are necessarily representative of a product’s intentions or nature, but if Square Enix wanted us to think Army Corps were truly a badass slice of brutality, they wouldn’t have created this Mega 64-style viral video in which the Lord of Hell visits the zanily named (and entirely real) town of Hell, Michigan:

 

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