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God Hand (PlayStation 2) artwork

God Hand (PlayStation 2) review

"This game may slap me around like a chump, but returning the favor is never not satisfying."

Games that boast high difficulty and challenge ride the delicate line between being skill-demanding or just downright obnoxious, often separated by whether or not tools or abilities are available to the player to let them overcome such adversity or if the scales are tipped so drastically in favor of the game that it’s an exercise in insanity trying to win. At first I had God Hand penned on the latter end of the spectrum, but after some practice and application of learned techniques I’d have to say that the player is the one who has the scales tipped greatly in their favor. It’s still a challenging game for sure, but God Hand can make you feel like a martial arts badass who’s untouchable… You’ll just need to sink in quite a bit of practice first and take a few gnarly beat downs.

God Hand has a story that is there just for the sake of giving a meaning to the campaign involving arms that contain godly powers and both the protagonists and antagonists wanting to get both the god hand and devil hand. It may be a throwaway story, but the cast of characters are what kept me entertained above the storytelling. Gene, the hero, is tagged along by Olivia who is a keeper of the arms who both hunts and is hunted by the Four Devas, a group of big bad guys that spend most of their time bickering instead of coming up with a solid plan on defeating Gene. While the main cast is colorful, comical and fun to watch, even the lesser enemies you go up against are memorable in their own ways, both for the sake of entertainment value and how their move sets can be memorized and calculated during fights. While many enemies end up getting recycled into stronger forms later on in the game, there’s still a varied roster all with their own threatening abilities and humorous barks. By the end of the game you’ll wonder who this ‘Alexander’ is and why Gene is mistaken as him constantly.

The game is a third-person action brawler that plays more like a fighting game rather than an arcade-y beat em’ up. The face buttons when combined with up or down stick directions dictates your assigned moves which can also be customized, with the shoulder buttons releasing super abilities, a taunt and a 180 spin to flip the camera direction. These controls, much like other fighting games, are intuitive and easy to use along with how the camera has a pseudo-lock on effect when facing enemies. When toe to toe with an enemy the camera will focus over Gene’s shoulder at them, and when against multiple enemies the camera will focus on which target is the most prominent, and changing the lock is as easy as turning Gene’s body to face them. Very seldom did the camera and its lock-on bring me much headache, and even if it doesn’t play nice you can easily dash or backflip away to get ground back and re-tackle the fight. The game controls, dare I say it, fit perfectly for a brawler, and being able to customize your move list is icing on the cake. Put a launcher on down + triangle, a charge move on down + X, change up your square combo to slip in a kick as a finisher instead of a heavy punch, etc. Some moves obviously work better in a combo better than others in terms of their speed and recovery frames, but you can experiment at a fight club with a training dummy who fights back to see what works and what doesn’t. The special abilities of unleashing the god hand when your tension bar is high enough and cycling through a special roulette are the great equalizers, both of them granting you invincibility during their use. Sparing though sensible use of these two trump cards are necessary in combating bosses both minor and major, and while one can certainly complete the entire game without use of specials (in the form of a ‘Kick Me Sign’ run), investing in better roulette moves and increasing the tension bar for more frequent use becomes valuable for later chapters where the difficulty grows exponentially. Purchases for health upgrades and more square-combos and of course new moves to assign are available with some dramatically more useful than others, with some moves getting upgraded variations as you progress through the game.

The gameplay when in combat is quick and purposeful (with the speed of combat) depending on what your current level is which increases as you deal damage and decreases when you take damage. A higher level means more money for defeating enemies, but it also increases their damage output and speed. A lower level means less money, but enemies will be slower and hit softer. The game becomes painfully challenging at level three and the fittingly named level Die, so for your first playthrough you’ll likely want to stick with easy mode which caps off at level two. As earlier mentioned, enemies have attacks that are generally easy to read and a majority of said attacks can be dodged or countered. Dodging with with the right stick can let Gene slide to the left or right, do a backflip or execute a forward duck n’ weave which has invincibility frames against most physical attacks that go for Gene’s head or torso. While playing defensively or evasively does mean less damage, the best way of defeating enemies is just going all out on them since dealing damage builds up an unseen stun gauge that, when peaked, will dizzy an enemy to allow for a further smack down or a mashing sequence where Gene rapidly pummels the crap out of them. Countering attacks and breaking guard is also ways of keeping fights going, and the feeling of causing a boss or tough enemy to become stunned never fails to be a great feeling. God Hand is great at making you feel great when fights are going great, but taking damage can suck the wind right out of your sails, what with your health bar convulsing, Gene giving an awful grunt and the enemy in question laughing it up. The biggest part of becoming skilled at the game is knowing an enemy’s move list, what can be dodged or what needs to be avoided and fighting around this information. I’ve suffered numerous defeats to bosses and difficult encounters however they’ve all been my fault alone. Apart from the occasional bug of character models clipping awkwardly into the environment, the game runs without much issue though up close explosions tends to drop a few frames.

God Hand may be challenging, but with all the techniques and tricks at your disposal getting to the point of running laps around the game in terms of skill feels fantastic. The game plays great even when you’re making a joke out of it, making payback against all the game overs and ruined hype taste so sweet. Even if you don’t have fighting game knowledge in regards to safe frames, animation interrupts, chained inputs and so on, getting better at the game is a rewarding feeling be it not taking damage for long stretches or being able to side-dash and roundhouse kick an enemy into oblivion without dropping the chain. If the difficulty and genre of beat em’ ups don’t tickle your fancy, you certainly won’t have any fun with God Hand; for those otherwise, I cannot gush enough about this goofy brawler that, despite multiple playthroughs, still beats my backside every so often.


Dinoracha's avatar
Community review by Dinoracha (May 20, 2016)

Dinoracha is a world-renowned internet famous Let's Player, voice actor, writer, reviewer, e-sports competitor, masterful stream host and man of the people. These may or may not all be gross exaggerations.

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