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God Hand (PlayStation 2) artwork

God Hand (PlayStation 2) review

"When God Hand’s not funny, it’s thrilling. When it’s not thrilling, it’s funny. And sometimes it manages both at once."

You know a game is weird when the first boss is a fat, bald, Hispanic demon with prayer beads around his neck who answers to the name ‘Fat Elvis’. You especially know when it turns out that said boss is the mildest one.

Welcome to world of God Hand, a world filled with demons, people who work for demons, and people who wish the demons would just leave them the hell alone. Gene, our spikey-haired Hero of the Month, fits into that last class. An adventurer, he goes from desert town to desert town, seeking treasure and women, enjoying the high life until that fateful day comes. He sees a woman – a young, buxom woman with long and easily visible legs – being assaulted by two demons. He rushes to her aid, buys enough time for her to flee, and takes on the two vagabonds with bravery befitting of a true hero.

He gets his right arm chopped off for it. Brave Gene may be, but he can’t fight worth a damn. Yet.

After the demons walk off, laughing all the way, the woman returns. As fate and plot necessities would have it, this woman is carrying an ancient artifact with her. An artifact that lets its user tap into the unfathomable powers of a god. An artifact that can bend the very fabric of reality and stretch the flow of time. An artifact that, to be wielded, only requires that the user forfeit his right arm.

Gee, how convenient.

Though you might think that God Hand is about Gene’s quest to get vengeance on the jerks who chopped off his arm and rid the world of its demon plague, you’d be a little off. Gene does get revenge on those who dis-armed him…but only because he just so happened to stumble across them in the second stage, and he’s even gracious enough to let them run off after he lowers the boom on them. He does wind up actively opposing the demons and all who support them…but only because the woman who gave him the God Hand, Olivia, is a total psycho who threatens him with an axe if he doesn’t use the power for good. Of course, the fact that she’s hot no doubt influences his decisions, as evidenced in the following scene…

The music grows somber as Gene talks to Olivia, learning the terrible truth about her past and the secret of the God Hand. How she’s on the run. How she has no one else to turn to. How her fiancé now chases after her in his mad quest for power and how he’s become Gene’s most intense rival. A few other things that were quite obvious if you were paying attention.

As she breaks out into stereotypical tears, Gene wraps his arms around her, holds her tight, and asks a crucial question: “So, uh, what base did he get to?”

My hero.

That’s about as serious as the game ever gets. Oh, sometimes it looks like things are going to get heavy, but then it puts you into a pit fight with a wrestling gorilla. Or a sultry succubus lectures you on the subtleties of women…while doing a pole dance. Or it has you take on the Power Rangers or, at least, five psychotic and possibly homosexual midgets who dress like the Power Rangers. Watch out for dominatrix clowns, beware of the Afro Fist, and, whatever you do, DON’T FEED THE POISON CHIHUAHAS.

See what I mean? Weird.

The strangest part of it all, though, is that, underneath all the silliness, a beast of a brawler sleeps, one of the best I’ve ever played. For a variety of reasons.

You’ve got Roulette Attacks…

Gene puts the God Hand to good use. Typically he can’t access its full abilities; a brace around his arms seals off a bulk of his power. But if you kick enough ass, Gene can unleash his divine might and become twice as fast, twice as strong and totally invincible for a period of time. Or you can use the mighty Roulette Attacks.

Gene releases the God Hand and time slows to a crawl, letting you pick your attacks at leisure.

Some are simple but effective, like Home Run God. A massive baseball bat materializes in Gene’s hand, he swings it hard and fast, and woe be unto anyone caught in its arc.

Some are classic and kinetic, like the 100 Fists. Self-explanatory.

And some are just straight insane. Like La Bomba, where Gene slams his fist into the ground and sends all comers flying in a burst of white lights. The Head Slicer, where a sweeping beam of light means instant decapitation for anyone over six feet tall. The Kung Fu Samba, where the speed and style of Bruce Lee is matched with…well, it mostly just looks like something Bruce Lee would do if he had superpowers. And was alive. RIP.

…and you’ve got custom combos…

There are about a hundred moves to choose from in God Hand. They’re all distinct. They all work in different ways. You can assign any attack to any button at any time. As simple as pressing start.

Now, obviously, some attacks work better together than others. Starting a combo with an attack that launches your enemies out of hitting range is a stupid idea. Ending a combo with a lowly jab is equally stupid. Some attacks have a distinct series, like the Drunken Fist strikes, and they’re designed to work together.

But it’s your choice. Left Hook followed by a Pimp Smack followed by a Straight followed Long Straight followed by a Chop and ended by a Floating Butterfly? Done. Uppercut chained to a Chin Music chained to a Roundhouse Kick chained to a Knee Strike chained to a Rolling Sobat with a Double Snap Kick to top it off? Go for it.

It’s fun to tinker.

…and they comes in handy against the tough enemies.

Don’t let my earlier comments fool you; the opponents can be silly…in fact, they’ll often be…but that doesn’t make them weak. Fans of the genre know the drill; as the levels go on, you basically fight the same enemies with similar movesets but different costumes, and it can get a little tiring past the halfway mark. A crazy chick with a whip is still a crazy chick with a whip, doesn’t matter if she’s dressed like a clown, a pirate, or a wrestler.

But just when the monotony sets in, the clouds darken, the lightening strikes and one of your fallen enemies turn into a fierce demon. Sometimes this is a scripted event, but it’s random more often than not. Every enemy you face could be harboring a demon inside, and if you’ve not saved up your energy and you don’t have the power to use Roulette Attacks, it can get real bad real fast. Makes you think twice before you start blowing up everything if your path.

Power like that is better of saved for the bosses. They’re huge, they’re fast, they block attacks, they counter, they lure you into traps, they knock chunks off your life bar with a single blow, they’re badasses and they’ll kill you with a half a chance. Strong enough to be cheap? No. Strong enough to provide you with a challenge and make add some brains to your brawn? Most definitely.

When God Hand’s not funny, it’s thrilling. When it’s not thrilling, it’s funny. And sometimes it manages both at once.

Which is why it just ticks me off when the camera comes along and messes that up. See, every button on the pad gets used; the Square, Triangle, Circle and X get used for standard techniques, the shoulder buttons gets used for activating Roulette Attacks and God Hand mode, even the left analog stick is used for dodging. It’s a seamless scheme, works well. But there’s not one damn button to control the camera! It stays behind Gene pretty much all the time, so if you want to look at something, you have to turn all the way around. A little arduous, and the radar helps, but if you want to look up? Forget about it. You want to focus on something in particular? Not happening. Doesn’t hamper the experience too much, it’s just annoying when I want to stop and look around, and I find out that I can’t.

Now, I’m not a complete moron; I realize that the camera is, for many, the last thing that turns you off about this game. There probably won’t be a God Hand 2; mostly because Clover’s dissolved, but also because God Hand’s just not going to fly in the market. It’s too weird. It’s too different. It’s the kind of game that gets a cult following at best, adored by a small and select few.

I’m one of them.

lasthero's avatar
Staff review by Zack Little (November 09, 2006)

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