Altered Beast (Genesis) review
"WIZE FWOM YOU GWAVE! "
WIZE FWOM YOU GWAVE!
As these words boom through the Acropolis, a zombie lurches to his feet and prepares for the fight of his undead life. Zeus, the head honcho of the Greek gods (and apparently Elmer Fudd in disguise), has drafted this guy from the hereafter for a mission of utmost importance: saving his daughter Athena from the Neff’s sinister clutches. Just think about that for a moment. There are no living soldiers in all of Ancient Greece that can be summoned for this mighty undertaking. Elmer-Zeus is supposed to be the most powerful being in all of Olympus, yet he can’t use his divine abilities to take down some cheap Hades knockoff. But since questioning the logic of a god roughly equates to eternal condemnation, it’s not like the hero of Altered Beast has a choice in the matter. Armed with nothing more than his bare fists and feet (which are all fleshed out despite his being dead), the nameless warrior ventures forth into the nether-regions of Hell.
Unfortunately, this guy isn’t quite up to the task. Though he may look like a regular man, Elmer-Zeus’s lackey still suffers from the effects his death. Namely, Rigor Mortis. The hero’s joints are so stiff that he can barely plod through the evil-infested graveyards and catacombs that are featured in his crusade. It’s even worse when he tries to fight; the warrior’s manly physique and bulging muscles can’t hide the fact that his combat skills are abysmal. Upon encountering one of Neff’ evil zombies (who can somehow blow themselves up), our hero may try to smack the foe’s head off. Despite his best efforts, the warrior can only punch a few inches away from his body. Kicking isn’t very effective, either. Instead of *****-slapping hordes of undead adversaries across the stage, the man can only amble up to the nearest foe, frantically let loose a few attacks, and pray that he can smite it before his health gets sapped to nothing. Once the hero has finally reached the end of the level, Neff will use his ineffectual powers to summon some half-assed monstrosity that requires little strategy to beat. Considering the warrior’s fighting skills, such lackluster battles are evened out fairly well.
Elmer-Zeus, however, has other plans. In order to make his would-be hero’s journey go more smoothly, the god grants the man the powers of transformation. Once the right enemies have been slaughtered, they’ll spit out a magical orb that can unlock the hero’s shape-shifting abilities. Two doses of the supernatural stuff will make the hero bulk up a few pixels, giving him bigger muscles (though his head remains as tiny as ever) and adds a bit of extra power to his attacks. Instead of getting better range or speed, the man will sprout little blue flame animations to decorate his hands and feet. Collecting a third orb, however, will transform the hero into a mythological beast with an entirely broken moveset and unprecedented power. No longer will the hero be forced to meander through the battleground; instead, his newfound abilities will allow him to knee-thrust through enemies, sling fireballs and lightning bolts, and basically kick evil’s ass with ease. While such awesome moves are a huge improvement over the hero’s regular skills, they eliminate the only thing that makes Altered Beast worth playing: the challenge.
But hey, at least it’ll look cool. Once the hero powers up into his beastly forms, the level will be lost in a sudden wave of flames. The man’s gaunt face will be replaced with glowing eyes and rows of razor-sharp teeth of a werewolf, his horribly deformed muscles will covered with shaggy fur. All of his wooden movements will be reformed into faster and flashier attacks, complete with ear-splitting sound effects and smoother animations. Unfortunately, these awesome scenes are far and in between. Supernatural werewolves may be awesome, but the hordes of demonic pigs, purple-clad zombies, and tiny demons don’t seem to be quite as great. The undead don’t seem so fearsome when a couple of right hooks can send their body parts flying around. None of the levels are particularly interesting either; the bland color schemes, simplistic background designs and an overall lack of polish don’t do the game any justice. The only things remotely beautiful about these areas are the demonic bosses at the end; but since the not-so epic clashes end fairly quickly, you’ll never get the chance to fully appreciate them.
For a title that invokes so much love and nostalgia from older gamers, Altered Beast is a pathetic excuse of a game. The story is fairly interesting, despite the obvious overabundance of plotholes. The undead warrior deserves a little credit; he acts just as a dead man should: lifeless. His stiff moves, utter lack of combat prowess, and utter lack of charisma make him one of the least likely heroes on the Genesis. The transformation aspect is a decent attempt to smooth over the game’s other shortcomings, but it ultimately kills any difficulty that the gameplay could have possessed. The mediocre presentation underscores the game’s lacking quality. Such flaws doom Altered Beast to being more of a chore than a fun experience. Somewhere, Elmer-Zeus is crying.
Community review by disco (February 24, 2007)
Disco is a San Francisco Bay Area native, whose gaming repertoire spans nearly three decades and hundreds of titles. He loves fighting games, traveling the world, learning new things, writing, photography, and tea. Not necessarily in that order.
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