The original Resident Evil— cheesy dialog and all— probably holds an affectionate place in all our hearts. It’s a landmark game. Besides widely being considered the genesis of the ‘survival horror’ genre, its style and ideas inspiring hundreds of would-be homages and clones since, it’s hard to ignore any game with zombies in it1. Chris Antoni’s Real Evil ($1.00) wants to be a nostalgic, even campier, low-budget version of Resident Evil. Its heart is in the right place, but its complete reliance on that goodwill and nostalgia proves fatal.
It starts off promising enough. Real Evil‘s tale is a meta-story of sorts, involving a bland-ish robot plucked straight from your average XBLIG title and thrust into the real world without explanation. This sees you battling zombies on pre-rendered backgrounds (…fancy words for ‘pictures of someone’s house’) and searching for clues / items, complete with those inherently-awkward camera angles and a limited amount of ammo. Ah, Resident Evil, I remember you well.
Player movement is equally-awkward, taking its cues from the old-fashioned ‘tank controls’ the RE series was known for. It’s a less than effective scheme in hindsight, more about rotating slowly to face the direction you want. The combat animations for your robot are nifty but slow, meaning you’ll have to aim and fire pretty fast at some points to avoid a quick death (one hit = instant demise) or unseen foe.
As you explore, you’ll run across some basic puzzles, such as piecing together a computer password or maneuvering objects in the environment, and some nods to previous games by the developer. Well, it’s all highly self-referential, actually. You’re in on the joke if you’ve played most of the games referenced, but if you’re coming to Real Evil fresh, both the narrative and the gameplay are likely to feel bizarre or disjointed. One minute you’re fighting zombies in an attic, the next you’re staring into the void and facing off against cubed threats on a level ripped from Block King.
Even with the shifting styles, Real Evil‘s biggest issue is its adherence to Resident Evil‘s ancient ideas regarding gameplay. The camera angles are a nuisance more than they are a fond memory, with the jarring transitions from room to room sometimes making it hard to tell if you’re hitting a target. To complicate matters, there is a limited amount of ammunition to find, with no way to attack enemies if you happen to run out. It’s entirely possible to trap yourself at a save point unarmed, making any future progress impossible.
That’s hardly a recipe for fun. Points go to the developer for the XBLIG-unique twist on an old formula, but the mishmash of games and ideas here don’t quite work. Add to this the frustrating viewpoints and an extremely-low tolerance for mistakes, and Real Evil‘s attempt at nostalgic survival horror feels bloated and just as dated as its inspiration.
- As XBLIG has come to know all too well. ↩