It seems to be a running theme of late. Tom, like our recent Captain Firelle (Dungeon Punks), has one of “those” jobs. Stuck inside of a crappy office with ridiculous work conditions everything changes for the worse, or better depending on one’s point of view, when a portal to hell is opened and the entire company is pulled into a different kind of hell. Just don’t tell the call center, they haven’t noticed yet and their productivity is through the roof.
Mauled to death in the opening cinematic, Tom is more or less brought back to “life” by an Imp named Beezle who needs his help to try to make things right around here. How the countless slaughtering of demons in his path is supposed to help Tom out, that is for Beezle to know and Tom to worry about later as dying isn’t very pleasant when you are constantly brought back to life whether you want to or not.
Tom VS The Armies of Hell takes Action Adventure and slaps it into a Twin-Stick Shooter for an explosive and entertaining time. Given basically two approaches in how to reach his goal, Tom can either maul enemies to death with his new demonic arm or shoot them with different forms of ammo that can be acquired by sucking in various demonic souls almost Luigi Mansion style. Flame, frost, acid, electricity, machine gun fire, shotgun blasts, and what I think is the power of the sun to make things go boom can all be shot back out to obliterate the demons in your path. Each type have their own ammo count and can, other than the flame/frost-thrower types, be charged up to cause even more damage or have a better effect.
Tom must have been a Ninja because there’s no way an office worker moves like that. I think some of us can attest to this that our hour lunch breaks are not enough to pull off learning these moves! Regardless of how he obtained these skills, secret Ninja training or simply now being half demon, Tom can dodge out of enemy fire and while he’s dodging he immune to ranged damage. As the stages progress and the enemies have access to more and more range attack this comes in very handy. Physical damage however will still take its toll so dodging out of the way early is important as Tom will take damage if he’s dodging while a hulking robot using a wheelbarrow as armor punches him.
Battling the forces of hell is tough and while Tom himself doesn’t level up, as he’s already what amounts to an eternal half demon, he can get upgrades from various tech left lying around after the company he worked for was sucked to the other side. These upgrades can be found left lying around in chests throughout the demonic realm and are quite useful. More interesting at times and perhaps more useful depending on the situation are bits and pieces, if not full sets, of armor that fully protect Tom from harm before dipping into his health. Picking any of these up will change Tom’s appearance for as long as they hold up letting you know that Tom is still good to go. Once the armor is gone, there are painkillers and health packs that may be dropped by the enemies but when even those are all gone? Death. Well kind of death since Tom is now sort of immortal.
If Tom falls in battle he’s brought back to the last checkpoint that was unlocked. Some of these are very well placed while others are horrendous causing massive backtracking especially when dealing with a boss. Well the second last boss in this particular case, but it’s a long run back for Tom’s legs! The checkpoints themselves are a bit odd however. They bring Tom back to where he last crossed but they remove any and all upgrades that were equipped and does not reset the ammo that was used. This could make some boss fights a bit hard to pull off at times especially since you have to hope that the enemies, when they spawned, would drop said ammo for Tom to absorb into his gun.
On the other hand, if a boss battle is not going well, absorbing the ammo could work to the advantage of the next attempt as boss fights require a bit of skill and maybe a few rounds of dying in order to figure out the pattern and the best ways to proceed. It’s a strange approach but depending on the player’s skill it may not even come to that. In Tom’s defense, and his favor, is the ability to turn into a hulking demon that can just about literally rip through any enemy and most bosses. There were a few instances in which I set about learning the moves of a boss and then simply hulked out once I thought my chances were good enough and I had enough ammo in case that monstrous form wasn’t enough. Just keep in mind that the items needed to change into this form are like the ammo, if you use them and die, you lose them.
With all of the gameplay it’s the cutscenes and the dialog that steals the show. The one who wrote this deserves a box of cookies as the dialog had me laughing so hard in one way or another almost the entire way through. If you are a bit squeamish on the foul language there’s no much that can be done but it is used VERY effectively to get certain points across. Just don’t call Beezle an “IMP” too many times to his face. Language aside, the sheer amount of parallels between office life and hell are impressive as even some of the demons find the 9-5 standards cruel and they live in the literal hell!
Tom VS The Armies of Hell is an awesome Action Adventure Twin Stick experience. While not being overly long, it offers a few difficulty levels to explore. With robust game mechanics, amazingly hilarious dark humored dialog, this trip to hell is worth the possibility of dying a few times over while trying to get out of it.
Article by Pierre-Yves