By Spencer . September 19, 2011 . 3:00pm
Army Corps of Hell was the most unusual game Square Enix brought to Tokyo Game Show. It’s a new franchise and slated to launch with PlayStation Vita in Japan where you play as the skeletal Lord of the Underworld. You’re too much of a badass to do your own fighting, so you throw demonic minions at enemies like a cursed Captain Olimar.
You move the overlord with the left analog stick and fling impish units with swords by pressing square. Once twenty latch on you can press square again to make your minions simultaneously stab the poor monster for heavy damage. While the dark lord refuses to get his dirty, you can directly attack enemies with spear minions. Press triangle and you can throw these guys like um.. spears. Hold square and you can make wizard units charge up to throw fireballs. It takes a couple of seconds, but you can stock the fire spell and use it when an enemy is swarmed by sword minions. After you defeat an enemy, you can eat its remains and you may be rewarded with jewels.
Battles take place on islands and while you can retreat, you can’t move forward until you defeat all of the enemies. That makes a rickety suspension bridge appear and you can move on to the next island. I got a hang of the fighting controls pretty quickly, but I was perhaps, a little too careless about my units while fighting giant eyeballs. When you miss or an enemy rams into your minion army, your troops are knocked out. Maybe they live for love and approval from the overlord because they die in a few seconds if you don’t pick them up. I decided to act like a cruel overlord, so I often let my units die resorting to unintentionally healing my remaining units instead.
The reason I said unintentionally is I tapped the healing icon (bottom left corner of the touch screen) often by accident. This triggers a mini-game where you have to drum on the Vita’s rear touchpad to heal your team. Stay on beat and hit the back fast to recover. This took sometime to get used to since the Vita is a slick machine, not something you want to bang with your hands. However, that’s exactly what you want to do – hit the portable like a drum – to heal.
I moved through the level and met a goat demon boss at the end. Before I could damage this archdemon, I had to make my minions stab its knees. Once it was crawling on the ground I followed the same basic strategy – charge magic, toss sword guys, wait until I have 20 latched on, hit with sword attack, and release magic. The boss retaliated by jumping on my minions and he successfully crushed a group of them. I ran to a cage and trade jewels for minions. You can select what kind of minion you want by pressing square, triangle or circle. I opted for more swordsminions since they seemed to deal more damage. A few more pokes to the knee and face and the demon was defeated. He melted into a pile of goo leaving his brains behind as a meal for the minions.
While the gameplay is quite different from the typical Square Enix Japan product, Army Corps of Hell has a fleshed out atmosphere. The story is told like a graphic novel and rock music blasts in the background. The Hell meets rock and roll seems like something Square Enix could release overseas, but as of now Army Corps of Hell is just for Japan.