God Hand Review
This review originally appeared in E169, December 2006.
The most accurate summation of God Hand is probably the least useful: With Shinji Mikami and Clover Studio having slaved over imaginative, progressive epics Resident Evil 4 and Okami respectively, God Hand is like the drunken night out needed to wind down from them, a beat ëem up determined to cut loose just for the hell of it.
That's not to say it's at all dumb or throwaway. The game features a supremely athletic combat system of responsive directional dodges mapped to the right stick, alongside a trio of face buttons used for a variety of melee attacks. And its initial toughness is quickly offset by a structure that, like Viewtiful Joe, allows the player to save or stock up on shop items in between every section of a level. Unlike Joe, however, is the lack of variation and imagination; the hook to God Hand is that there's very nearly no hook, leaving it down to the player to express themselves through their chosen repertoire of punches, slaps, roundhouse kicks, machine-gun stomps, groin punts and spanks, plus a variety of brutal, outrageous special attacks via lead character Gene's 'God Reel', brought on by the power of his titular hand.
And as the gloves come off, so does the straitjacket – Clover's eagerness to introduce humour into everything it does is epitomised here, in a continuous prank of a videogame whose plot and characters answer to no one but its creators. No sooner have you dusted off the gorilla dressed in wrestling garb – who steps down from a bus to sit on a bench and read his newspaper – before being confronted by a disturbing Power Rangers spoof, the Mad Midget V, with a 50 Cent reference thrown in for good measure. Not to mention the subsequent trip through a circus forecourt populated with rainbowcoloured chihuahuas, too; if ever there was the videogame equivalent of feeling punch drunk, it's God Hand.
It's completely driven by the player's need to be a ludicrous badass, and its framework is certainly tight enough to allow for skilled, satisfying play. But it means that it's as tough on the tendons as it is on those who want their hands to be held, with each level consisting of fight after fight that can feel depressingly identikit for those not willing to throw themselves into it. And that bizarre humour – equal parts slapstick, selfreference, surrealism and joyous stupidity – either seals the deal or thuds the final nail into the coffin. It's a game with a limited but powerful appeal, that'll be loved, hated or overlooked as a Killer 7-style blip, uncompromising to the point of leaving no other choice. Take it or leave it; just don't ignore it, or you may miss the videogame equivalent of a daft night out with some of Capcom's finest minds.