Review by: Blake Rice
Published: December 2, 2000
Todd McFarlane’s Spawn franchise has gathered a huge following since it began as a comic book. Its success has been such that fans may now quench their thirst for the series with toys, action figures, animation, film and even video games. In fact, the home console world has been treated to two Spawn games thus far: one on the Super Nintendo and the other on the PlayStation. While these had their redeeming qualities, they fell short of providing a solid gameplay experience for console gamers. Spawn: In The Demon’s Hand is the third console foray into the world of McFarlane’s most successful creation, this time for the Sega Dreamcast.
The world of Spawn is a grim one, and the background plot of this game is suitably dark. Prior to his untimely death at the hands of a colleague, Spawn was known as Al Simmons, a CIA operative specializing in assassination. He had a normal life, or just about as normal a life a professional killer can have, with a loving wife and daughter. Considering his status as a trained assassin, he does not exactly get a free pass to Heaven upon his death; instead, he is sent straight to hell. Once in Hades, Simmons manages to strike a deal with the devil: in exchange for leading the army of hell in the final apocalyptic showdown between good and evil, he is granted the chance to see his wife and daughter once more.
However, the dead assassin does not return to Earth in his mortal state: he is imbued with special powers by the dark lord Malebolgia to better aid him in leading hell’s attack on the forces of good. The new, improved Al Simmons also has a new name: “Spawn.” After Malebolgia’s creation ascends to Earth from hell, things do not exactly go according to the demon lord’s plan. Instead of bringing about the reign of evil on Earth, Spawn uses his special powers for good. Furious that his tool for conquest has turned against him, the dark lord sends all matter of demon servants to punish his turncoat servant. Thus the hero confronts many demon-spawn, including a repulsive creature named Violator whose ghastly appearance is poorly hidden by a grotesque clown costume, the incandescent Brimstone whose Doublesaber brings to mind Darth Maul’s red lightsaber, and The Curse, who possesses a surgically grafted chainsaw arm that tears through flesh like butter. In the meantime, heaven has also taken note of these events, and sends warriors of its own to deal with the situation: Redeemer and his trademark transforming arms, as well as Grace with her long lance and angelic wings. Although these characters are generally known as protagonists, the game casts them in the role of Spawn’s enemies.
Spawn: In The Demon’s Hand was ported over from the Capcom arcade game of the same name, and the Dreamcast version does not stray far from the arcade roots. Single-player gameplay is structured around a series of fights against the lead character’s major foes: kill the first boss, proceed to the next level, kill the second boss, proceed to the next level, and so on. An entourage of minions accompanies each boss, and while it sometimes takes the death of a few of them to bring the big guy out, he usually appears immediately. There are no stages to cross before you reach a level’s main opponent, nor any progression towards him: The single-player experience is very similar to the arcade game in the sense that each level is a timed boss fight. Die while time remains on the clock, and the player character immediately regenerates, albeit with a time penalty, to resume the fight.