Mad Devils Review
“Shoot Nazis in hell” is Itzy Interactive’s premise for Mad Devils, a new arcade-style shooter set in World War II and also in hell. It’s an ambitious vision with some solid gunplay ideas—on paper, at least. In practise, it seems as if Mad Devils could benefit from another round of revisions before Itzy sent it on active duty.
Mad Devils’ tale is at odds with itself. The story is an interesting take on an often-less-discussed aspect of World War II history, honing in on Adolf Hitler’s obsession with the occult and building the arcade action around that. It’s a touchy subject; Nazis had conducted their occult experiments on death camp inmates, and while using these very methods to murder hundreds of undead Nazis is uniquely satisfying, reducing them to mere entertainment feels frivolous—even if you are exacting revenge on the very perpetrators of these torture themselves.
You first play as Asher, leader of the Mad Devils squad in life and death. Using guns, melee, and magic, you’ll fight through hell to accomplish your final mission. Mad Devils’ combat is a blend of twin-stick shooter and melee, with six characters to eventually choose from and several different combat styles.
Shooting is hell
The action is fast and smooth, but not without issues. Enemies are basically bullet sponges, and regardless of how Itzy constructed the environments, strategy and skill devolve into running away and shooting everything until it stops moving. Basic enemy AI is partly to blame there, though more detailed stage design would present more opportunities to change your combat style.
Hell admittedly looks lovelier than I expected, though that can be a double-edge sword. Mad Devils’ environments resemble a polished 3D platformer world, with a chunky, cartoonish style. It’s an odd design choice for Itzy, particularly after the opening scene that saw Mad Devils opening with a gritty, mildly disturbing illustrated prologue. This sets a much better tone for the story it wants to tell—which is unfortunate when this style does not show up again later.
The story also runs into similar issues. It wants to be sombre, and is harrowing at times, but a few things hold it back from being memorable.
One is the voice acting. Evaluating voice work is difficult since one never knows what the director told the actors to aim for, but Mad Devils’ voice work is a bit too flat for the script it is trying to support. The other issue is that the story doesn’t surface often enough. That’s understandable for an arcade shooter, though it raises the question of why this genre is used to tell a serious story anyway. If Itzy wants to explore themes of duty, sacrifice, honor and Nazi atrocities, other genres that offer a better balance between story and action would have been more suitable, such as an action RPG.
Grab a comrade
Mad Devils is a co-op game with a single-player story mode, which only accentuates its biggest flaws. It really works better as a co-op game, partly due to the more interactive nature of playing with friends in general, but also because of the combat design. Single-player mode hurls massive waves of enemies at you, which means you’re getting too overwhelmed, too easily. That, and the primary strategy of run-and-hide, makes Mad Devils feel simpler than it should.
At the same time, each character has unique skills, but it’s at times hard to discern if these are bugged or the result of poor design. That’s because there’s often no indication some skills deal damage, but even if they did, they often require you to be in close proximity to enemies. That usually ends up with me becoming overwhelmed by enemy attacks in the process.
Mad Devils has good ideas, but it feels like a botched mission, as if the original order got lost in transmission on the way. The action is good when it works, but the contrasting tone and narrative bog down the broader experience. Still, conflicting story and visual design aside, if Mad Devils’ frenetic twin-stick shooting and setting are too good to pass up, make sure to take a friend. It’s dangerous in hell.