Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick was released in 2003 and immediately got knocked down by most reviewers. I want to say this upfront because I think it got panned because of when it came out more than anything else. Had it made it out a couple years earlier it would have preceded Grand Theft Auto III, the game by which all following 3D shooters would be compared to from then on, and GTA3 was one hell of an act to follow. This is a shame because the game has so much campy fun and gore, it even has a button just dedicated to playing Ash quips (voiced by THE Bruce Campbell) whenever you want to!
The game starts with Ash narrating his story to a stranger who’s only shown as a pair of ancient eyes and raised eyebrows. It then fades to Dearborn, Michigan where we find Ash on a bar stool drinking away his woes on the 12 year anniversary of the death of his girlfriend (from the first Evil Dead game, Hail To the King which, in my opinion, is one to AVOID!). It is 20 years after the events of the Evil Dead movie trilogy and a local television show has found the infamous Necronomicon reading reel from the cabin and decides to play it live on-air. The result is a vortex over the television station, time travel, and lots and lots of deadites! I don’t want to give away too much of the story but it keeps the camp fun going from beginning to end and Bruce Campbell did an amazing job voice acting. It was made around the time the first Spider-Man movie was being made and was supposed to keep Ash around until Sam Raimi could get back to the Evil Dead series. In the end another video game and several comic lines wound up being the way that today you can still get your Ash fix. They even made two short comic runs of ‘Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash’, a highly rumored about movie project that fell through and became comics that read like an Evil Dead film.
Back to the game though, this game does a great job of keeping the creepy atmosphere. The Deadites travel fast and Dearborn is soon a ghost town with only a few untouched or un-eaten inhabitants. Paper flutters on the breeze, the music is dramatic and the streets are sparsely lit by street lights. It can be hard to see the Deadites as they wait in the shadows or attack on poorly lit streets. Through all this runs Ash, a bit hunched over, as he kills Deadites in gore-filled attacks and keeps his famous macho/idiot persona. If not for his quips and the over the top gore this might have been a game that was taken serious with the solidly creepy atmosphere. But Ash keeps it fun through multiple time periods and locations.
The areas are pretty large and elaborate with lots of killing to do and a few locals to talk to in order to advance the storyline. You dual wield weapons and you can choose different ones depending on mood or effectiveness throughout the game as you pick them up. Weapons are also upgradable throughout the game giving you more boom for your buck as you go and you will need it, at times there are over 30 Deadites coming for you all at once. Camera tracking can be a little awkward and swing a bit wide not showing what is in front of you, but this is solved quickly by hitting a single button. The game has combos which are rewarded with extra quips when delivered and health is measured in blood drops on a bar in the upper corner. When things get crazy button mashing does work, but might not work as well as strategic map placement and maneuvering. You also find spells as you go so that if you manage to read them just right you can hit the Deadites with their own medicine, but if you don’t pronounce every single syllable correctly you might find yourself on your back in a world of hurt.
Controls are pretty straight forward and easy to work, in some cases almost too easy. The game has an excellent enemy lock system which makes some kills too easy as you learn the enemy’s pattern, pick the right weapon and run around while your shots always hit home. I found it was almost as much fun to not use the lock system and manually aim though this makes combos much harder. With the lock system the last boss is way too easy, which combined with the straying camera are really the two biggest issues with the game. Luckily the ending after the boss is still worth it.
Graphics for 2003 are pretty good, but probably were rendered a little simpler to avoid loading screens and to allow the actions of over 30 Deadites to be attacking at once and still not lose the gore factor. The gore is rendered very well, with huge amounts of blood spraying in an arc as you slash through Deadites with the chainsaw and blood trails well from the Deadites that are blown in two and are still crawling after you. The television I was playing on was far bigger than the one I had back in 2003 but the game still looks great on a large LCD screen. Audio is crisp and excellent, noises sound like they are coming from the room you are in and Ash’s voice is perfectly clear as he delivers his one-liners. They also have comments for when you reclick on objects or stop moving Ash for a while like ‘Excuse me… hello? Time to wake up and smell the corpses!’ These are pretty common these days but was kinda special back then. Heck at one point while playing it I just kept hitting the Ash comment button in response to all my wife’s questions.
It is a pretty quick play, probably can be done in one dark and stormy night, though it is more fun to kill some extra Deadites and hear Ash/Bruce Campbell deliver as many quotables as you can. Since the game is several years old you can pick it up for pretty cheap new or used, probably the hardest thing would be to find it, which on the internet is only a couple clicks away. Plus one of the extras included is a terrific video of some of the greatest moments in Evil Dead history, through the original film right up to the game, with ‘making of’ segments for the game and comments from Bruce Campbell about the Evil Dead franchise and the game play of A Fistful Of Boomstick. I have put this game on just to watch that video before.
If you are looking for some camp to go with your horror gaming, Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick is a great way to get yourself in the holiday mood… or just release some stress. If you are an Evil Dead fan this is part of the storyline you really should experience. Final Word: ‘Groovy’.
*DISCLOSURE: I am a huge Bruce Campbell fan. But if the game sucked I would still tell you, like the Hail To The King game, man that was painful.