Hell is filled with checkpoints.
A boring office job can be hell. For many, confined in a prisonlike cubicle elicits claustrophobia or some other deep rooted fear. But what if the company you work for, the one that imprisons you in your hellacious cubicle, accidentally tears open a portal and sucks the entire office into the actual depths of hell?
That’s the premise of the aptly titled Tom vs. the Armies of Hell. You play as Tom, a software engineer for mega corporation Questionable Technologies. When a couple of unsuspecting employees botch an experiment deep below the offices, the armies of hell teleport and invade the office building. Tom, a coward, seeks refuge in the restroom — only to be found and nearly killed (his arm is dismembered) by a demon. When he awakens, a squat demon smiles and offers Tom life… with the addition of a demonic arm. As far as plot goes, the game is pretty entertaining. Tom must battle his way through his office and hell, all the while working for his ‘savior’, Beezle (who is also the one holding Tom’s soul hostage). Numerous humorous scenarios play out, and you run into many of your office workers periodically throughout Tom’s adventure.
Gameplay is a pretty standard over-the-top shooter with the addition of an interesting method of obtaining ammo. Ammo for your demonic gun is gained by collecting souls from downed enemies or NPCs. Each color represents a different type of fire power (for example, purple launches a shotgun type spread, where red fires like a machine gun). Along with his gun, which can upgrade to hold more than one type of ammo, Tom can attack the demonic army with his demon arm. Items can be found to enhance Tom’s physical attacks, but the item drops are purely randomized (and lost upon death). I played this game with both a mouse and keyboard and the Steam controller; surprisingly, the controller is the better choice. While playing the game, I found the mouse to be unwieldy, especially when aiming. With the Steam controller, aiming was still difficult, but I found that moving Tom with the joystick simplified the process of aiming, moving, and dodging (though the dodging mechanic doesn’t really work well, and you can still take damage while being unable to attack).
And this really brings me to my biggest dislike of Tom vs. the Armies of Hell: death. Because Beezle holds Tom’s soul, Tom cannot actually die. So when you fail to keep Tom alive in a mission, he resurrects at the previous checkpoint. Unfortunately for you, the checkpoint often sends Tom a significant distance back in the level. All too often, I’d be nearing the end of a lengthy segment of a level only to die and be sent back to a checkpoint — a long way back, sometimes all the way to the beginning. Not only do these checkpoints cause massive frustration, but they also drain the fun from the game and the will to continue.
The soundtrack in Tom vs. the Armies of Hell is a disaster. I’m pretty sure the game just blasts the same jumble of strings and horns throughout the whole game. If it doesn’t, the composer appears to have mailed in his efforts. Sound effects, too, are mediocre and often crackle through my Logitech speakers (they’re pretty decent, so the game has little to blame but itself). As for the visuals in Tom vs. the Armies of Hell, I’d have to give a middling score. The graphics look are a retro clay-esque style, somewhat similar to Celebrity Deathmatch. My biggest complaint with the visuals, however, was the incessant screen tearing. It didn’t matter how I set the game settings, the screen tore at almost every step.
Tom vs. the Armies of Hell is a jumble of failed and successful attempts at a game. For $12.99, the price seems a little steep for the myriad problems I ran across. The difficulty and alleged skill involved in completing this game may be worth it for some who enjoy a hard time, and there is an easy mode for those who just want to experience the entertaining story. I recommend the use of a controller over the traditional keyboard and mouse set-up, along with a high tolerance for screen tearing. What is given to players is an attempt at a fun, not-so-serious game with an amusing plot that delivers that humorous narrative and not-so-serious product with a sparse amount of fun (replaced by a lot of frustration).