Review by Khaos_

"Another Resident Evil Clone??? I think not."

It's always the same. When someone thinks of a unique idea and markets it, there are dozens of copycats out there just waiting to imitate what you've done. More than not, they're all just thinking about dollar signs rather than putting out quality merchandise.

Years ago, Alone in the Dark spawned the Survival Horror genre, and later on, Capcom perfected it with Resident Evil. Since then, the Resident Evil series has been the standard for Survival Horror games.

There have been many attempts by other developers to get in on the Survival Horror craze, and most of them have been less than spectacular.

With their first attempt at a Survival Horror game falling flat with Blue Stinger, AIA tries it again with a new game called Illbleed, but is it just another poor Resident Evil clone? Not in a million years.

Graphics - AIA was apparently so busy with other aspects of the game that they forgot to make it as pretty as they possibly could.

The graphics in Illbleed are nothing spectacular. They are smooth and have few clipping problems, but the character models just look so unfinished.

The game environments are the best part of the graphics package. Each level is totally unique in itself, rendered in full 3D and beautifully done.

The characters are where the game lacks. There are five playable characters throughout the game, all of them possessing a very anime-like style.

The things that bother me about the characters is that their mouths don't move when they speak. That may be a minor issue, but it's something you'd expect on the Playstation, not the Dreamcast.

Also, the characters' fingers can't move individually, which is also something that I think could have been fixed.

My last complaint about the character models is that they seem to move rather stiffly and robotically at times.

AIA did a nice job with the game, but had they spent more time polishing the graphics up a bit, it would have been even more enjoyable to look at.

Gameplay - This is where Illbleed takes a major detour from the rest of its Survival Horror cousins. The regular theme of most games in this genre is to battle enemies with an assortment of firearms and solve puzzles to complete the game. Illbleed has none of this.

The first unique thing about Illbleed is that your characters are not special forces agents or trained soldiers. They're typical high school students who aren't dead-eye shots and are not masters with any weapon they pick up.

As far as weapons go, there is pretty much one weapon per level that must be found, or you're limited to using your fists if you do get in a fight. However, since fighting is not the major point of Illbleed, battles are rather rare.

The major point of Illbleed is to make it through each level without bleeding to death or having a heart attack due to the traps that cover every level.

The traps that you encounter will either cause physical damage by cutting you, causing you to bleed, or they will simply scare the bejezus out of you, causing your pulse and heart rate to skyrocket until you die of a heart attack. Neat, huh?

Fortunately, you're given the ability to detect and mark traps so that you can avoid them completely. This is all possible thanks to a miracle of engineering known as the Horror Monitor. With this handy little item, you can scan the area around you and mark traps.

How do you know where to mark, you ask? Well, you have four senses located conveniently at the top of the screen, they are sight, sound, smell, and the ever mysterious sixth sense. When they start beeping, you know a trap is near.

You can only detect traps with the Horror Monitor, meaning you have to find it before you galloping off through the level. It's usually very close to the beginning of the level, so you don't have to look very far.

There is also a training area outside of the levels to give you a chance to familiarize yourself with the mechanics of the game.

Controlling your character is relatively easy. You move them with the analogue stick. There is a jump button, action button, and attack button.

When you do get trapped into a battle, you'll go into a battle mode where you can either fight the monster to the death, or escape by helicopter. Most of the enemies are really aggravating, so opting for the escape is usually preferable.

The game composes of several levels, each designed after Illbleed's creator's movies. You have specific goals that you must accomplish in each level, and your reward depends on how many of those goals you complete.

Money is very important in the game, because you'll need it to buy items in the drug store, or have operations to enhance your physique.

The health items you find throughout the games range from bandages to stop bleeding to adult magazines that relax you, but cause a higher pulse rate.

There are also several camera views you can choose from, some good, others bad.

Story - You pop Illbleed into your Dreamcast expecting to get scared by it, but end up laughing yourself sick more than jumping in terror.

Illbleed is an amusement park created by horror film director, Michael Reynolds. The park is based on all his films, each filled with creatures and characters from them.

The deal is this: Successfully complete each level without getting killed and you will be rewarded with a whopping $500,000,000 cash.

Your heroine, Eriko Christy, is the daughter of a horror film buff and spent the better part of her childhood being scared out of her wits by her nutty father. The result being that she has little to no sense of fear anymore.

When her friends receive invitations to Illbleed, they go off to try it out. After three days of not hearing from them, Eriko goes to Illbleed to find out what happened to them. What happens next is up to you.

Each level has a different story and atmosphere. You go from a burned hotel to a haunted department store. You even get the opportunity to play the lead role in a violent, dark humored Toy Story rip-off.

Illbleed comes off more as a dark comedy than a horror game.

Audio - Each level has its own unique score, and the Psycho-type screech when a trap is tripped or avoided is present throughout the entire game.

The characters also talk quite a bit, and while the dialogue is nowhere as corny as the original Resident Evil's, it's still corny. But, this game is designed like a bad B movie, so the dialogue is appropriate.

Replay Value - Illbleed has a pretty good replay value going for it. There are three possible endings. Which ending you get depends on how many of your friends that you manage to rescue throughout the game.

If you look at the back of the CD case that the game comes in, you are warned of Sexual Themes in the game. One might think that the adult magazines you find as health items are what it is referring to, but oh, are you wrong.

If you decide to be bold and not rescue your friends at all, Eriko gradually loses clothing each level. By the time she makes it to the end, she has nothing on but a few strategically placed pieces of fabric.

Buy/Rent - Always rent before you buy, that's the Cautious Gamer's Creed. However, I recommend Illbleed as a definite buy. The game takes several hours to complete, and with the multiple endings, and the dark humor that you'll want to see over and over again, a 3-day rental just won't cut the mustard.

Overall - While it has its problems, Illbleed is definitely one of the better Survival Horror games out there. Its dark humor and unique gameplay make it worth owning.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 01/04/02, Updated 01/04/02

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