Hentai vs Evil and the place of silly games

When I play something like Hentai vs Evil, I can’t help but think one thing: video games are pretty great, aren’t they? They provide the ultimate means of playing make-believe, whether you feel like being a bus driver, an astronaut, an intergalactic space hero or a magic-wielding adventurer in a fantasy land.

And, as anyone who remembers their own childhood will attest, playing make-believe doesn’t need to be constrained by such arbitrary boundaries as “realism”, “plausibility” or “not being stupid”. I remember when I was a kid, we used to play “War” in the playground by sticking our arms out and going “ehehehehehehehehe” then punching each other; we’d make two discarded tractor tyres into a convincing “flight simulator”; we’d carve away at a log to make “piggy dust”; and we’d leap from the climbing frame into an “ocean” of bark chippings below.

Hentai vs Evil

With all that in mind, the prospect of pretending to be a girl with a nice arse running around on the beach in her pants while blasting zombies and grim reapers with a variety of heavy weaponry doesn’t seem so ridiculous now, does it? And that’s exactly what Hentai vs Evil provides.

Hentai vs Evil originally released on PC a while back, and passed by relatively unnoticed. It came out on Steam, after all, and games with the word “Hentai” in the title on Steam are, to put it politely, not particularly well-known for being worthwhile, meaningful experiences.

But something about this game attracted the attention of prolific localisers eastasiasoft, who decided to port the game to consoles and show it off in their “EASter Showcase” event from a while back. This makes it the latest of a number of mildly lewd former PC exclusives that the company has brought to console platforms, following Zoo Corporation’s fun casual titles Bishoujo Battle Cyber Panic, Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire and Poker Pretty Girls Battle.

Hentai vs Evil

In Hentai vs Evil, you play the role of a girl with a simple mission in life: defeat the Reapers and save the girls trapped in cages. In order to do this, you’ll need to scavenge weapons from around the three open-world maps, collect power-ups from toolboxes, avoid the zombie and pig monster hordes and, more than anything, keep blasting.

The game offers two main modes of play on its three maps: Rescue mode tasks you with killing twelve Reapers then freeing a girl from captivity — who, if you haven’t already unlocked her, then becomes a playable character — while Survival mode simply challenges you to last as long as possible on the map against increasingly unreasonable hordes of enemies hell-bent on your destruction.

Several different weapons are available, including a couple of types of machine gun and a shotgun, and each of these can be temporarily boosted in power by shooting floating toolboxes around the map. These will yield either a yellow or blue bullet pickup, with the former causing your shots to set enemies aflame and deal damage over time, while the latter causes immense damage with a single shot.

Hentai vs Evil

Enemies are somewhat bullet-spongy when hit with regular shots, so the flow of the game tends to involve running from a horde that is dangerously close to you, finding a good opportunity to crack open a toolbox — which usually takes several shots — and then turning the contents of said toolbox against your pursuers. Take damage and you’ll need to seek out the health kits that are randomly scattered around the map; obliterate your foes and you’ll need to wander off in search of further prey.

It’s a simple concept, and it works well in the open-plan maps. They’re not huge, but they’re big enough to feel like they have a number of meaningful, significant locales with recognisable landmarks; the small town has both built-up areas and parkland, for example, while the tropical island stage features irregularly shaped beaches, a small village and an attractive manor house. And the maps are designed in such a way that there are natural choke points and obstacles, which you’ll find yourself needing to take advantage of when dealing with larger hordes.

Hentai vs Evil

Hentai vs Evil’s simplicity is both its great strength and a notable weakness. It’s a strength because this is a fine example of a “pick up and play” title that you can just while away a few minutes with if you fancy playing a game you don’t need to think about too much. But it’s also a weakness because there’s just not enough of it.

With three stages, three playable characters who don’t have noticeable differences in performance between them, and just a few different types of weapons, you’ll see everything Hentai vs Evil has to offer within the space of less than an hour — and after that, it’s up to the game’s mechanics to keep you interested in the long term.

The survival mode helps a great deal with this, as attempting to attain better and better times proves surprisingly addictive, particularly with online leaderboards allowing you to see how you stack up against other players in the community. But it’s hard not to feel like there could perhaps have been a little more incentive to keep players invested in the long term. Some additional unlockable characters, perhaps, or some more costume options than the few available.

As it stands, what we have here is very much old-school game design, in which Hentai vs Evil simply expects players to come back and just enjoy its pleasures at their leisure without providing any particularly tempting treats to entice them to do so. That’s fine for old farts like me who grew up playing Atari games, but for modern gamers it might not be enough.

Hentai vs Evil

Silly games like this have a place, though. While they may not appear to have a great artistic message to deliver to the world in the same way as narrative-centric games that have been written with care and attention, they nonetheless do have something important to remind us: the fact that it’s okay to just play. It’s okay to just enjoy yourself in a purely hedonistic manner. And it’s okay to do so in the company of cute doll-like girls with implausible (and customisable) proportions who will get their jumblies out at the tap of a button. Yes, even on the console versions.

Hentai vs Evil is not a game I’ll be playing all the time. But it is a game I know I will return to whenever I’m in the mood for exactly the sort of silly nonsense it has to offer.

Hentai vs Evil is available now for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 5.

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Pete Davison
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