Malebolgia – What We Think:
Malebolgia is dripping with atmosphere, drawing inspiration from Dante’s Inferno as well as the Ars Goetia, a catalog of demons utilized by black magicians in the Middle Ages. Set within a castle inhabited by demonic royalty – the game’s very title is a reference to the trenches in the eighth circle of hell – it’s a darkly beautiful environment to explore. The combat, unfortunately, is clunky enough to sink the whole enterprise.
The game’s cel-shaded art is a huge part of Malebolgia’s appeal. Game designer Jochen Mistiaen made some brilliant stylistic choices. The graphics are simple but evocative. Hulking statues of demons loom over you, while you face off against hollow-eyed demonic prisoners and animalistic creatures rendered in the blacks, whites and reds of harlequins.
The game also makes excellent use of light. While the mansion and its denizens are rendered mostly in muted grays, your character’s torch gives a brightly lit center to the proceedings, casting everything else in ominous shadows.
Abandon All Hope…
Unfortunately, the game’s combat is awkward and clunky. Drawing inspiration from games like Dark Souls, it places a lot of emphasis on parrying, dodging and timing. It’s also very simplified, with just a few moves and a single weapon (a halberd) to use throughout the game.
The clumsy part is the way it stutters. It almost feels intentional, the way the game temporarily freezes when a strike connects, but at least in my case, all it did was throw my timing off. The whole effect makes combat feel like a frustrating chore, which hardly could have been the intention.
A Lingering Glance
Awkward combat aside, though, Malebolgia is a compelling experience, with enough wandering and exploration and plot to work through that it would make a solid – if relatively brief – adventure game if the combat were to be eliminated entirely. In any case, the game has enough atmosphere and demonic intrigue to make it worth a look, especially during Halloween.
Watch the trailer for Malebolgia below: