|It's really amazing what a good story can do for a game. Take Primal for example, Sony's latest adventure title for the PS2. In Primal, you play the part of Jen, an urban hipster who's just lost her boyfriend Lewis to a demonic attack at a nightclub. |
Jen's also just about dead from the attack when Scree, a living gargoyle from a dimension known as Oblivion, rips out her soul and takes her to his homeland. From there, she's set about on a quest to restore the balance between the forces of Order and Chaos in Oblivion. An obviously difficult task made more so by the fact that she needs to find Lewis and she discovers that hey, she's part demon! (We've all had nights like that) Sony has turned it into an incredibly intelligent and intriguing game. They've done this by mixing in plenty of plot twists, puzzles and unique characters. The richness of the story so overwhelms the relatively shallow game play that you'll find yourself obsessed with completing levels so you can advance the story just a little more.
Primal's game play, to be entirely honest, isn't anything new or unique. Basically, you travel around the various worlds of Oblivion completing quests and finding power ups. During your quests, you'll encounter various monsters which must be slain, puzzles which must be solved and learn a little more about Jen's dark side. Jen, as you will learn, is part demon, and as such learns how to shape shift into one of four demonic forms. Each form comes with unique strengths and weaknesses, which you'll need to utilize properly to finish the tasks you're assigned. Along with controlling Jen and her demonic forms, you are oftentimes required to play as Scree, her stone companion who can climb walls, possess statues and function as a life-force fuel pump. When Jen gets hurt, she can call on Scree to funnel energy to her, which restores her demonic energies. Scree obtains this energy from the corpses of Jen's kills and from magical stones found throughout the game.
Most of the game will be spent exploring the levels and meeting up with an assortment of creatures that will lead you into some really great-looking cut scenes. These scenes serve to unravel the Primal story, and are pretty awe-inspiring. Anyone who enjoys quality storylines will enjoy watching the story unfold through these sequences. After each sequence, you'll be given another task to complete until you finish them all. It's a very linear style of game play which has limited exploration value, but it's still good fun.
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Combat is, unfortunately, a bit oversimplified for my liking, and anyone expecting a real fighting system or weapons combat can forget it with Primal. Whenever you enter a fight, you'll lock onto your nearest foe automatically, and then you just mash the L1, L2 or R2 buttons to deal out a variety of blows.
While most of the time you'll play as Jen, there are segments of the game where you'll take the reins as Scree, her living gargoyle buddy. Scree's powers include possession, wall climbing and healing, all of which will come in handy at different points in the game. Possession allows Scree to take control of statues, which usually work as a sort of key to doorways. Other statues can aid Jen in combat, which you'll need to defeat later bosses. Scree's wall climbing ability is a lot of fun to use, you just point him to a brick wall (it has to be brick) and he'll start climbing. The camera works quickly and fluidly to keep up with the changing angles as Scree climbs up, down and across the walls. Lastly, there's Scree's healing power, which, when activated, re-energizes Jen's demonic forms.
Primal is unique in the fact that even with the admittedly weak game play elements, the story is so engrossing that it will keep you coming back to finish more and more levels. Even when you hit those horrifying moments when you discover you have to backtrack through an entire level to find one small hint, you'll be more than happy you did once you're greeted with another meticulously crafted CGI sequence that sucks you right back into the story.
Primal rates pretty high on the PlayStation 2 graphical quality scale, with good texturing and well-developed character details. When you use the camera to focus in on Jen or Scree, you'll find the facial details are amazingly realistic, and even the skin tones are natural looking. When not zoomed in, you'll still be able to notice details such as belt buckles, clasps and even the wrinkles in Scree's skin. Many of the characters you'll encounter, from Lords of Demons to their evil demon wives look great, with just as much detail as the main characters. Sadly though, the standard enemies you encounter are not nearly as detailed and tend to have little visual appeal.
The cinematic sequences are what really make the game in Primal. I can't think of a single time I wasn't "wowed" by them. Character models and animation are smooth as silk in these sequences, giving you the sensation that you're watching a high-quality film.
If you enjoy quality voice acting, you're in for a treat with Primal. It's obvious that professionals were used because the voice acting is truly great. Jen, Scree and all the other individuals have voices that reflect their character and mood, and react to the situation at hand.
What Primal lacks in replayability, it more than makes up for in depth, as you'll be spending hours trying to finish the game. Don't expect Primal to be four or five hours of game play and then you're done, as there's probably two dozen hours worth of game play in there.
This game is far from having the depth of other adventure titles, yet the story is so compelling, you just have to keep playing it. There are some really frustrating bugs that crop up, and therefore I encourage you to save your game frequently and use multiple save files, but overall, it's a really enjoyable title. The voice acting is top notch for almost any title I've seen on any platform, and the graphics are top-notch for the PlayStation 2. If you enjoy adventure titles, give Primal a shot; it's a lot of good fun for the PS2.