Under The Skin PlayStation 2
Developed by Capcom
Release Date: Out Now
Price : £29.99
Whilst the majority of games over the last few years have remained true to tried and tested formulas, one company has gone all out to create something very different and that company is Capcom. It's a risky business creating something out of the ordinary but games such as Bombastic and Viewtiful Joe (and the wonderful looking Killer 7 not far off), it's accurate to say that Capcom have what it takes to create a game that's quite unlike anything we've experienced before. Under The Skin is the latest game from Capcom and it's definitely unlike anything we've seen before and is probably about as wacky as you can get on the PlayStation 2.
In Under The Skin you play a small alien by the name of Cosmi. Cosmi comes from the Mischief Planet and when the inhabitants of the Mischief Planet turn 3 years old they have to undergo 'Mischief Training'. This training involves going to another planet and taking several tests that if passed will signify to their people that they have come of age. Cosmi however just can't pass his tests. In a final attempt to pass these tests he's come to Earth where the barbaric Humans live. If Cosmi were to succeed on Earth he would not only pass his tests but become a legend among his own people and it's all down to you to help him succeed.
Under The Skin offers a Story Mode and a Vs. Mode for 1-2 players (there are two other modes that are initially unlocked). The Story Mode is the heart of the game though and it's here that you'll control Cosmi as he seeks to finally pass his tests. Story Mode has a choice of three difficulty settings (only two of which are initially available). There are eight locations/levels in Story Mode and these include Coco Town, Raccoon City (yes the one from the Resident Evil games), Booty Bay and Pharaoh Island. The variation in locations is particularly impressive. The Vs. Mode is a split screen battle mode where you and a friend (or the AI if you wish) get to battle it out to see who can collect the most coins. The game can also be played in a two player co-operative mode.
Your objectives in the Story Mode are very simple but achieving them is not always so. Basically Cosmi will have to collect coins or prevent his enemies from collecting them. In Coco Town you'll have to collect 500 coins in 10 minutes whilst avoiding your enemy Becky. In Raccoon City you'll have to reduce Nemesis' coins to zero in 10 minutes and in some missions you'll have to collect more coins than your enemy even though they begin with substantially more. Of course little Cosmi can't just walk around as his alien self and instead he has to use his capture gun to capture people whose identity he can then assume. To change into the captured identity Cosmi will have to find a small UFO and walk onto the Mystery Circle that appears underneath it. When Cosmi changes into the human that he's just captured he'll also have a variety of items that can then be used to extract the coins from the people in the location. When the items are all gone though he'll have to assume another identity to obtain more of them. Spring loaded boxing gloves, cannons, large drawing pins, vicious dogs (and much, much more) can be unleashed onto the unsuspecting public in order to frighten the coins from their pockets. In the Story Mode you can only pick up yellow and blue coins but you should avoid the red coins.
To add another twist to the game you'll have enemies who might be after you and there is also what's know as Panic Time. Once you've used an item on a person it's more than likely they will be annoyed and will chase you. Should they catch you they will attack and you will go down to your underwear and eventually resort back to Cosmi's true identity, which will cause everyone to come after you. Assuming a new identity will throw everyone off the scent and you'll be left alone once more. Panic Time is where it can be especially hazardous for Cosmi but only for around 20 seconds or so. That essentially is what the game is all about then. The problem is that whilst it's fun to begin with the feeling soon subsides as the game offers up more of the same with only slight variations here and there. The change of locations is nice but the style of play is essentially the same throughout the game. The Story Mode isn't that long either so once you're comfortable with the game you'll be through it in no time at all which will only leave the two player modes.
The game uses an impressive cel-shaded look which looks just as great here as it does in games such as Viewtiful Joe and The Wind Waker. Most will probably prefer the cel-shaded version of Raccoon City and Nemesis but in truth all of the games locations look good and the frame rate is wonderfully smooth throughout. The characters in the game have purposely been designed with an exaggerated, almost caricatured look about them and it only helps to add to the games visual charm. You have the option of either an automatic camera, which remains fixed behind Cosmi, or a manual one where you can manipulate the camera yourself by moving the right analogue stick. Personally I preferred the manual camera control but it's great to have the choice of two methods.
Unfortunately Under The Skin is not subtitled and there is no option to enable them. The speech in Master Itazura's tutorial (and Master Itazura's Dojo where you can practice your skills) is also unsubtitled which makes learning the game, without reading the manual tricky. The manual only covers the bare basics too which makes the situation even more disappointing. The mission objectives are shown in text, as are the descriptions in the Item Book that you can access from the pause menu that you get when you press the start button during a mission, before each mission starts but this is really a small consolation when you can't appreciate the story that is unfolding as you play through the game.
Under The Skin shows a lot of promise and a lot of originality but ultimately it's far too shallow and won't hold your attention past a few days play which is a shame. To add insult to injury there are no subtitles at all so any pleasure that could have been derived from the story is completely missing for deaf gamers. We started the review by commenting on how Capcom have been pioneers in originality over the last few years or so and Under The Skin is definitely unlike any game that's gone before. However once the novelty has worn off you'll find that the game doesn't offer that much in the way of variation when it comes to how the game plays. Once you're comfortable with how the game plays it won't even offer that much of a challenge and once you've completed the game there's little reason to return to it. The game needs more depth, more mission variation and also needs to be a lot longer as well as more challenging in order for it to be worth a purchase as opposed to merely a rent.
Game Rating: 5.4/10
A highly original game that looks good but it's ultimately far too shallow and short. Under The Skin could have been so much more.
No subtitles at all with only the mission objectives and the Item book descriptions given in text.