by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
It's not often that a game requires a lot of thinking but Primal certainly has had me scratching my head more than a few times over the last week. The game is an action adventure game that features Jen, a young woman and Scree, who appears to be a walking, talking gargoyle. Those of you who thought a decent, quite lengthy, adventure game wasn't possible in this day and age might have to think again as Primal offers a good challenge, lasting around 25 hours, to even the most seasoned adventure gamer.
The game begins with a band playing a gig in a club. Everything seems OK until a hideous being walks in and stands in the crowd. This being has his eyes firmly fixed on the singer. After the gig has finished the singer talks to his girlfriend, Jen, when the hideous creature, who was watching him during the gig, stops him. The whole thing turns ugly and very soon Jen is in hospital fighting for her life. When it looks as if Jen hasn't got much longer Scree appears on the scene. Jen's spiritual being separates from her physical being to talk to him. Scree tells her that she must come with him if they are to save both her and her boyfriend.
The problems facing Jen are much bigger than she could have imagined. She arrives at Scree's world, Oblivion, to find that the natural order of things is threatened. In Oblivion, order is the responsibility of Arella and chaos is the responsibility of Abaddon. This balance is now under threat as Abaddon attempts to remove order from Oblivion. It's up to Jen and Scree to visit the four very different realms of Oblivion and put right what Abaddon has caused to go wrong. There is a twist in the story line though. Unbeknown to Jen, Abaddon tainted her soul when she was only a baby and she is part demon. Fortunately this happens to work in her favour as in each of the realms she visits she is given the ability to transform, temporarily into a particular form that will aid her in her quest.
Rather surprisingly the game is full of puzzles and combat is minimal (there are a few occasions where the combat comes thick and fast though). What's disappointing is that the puzzles are not varied enough. More often than not the challenge will be in getting one of the characters past a barrier of some sorts. The game allows you to switch between Jen and Scree via the select button. Scree has the ability to climb stone walls and early on in the game he climbs up a wall and has to search the building he's climbed to find a rope for Jen to climb up. This is an example of what I mean and it's repeated, in different guises throughout much of the game that can get a little bit tiresome after a while. Some puzzles are genuinely inspiring though and it's these that help to sustain your interest.
Scree is much more than a gargoyle sidekick. In fact he's a walking, replenishing medical kit for Jen. During combat Scree will not take part but can replenish Jen's health. When Jen changes into one of her alternate forms she has a certain amount of demon energy that once lost will return her to her human state. Scree also has the ability to restore this demon energy. Scree's restoring ability need to be replaced though and this can be done in numerous ways including, absorbing the aura from a defeated enemy. Throughout the game you'll come across lodestones which are essential to Scree. Occasionally Scree will have to possess a stone monument in order to open a door or even to fight as that stone monument. In order to possess a monument Scree must have sufficient energy from the lodestones, so it's always wise to pick them up as you come across them.
We've already said that combat is fairly minimal, especially when compared to other action adventure games. The combat itself is a simplistic affair and uses the L1, L2 and R2 button to perform attacks. A health bar is shown for your enemies so you can see how you are doing. When an enemy is ready to be finished off he will slump and his head will lower, which will tell you that a finishing move can be carried out. Pressing the L2 and R2 buttons together carries out a finishing move. The battles are not really difficult, which I'm glad about to be honest because they could have stopped the flow of the game and taken away from the adventure aspects.
Primal is one of the best looking games you can buy on the PlayStation 2. The developers have really got the most out of the console. Best of all though is the fact that each of the game's realms look completely different and yet they are look very good. I only noticed slowdown in the water realm Aquis and even here it was only minimal. Given the detail that exists in the game it's also impressive that the load times are not great. The game's camera caused no major problems and although on the odd occasion it did misbehave, given the length of the game and the relatively few occasions this happened, it is impressive.
You'll be pleased to know that Primal is fully subtitled, in fact on the whole the game is fine for deaf gamers. There are a few moments where a deaf gamer is disadvantaged but the biggest irritation has to be when you are controlling Scree, and Jen is attacked. On the commencement of combat, the combat music will begin to play. For a hearing gamer this tells them that they need to switch to Jen in order to battle. A deaf gamer will be unaware that combat has begun and whilst Jen will automatically fight whilst you're not controlling her, she won't do as good a job as you would do yourself. What I liked though was the warning you received when entering an area where you couldn't save. For 99% of the game you can save anywhere you want but at critical points of the game you won't be able to save. A warning appears in text telling you this and offers the chance to save the game. This prevents a heck of a lot of frustration and is a very pleasing inclusion.
If you're looking for a game to make you think then Primal should be on your wanted list. On the whole the gameplay is very good and the only thing that takes some of the gloss off it, is the repetitive nature of some of the puzzles. Those who are looking for a complex, combat heavy adventure need not apply though, as Primal is primarily an adventure game.
Game Rating: 8.3/10