by Eidos Interactive
There will be no Lara Croft this Christmas. You may or may not be disappointed by this fact, but in case you are disappointed you ought to take a look at what Tomb Raider's creators have provided for us this year. Project Eden is a third person action/adventure (set in a depressive future) that is in a similar vein to Tomb Raider except for the fact that now you are required to look after four characters and you have to use you brains instead of the keyboard acrobatics that Lara required.
You are in charge of Carter, Minoko, Andre and Amber who are members of the Urban Protection Agency (UPA as it is often referred to). The UPA have been called into investigate disturbances that are taking place in the Real Meat factory. On arriving at the factory things take a turn for the worse when explosions start going off and factory workers either go missing or meet with a gruesome end. You must progress through eleven levels of cerebral puzzle solving to restore order to the factory.
Although controlling four characters may sound difficult it is fairly straight forward. The four direction buttons are each bound to a character. Up for Carter, Right for Andre, Down for Amber and Left for Minoko. Whilst controlling a character, you can order the other characters who are within close proximity to follow you and 95% of the time this works absolutely perfect. Only on the odd occasion do one of the team members stray or for some reason or another refuse to follow.
Each of the four team members has different attributes and you will need all of their skills to achieve your goals. Carter is the leader and is usually needed for his security clearance. Minoko is the computer expert and is very useful at hacking into security systems. Andre is the technician and can usually repair the broken switches and devices that you will come across on your journey through the Real Meat factory. Amber is a cyborg and can endure all the hazardous environments that the game provides. She usually provides a safe path for the other team members after disabling some kind of poisonous gas or electric current. All of the members are very useful and compliment each other well.
Unlike other action/adventure games, Project Eden puts a premium on puzzle solving. Sure there is combat involved but your team cannot be killed, as depleting their health merely drops them off at the last regeneration point that you passed. Core Design have excelled themselves in creating so many different and varied puzzles for this game. The puzzles are not merely limited to running down corridors and pushing levers but actually require you to use your brain. Occasionally you need to use more than one character to solve a puzzle or the ingenious devices (namely the Flycam and the Rover) that the UPA have placed at your disposal. You are rarely rushed in the game and are given every opportunity to mentally assess the puzzles.
The game can be played from either a third person perspective or a first person perspective although the former is a far easier option for most of the game, the occasional puzzle is better to solve using the latter. The camera movement is superb and I have yet to encounter a dodgy camera angle that made it impossible to see what was going on.
Graphically the game is quite pleasing. It is fair to say that it doesn't push the PS2 to its limits but nevertheless it does have good graphics. The shimmering metallic texture that has been applied to Amber is fantastic, as are some of the textures applied to the surrounding environment.
The games controls are straight forward and much the same as Rune Viking Warrior that we reviewed a while ago in that the left analogue stick controls the movement and the right analogue stick controls the direction in which the character faces. You can save the game at any point and in doing so this removes the irritation that save points usually bring to games of this nature.
Text feedback is very good but it is puzzling as to why the cutscenes have not been subtitled as you can access the full dialogue for them once the cutscene has finished. One thing I would comment on though is that the dialogue box text colour is dependent on which character you are controlling. The green for Carter is very harsh on your eyes but the orange, pink and blue that are for Amber, Minoko and Andre are fine. The choice of font used could have also been better. The letter 'K' and 'X' appear as an 'H' but apart from these niggles everything else is fine. The characters don't really verbally communicate with each other which is a shame in terms of atmosphere but also reduces the amount of subtitling needed.
Project Eden is a very enjoyable game. Fans of all out action may be disappointed with the concentration on puzzles and less on challenging combat, but I can honestly say that it will appeal to veteran adventure gamers as a result of this. The game has been labelled a strategic squad based game in many reviews but I honestly believe that this game is a true adventure at heart. The sheer number and intelligent nature of the puzzles appeal to me far more than the run, jump and shoot antics of Lara Croft. It would have been so easy for Core Design to wheel out a Tomb Raider for the PS2 but I think they have made a brave but correct decision in giving us Project Eden instead.
Overall Game Rating: 8.1/10 Project Eden shows that Core Design are not just about Tomb Raider.
Quality of text / Visual Clues : 7/10 Good but it is a bit silly having to read cutscene dialogue after the cutscenes have taken place. The choice of font could have been better.
Graphics: 8/10 Good graphics and some very attractive effects as well.
Visual Presentation: 9/10 Very polished.
Interface: 8.5/10 Didn't take long to get to grips with.
Gameplay: 8/10 The quality of the puzzles is outstanding and outshines the lacklustre combat.