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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 April, 2003, 13:07 GMT 14:07 UK
Primal holds no fear
By Darren Waters
BBC News Online

A third-person action adventure with a female lead will inevitably invite comparisons with Lara Croft, the mother of all 3D platform and puzzle games.

Jenn and Scree
Two's company in Primal
And at first Primal bears comparison with Tomb Raider, but scratch under the gloriously illustrated surface and one finds a game a world away from Eidos' classic.

You control two characters, the heroine Jenn or her gargoyle sidekick Scree, using the differing and complementing powers of both to solve puzzles and reach new levels, switching between the pair at will.

The story is the usual B-movie hokum, revolving around a Buffy the Vampire Slayer-style plot involving the chosen one (Jenn) and a quest to restore the balance of good and evil to four demon realms: Solum, Aquis, Aetha, and Volca.

The puzzles are pretty straightforward but get more complex as the levels progress with the right amount of increasing difficulty.

Fans of Ico and even such games as Jak and Daxter will find most of what confronts you pretty familiar.

Mechanics

Scree also acts as the game's built-in hint mechanism, giving advice of where to go and what to do next.

It is not a particularly startling or innovative approach to gameplay but the mechanics work well.

The levels are, on the whole, well designed and are huge, sprawling affairs and, as such, the game does descend into aimless wandering on occasion.

The graphics are the game's stand-out feature. They are so good that the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London is exhibiting artwork from the title.

The designers have succeeded in creating a coherent, gothic and malevolent feel to the Primal world.

Like any third-person perspective game it stands and falls on the quality of the camera as there is nothing more frustrating that not being able to see what is in front, or behind you.

Sadly, Primal's camera is not up to scratch; a disappointing let down when many games - Super Mario Sunshine and Zelda come to mind - are getting it right most of the time.

Sony have invested a lot of time and money into Primal and clearly have high hopes.

It is a good game but not one to have the makers of Tomb Raider rushing back to the drawing board.

Primal is out now for PlayStation 2.




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