posted 4/25/2003 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: PS2
The characters themselves, especially Jen, are quite large and very impressive looking. They animate well, though that is certainly not the game's strong suit. The enemies, on the other hand, go from amazing all the way up to stunning. Even the basic baddies are both interesting looking and extremely well drawn, and they only get better as you make your way through the game's four worlds.

Like a number of other recent Sony titles, Primal takes a decidedly minimalist approach. There is no heads-up display, and when you’re exploring you really don’t push more than the action button. Looking at your map and all other activities are done using the options menu, completely taking you out of the action.

Thankfully the controls are simple, because they have a funny way of changing depending on what you are doing. The moment you get into battle the button configuration completely changes, making you use the L and R buttons on top to control your combatant. You’ll notice that the buttons change yet again when you are using Scree of underwater, so the challenge is keeping track of them all.

There are a number of tricky jumps you will be forced to withstand, but the odd thing is, you don’t really control the jumping. Jen and Scree just kind of jump when it is required of them, so it begs the question of why the programmers decided to make so many time consuming jumps in the first place. You can’t even fall off of the sides, so there is no peril involved at all, and they become just another annoying thing you will have to navigate around if you want to beat the game.

Hey baby, what's your si- uhh nevermind...

Knowing you would be spending a great deal of your time fighting enemies, the developers decided to add a few moves to the mix. By using the R2 and L2 buttons, Jen is able to perform deadly attacks with her right and left body parts. Using these properly, gamers can put together rudimentary combos that make fighting slightly more interesting. There is also a useful spin attack that takes out enemies that are swarming around you.

For the most part the combat controls are smooth and it’s easy to pull off moves. But after a few hours of brawling, you can grow tired of fighting, and wish there were more puzzles to solve. The combat is extremely repetitive, and even with the multiple buttons, it ends up feeling like your just button mashing. Hopefully you’ll be quite a ways into the game before you notice this shortcoming, but if you don’t like the battles early on, you won’t like them any better twenty hours in.

For those who do go for the long haul, Primal actually offers gruesome finishing moves to watch after you beat up an attacker. This is actually one of Sony’s selling points, talking up how you can perform Mortal Kombat-style moves on your adversary. And while I’ll admit, the idea intrigued me, it should be noted that this comes with a couple pretty severe problems. For one thing, Primal makes you finish your enemy off before you can move onto the next foe. It would have been nice if you simply had the choice between finishing them or moving on, but instead you have to see the same few fatalities over and over again.

Even though the finishing moves are extremely easy to pull off, they don’t seem to work when you want them to, and it always seems like they fail when you’re completely surrounded. And to make matters that much worse, the move that often gets mixed up with the finishing move, takes a REALLY LONG TIME to perform, leaving you open to numerous cheap shots by surroundings baddies. This unresponsive game play can actually cause a lot of unneeded frustration, and ultimately make you use items you should have been able to hang on to.
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