Game Info
Playstation 2
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood, Violence
The Good

• Huge levels that look great
• Excellent voice acting and story
• Puzzle aspect of game is solid

The Bad

• Combat is weak
• You can't fight or jump unless the game wants you to


Primal begins in the mortal realm, when Jen and her musician boyfriend are attacked by a demon. Left in coma from her injuries, Jen's spirit is drawn from her body by Skree, a gargoyle-like demon who serves as her aide and guide as she discovers her own link to the mystical world outside of the mortal realm. The universe is governed by two forces. The force of Chaos, governed by Abbadon, has started to affect all four of the demon realms, throwing the balance into danger. Jen and Skree must work together to set things right.

The gameplay behind Primal is a mixture of Soul Reaver 2 and Ico. The strength of the game is finding your way through each location by using Jen and Skree's skills in tandem to pass through every challenge. Skree can climb along certain walls and Jen can shimmy along small ledges or through small openings in the walls. Jen also gains the ability to turn into demon forms, each with special abilities all their own, like being able to make high jumps or breath underwater. Hitting the Select Button allows you to switch between characters, which is essential to get through the game. You'll often find yourself in a location which seems to be a dead end, only to find the solution in having either Jen or Skree using their specific abilities to progress further. While this may lead to some spots where you have to backtrack just to move on, it all seems to work just fine in the end.

Jen, in either human or demon form, is the only one capable of combat. When an enemy comes near, you'll be able to attack by using the L1, L2 and R2 buttons to perform attacks. The R1 button blocks, and when you wear down enemies, hitting both the L2 and R2 buttons will perform a deathblow attack. If you don't pull this off soon enough, certain enemies will regain health and their composure. During a fight, Skree will turn to stone to avoid damage. While he may seem useless in a fight, he is useful in supplying Jen energy to replenish her health. He can also drain energy from defeated foes to refill his own gauge and once you collect enough lode stones, he can transfer his energy into nearby statues to unlock doors or even use them to perform certain tasks. Also, if Jen perishes, Skree can go to a nearby rift gate to recall her spirit. These same rift gates can be used to travel between locations in the game.

Visually, Primal is built on a pretty nice game engine. The levels are large and packed with detail. Everything from the detailed textures to effective and dramatic lighting really gives a complete game world to move the story along. The character models also look exceptionally well detailed and are animated well, especially during the story sequences. Except for the more stiffly animated human models at the beginning of the game, all of the story sequences are well done and drive the game on. While the game does have some lengthy loading times at the beginning, you'll be treated to large worlds with no load times that you can discern, except for a few moments when the framerate drops as you enter certain spots.

The audio portion of the game is also done well. The voice acting is finely executed and gives a lot of personality to the characters. In fact, the voice acting in Primal is some of the best on the Playstation 2 to date and goes a long way to make the story enjoyable. The script comes across quite naturally in delivery. The music ranges from ambient to symphonic to even heavy metal during the fight sequences. While you might think the eclectic nature of the soundtrack would be annoying, it's actually done quite well and manages to fit together nicely. Sound effects are sharp and effective. Just about every aspect of the audio portion does a great job in drawing the player into the game.

While the environmental puzzle aspect of the game is pretty well done and the story is finely sculpted, the combat system comes across as pretty shallow. The attacks you start the game off with are the ones you have throughout the game. It would have been nice to use a more developed battle system, as the current one leaves combat feeling a little dry. Many times, when facing multiple enemies, you may be left feeling that the combat is there just to slow down the player rather than accent the rest of the game. Also, I have to question some of the decisions made during the development of the game. You'll find that you can't make Jen throw a punch, jump or climb up a ledge unless the game wants you to. This leaves players roaming around the game world with very little interactivity outside of what will progress the game further. I really wish the developers would have allowed for more freedom, even if just throw punches and jump as you please. While this may have no practical use, it would go a long way to making the players feel like they're actually part of the game and not just looking at the pretty scenery before moving on.

If you can look past the shallow combat and limited interactivity, you'll find an enjoyable gothic experience the looks good and has a great story to tell. Fans of Ico and the Soul Reaver series should do themselves a favor and check Primal out.

- - Kinderfeld

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