Primal Review


Jen Tate is just your average modern-day goth girl (who also has more than a passing resemblance to Pat Benatar), or so she thinks.  On night after watching her boyfriend's band perform at a club, she and her boyfriend are set upon by a huge demon as they make their way home.  The attack leaves Jen in a coma, but her mind is very much alive.  Her spiritual self soon meets a guide in the form of a living gargoyle named Scree who takes her to another realm of existence, a realm divided into four worlds each inhabited by a race of demons.  The force that keeps the realms in balance is under siege, and chaos is about to explode across the realms and into our world.  Jen must help Scree restore the balance, and along the way she'll discover her true origins and the fate of her boyfriend.

Screenshots
Jen and Scree.

What Jen doesn't know at first, but you and I do by looking at the game's box, is that she is part demon.  During the course of her adventures, she'll learn to transform herself into one of four different demon forms, each with its own unique powers.  Increased strength, water-breathing, and even time-control are some of the abilities Jen will have when in her various demon forms.  While you can switch to demon form at any time, you can only hold that form for a limited amount of time.  Since the demon forms must be maintained with special energy that is provided by certain crystals, you'll need to be smart about which demon form to choose and when.

Jen is not the only one with special abilities in the game.  You can switch between control of Jen and Scree to make use of the gargoyle's special talents.  First of all, Scree can walk up walls that are made out of the same type of stone as he is.  This can be a handy skill when you need to get over a wall or into a locked tower.  The effect is also pretty cool to watch as the world rotates around Scree as he moves over walls and around corners so that the camera angle always makes it appear that he's walking on the ground.  Another of Scree's talents is the ability to take control of statues.  Not only is this key to solving some of the game's puzzles, it also lets him take on enemies once in a while as otherwise Jen does all the fighting.  Scree also serves as a storage battery of sorts.  He can extract energy from special crystals and from the bodies of slain enemies, and then transfer that energy to Jen when she is low on power.

When you first learn of Scree's wall climbing ability you'll be itching to try it out on the numerous walls, towers, and buildings appearing in the game.  Unfortunately this ability is really quite limited as Scree can only climb on a certain kind of stone and that stone is not all that common.  Additionally, many of the surfaces he can climb are invariably blocked in some way, either by ledges or transitions to different stones.  The climbing is reduced to a tool for scaling walls so that Scree can unlock doors from the other side instead of a power which can be used to explore Primal's enticing environments.

You'll want to explore Primal's environments because they are imaginative and loaded with mood and abiance.  Primal is a very atmospheric game and its environments are incredible, with each of the demon planes possessing its own distinct character.  The areas you'll travel through are all unique - you won't find the same few buildings repeated over and over again like in many video games.  In spite of the compelling worlds created in the game, your journey through them will actually be pretty linear.  While you will encounter some side alleys and byways as you play, most are only short asides from the main path.  Credit must be given to the level designers for making you feel that you could easily become lost at any time when in fact it is impossible to stray from the path dictated by the storyline.  However, you'll be left a touch disappointed by the fact that you can't truly explore Primal's worlds.