Well beyond good
Recently, on a whim, I picked up this game, after reading very little about it. I read that it was supposed to be some sort of stealth based conspiracy game, set in some sort of fantasy/Sci-fi world, and that was pretty much the extent of what I knew about this game going into it. This game pleasantly surprised me.
In this game, you play Jade, a freelance photographer, and protector of orphaned children. Along with your half-hog uncle Pey’j (pronounced Page), you run a lighthouse, which also houses the ever-increasing number of orphans, caused by the recent war between the DomZ and the Alpha Sections. The DomZ are a strange alien race who kidnap people, while the Alpha Sections are a special group of the military who have been fighting the DomZ across the galaxy, and they’ve now moved on to your planet, Hillys.
Eventually, you find out that things aren’t exactly what they seem, although that’s really not surprising. As that’s one of the main selling points of the game, the plot is fairly transparent, and there are no real moments that are surprising, at least, not for someone as naturally paranoid as myself. However, the game does take an interesting approach to the subject. As you find out more, you take pictures, and submit them to the underground newspaper you throw in with, and people actually take notice of the things you find. It’s actually quite refreshing after so many years to play a game where your actions have an overall effect on the world, at least, more of an effect than the NPCs either growling at you, or greeting you nicely, etc.
The first misconception I had of this game was that it would be a rather uninteresting stealth shooter, like so many of the infiltration games these days (e.g. Splinter Cell, or Metal Gear Solid), but combat is actually quite fun in this game. Jade fights with a staff using martial arts moves, and her companions will fight, or you can push a button and have your companions use one of their special attacks, which will stun opponents or allow you to perform even cooler attacks, etc. All in all, combat in this game is very fun, and while a lot of the time you should be staying away from some of the enemies in the game, you’ll also be fighting around the same amount of time, and enjoying it.
The game also has several different mini-games in it, all of which are fun. There’s tracks to race your hovercraft on, or a game which is sort of a cross between air hockey and pool, or a shell game. You can also explore the world of Hillys, and, while the world isn’t as huge as some other game worlds, it is very satisfying to explore. There are also various caves you can enter and explore for money or pearls, which let you continue the story by making improvements to your hovercraft. You’re never left with something to do in the game, and, even though the game makes clear what you’re supposed to be doing next, you can always take a detour and just spend some time playing around.
The characters in the game are all very likable. Jade is the typical strong-female archetype, but she’s not afraid to show emotion. Various other characters also have tons of personality, from the cab driver/resistance fighter, to the family of Jamaican rhinos who run the hovercraft repair shop, all of them are very likable characters. You have various other companions who will be with you at times, such as the soldier and resistance fighter Double H, who has a way of speaking quite like how you would expect a superhero to sound, and fits him very well. The one who really stole the show, however, was Pey’j, your half-hog uncle. He was likable, and funny, and they didn’t ham (HA!) his part up at all.
The sound in this game is also great. From the voice over work, to the soundtrack, to the sound effects, they all present the game in a very good fashion. The battle sounds make combat seem even more hectic and exciting, and the sounds of super attacks to let you know they’ve been pulled off correctly give you a good feeling. The soundtrack, however, was what I considered to be the best part of the audio. Various locations have their own theme music, such as a catchy song entitled “Propaganda” being played at the bar, or, my personal favorite, the reggae song at the Jamaican rhino’s repair shop.
My only real problem with the game is how short it is. I was able to finish the game in around 10 hours, and it could possibly be finished in less time, if you really wanted to. It could also be finished in more time, if you spent time doing every side quest, but I doubt it would last more than 15 hours for most people. I believe most people would be able to finish this game as a rental.
All in all, I really enjoyed this game. I really wish it had been longer, as it ended just as I was really starting to get into it. I highly suggest that anyone and everyone at least rent this game (it’s been released on every system out there, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding it), as it’s fresh, and, more importantly, fun.
[Review originally written Jan 2004]