Under the Skin
I am not in the mood for a fancy introduction and neither do I have the time because after the extremely calm period in which almost nothing was released, games are now rolling in by the dozen. You could compare it with all these nature documentaries that describe one year in a climate that goes from one extreme to another. You know, the ones they broadcast on Sunday afternoon and although you already know everything what is about to happen, you still can’t make yourself switch to another channel. They all come down to this: there is a period in which it rains so hard that everything is flooded but only a few weeks later the landscape already became a desert in which one drop of water is a delight. I can tell you for sure that the raining season started. Actually, it already started a few weeks ago because by now the water has already taken in the first floor.
So, the first bucket of water I drew out was Under the skin from Capcom in which you play as Cosmi, a three-year-old creature from a planet far away called Mischief, who has come to earth so he can prove he is a man. Therefore he will need to pull tricks on people and by doing so earn money. These pranks vary from letting them walk into thumbtacks to releasing a tornado. Both will make those evil humans lose their precious coins which you can then collect with a vacuum cleaner if you have that particular item, otherwise you will have to pick them up by hand. Do be careful because once that they know you fooled them, they will come after you and if when caught they will strip you down to your underwear. Get beaten again and your camouflage is gone.
You can try different tactics to keep those angry folks at a distance but in the end you will always need to suck one character in your special gun. Once you have managed to capture a human you like (because of the tricks he allows you to pull or because of his appearance), you will have to find a UFO which completes the actual transformation once you walk underneath it.
So far I have only explained the concept which I think is very amusing, extremely original and exploits its potential humour quite well but what is it that you find most important in a game? That is right, gameplay and that is where things start going wrong. The camera for starters is a pain in the neck which I realised immediately because it was set to manual by default. I’ve tried that, then switched to automatic which obviously wasn’t the brightest idea as from that moment on I never saw what I needed to see. After thirty-seven seconds, I knew enough to change back to manual but this time I inverted the x-axis which proved to be the most satisfying set-up possible. However, I only enjoyed playing once I knew the map quite well because then I didn’t have to adjust the camera to spot UFO’s or large crowds, a part of the game whereby the therefore designated radar didn’t bother to help much either.
In the end this isn’t the most disturbing factor to criticise the gameplay for, the fact that you can hardly talk about gameplay is. Here are the steps of the algoritm you have to perform and believe me when I say that it isn’t enough to keep you occupied for very long:
WHILE (missionAccomplished == false)
IF (itemscolletion == null)
search UFO to transform
release item on humans
If you answered “graphics” on the question: “What is it that you find most important in a game?” then I guess that the cell-shaded style of design will disappoint you too. They aren’t lousy or extremely bad but they aren’t exactly astonishing either. Therefore, as the game hasn’t built up any reserve or credit, the graphics won’t succeed in making up for the lack of gameplay.
I came to find out that when you get to see average stuff, what you hear won’t be much better either. Not that I want to define that in a mathematical expression or law but it once again seems to be true.
You do get a nice package with a good instruction manual and beautiful cover. On the disc you are spoiled with bonus material like trailers from other Capcom titles such as Mega man X8 or Viewtiful Joe, of which you will be able to read a review here with Fragland (soon). Furthermore, there are extra modes, multiplayer stuff (versus mode could be fun but the split screen simply becomes too crowded) and difficulties to unlock which seems one final desperate attempt to make the game last a little while longer which actually works too.
It took me about thirty minutes to figure out how things work after which I kept playing three or four hours. I did play a couple of times again but I guess you won’t get more than six hours out of it and then I am being optimistic. I do love the original, creative and funny concept and I was definitely satisfied with the quality of the sound and graphics. All that makes it twice the shame that the gameplay hasn’t got any dept at all so it becomes an ideal rental title. If you like to have a collection of games on your shelf just like I do, my advice is not to pay more than about twenty euro’s.