Retro Monday: “Primal”

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Title: “Primal

Developer: SCE Studio Cambridge

Publisher: SCE (Europe)

Released: 25th March 2003 (NA)

11thApril 2003 (EU and Me)

Primal” fits into the pile of games I started but never finished, but I loved the game. I first played it in my teenage years, also known as my dark phase. Yeah, I’m still dark now, but I’m also cynical and tired rather than just an evil bastard. (Wow, MS Word knows the word but didn’t give me the spelling. Prude sod.) Primal is a gothic game. Well, industrial gothic if you want to be specific. And I love that stuff, thanks to my teenage years, so the game played right to its audience with me.

You play as Jen, a barmaid and girlfriend to an industrial gothic musician named Lewis. That’s all of the back-story. Back in the PlayStation 2 age there was no time for back-stories! You where too busy playing the game. Unlike now where one ‘talk’ command starts a flurry of exposition that would make “War and Peace” blush. Anyway, you are an orphan who lost her parents when she was a baby, yadda-yadda-yadda, meet Lewis, yadda-yadda-yadda, and living in a really gothic version of, I think. what is meant to be New York City. Usual 90’s story except that it was in the early 2000’s.

I can not stress how gothic this game is. Everything is gothic from the manual to the art style, and even down to the 3rd land you go to which is obviously the vampire level of the game based on old vampire films and art.

As you play through the game, Jen unlocks abilities. Well, when I say abilities, I mean demon forms. It’s like “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.” Jen can transform into different demon forms; she obtains a new one per each level of the game. The demon forms are the forms of the demons that are in that level. Although you will only turn into the 1st form for fighting and the 2nd for water puzzles until you get to the 4th form and then you will only use the 2nd and 4th forms.

To power your demon forms, you need ‘primal energy’. (So that’s where the title comes in.) And that is where your sidekick comes in. On Jen’s journey, you will be followed by Scree, an ex-powerful demon whose back-story is slowly revealed as you progress and holds the grip on the mystery of the lands, yadda-yadda-yadda. At least you don’t have to worry about him in combat because as soon as combat starts he turns into stone and can not be harmed. Oh yeah, Scree is a living gargoyle. It’s a very 90’s thing, as there was a TV cartoon series about that same idea. As a note, Scree was played by the late Andreas Katsulas from “Babylon 5” fame so doing this was a genre change for him I think. Jen was played by Hudson Leick (Callisto from “Xena: Warrior Princess) so not much of a genre change for her.

On the subject of famous people being part of the game, ‘16VOLT’ did some of the music for Primal.  You may not have heard of them, but no one had heard of them when they did music for the game. The game expanded their popularity in North America and Europe, making them famous. They went on to do a few more albums, went on a break, came back in the mid/late 2000’s and released a few more albums. The music plays into the games style. 16VOLT is an industrial twofer, like a few other groups I could mention. They made the intro song and the fight music and then put it on their album. Unlike COLD. who made the (awesome) theme for “Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy” from a week or so back called “With My Mind” (which is awesome), but didn’t put it on their album. If you’re interested, the music video COLD did with the game can be found on the net easily, so look it up. (IGN has/had it.)

To play, the game was pretty standard of the time. Primal’s concept, the 3rd person wanderer-puzzle thing, was the norm (mostly) and the game has the same fight controls for each demon form so you don’t feel like you are jumping around controls schemes. Considering it has an underwater level, that is praise indeed. Just one button changed Jen from form to from, and that was the ‘special ability’ button.  Because of that, the game hasn’t really aged that badly. It’s aged with its graphics and stuff, but as something to play, it’s still okay.

I think what has dated most is the story. It is quintessentially (thanks Google for spelling that for me) 90’s. The 90’s were a dark time for many. For us in the UK, it was when Tony Blairism was rearing its head and we were blinded by no Thatcher. For the USA, I think it was, ‘The Russians are good guys now?’ or is that me just being cynical?  Anyway, look how long that lasted. Politics aside, the 90’s where okay for games and media. Yeah, they were dark, but at least they were good. Look at what we have now. ‘Spectacle Shooter’ is now a fully-fledged genre.

So in the end, I have learned that the 90’s were okay, “Primal” still plays to my teenage self and MS Word is terrible to write with if you are dyslexic.

If you want more stuff from me, go to or to my YouTube channel: Guy Off The Internet.

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