|It's Christmas, 1997, and Mitochondrial Eve is putting New York City on
full alert. In this title from SquareSoft, makers of such gaming hits as Final Fantasy
VII, you play a female cop with strange abilities who is trying to save the world from the
revolt of renegade mitochondria.
I know what you're thinking: Isn't the mitochondria that thing from Biology class? Yup. In eleventh grade I remember it was listed in the matching part of our Bio test as "The powerhouse of the cell." PE takes this idea and runs with it. The basic premise is that the mitochondria is an independent lifeform that lives symbiotically in our cells. Symbiotically, that is, until an evil scientist mutates the organelles into evil microcreatures bent on world domination. That may sound cheesy, mostly because it is, but it's amazing how well PE pulls off this hokey plotline.
PE plays a lot like the Resident Evil games. You run around various locations, such as the Museum of Natural History and Central Park, fighting mutated monsters, collecting keys, weapons and items, and piecing together the mystery of what's caused so much havoc in the Big Apple.
The camera and controls are great in this game, as are the graphics. Scenes are rendered nicely, and walls don't pop in and out of existence or anything screwy like that. I never lost track of my character while fighting, which is a concern in games with 3D environments.
The character play is what makes this game so much fun. You can access menus of items and weapons, and also have a menu for magic, called "Parasite Powers" in the game. By using "tools" that you pick up, you can modify your weapons and armor, and as your character goes up in levels you gain new powers and Bonus Points, which can be used to hotrod your equipment.
Combat is turn-based. You have an "Active Time" meter, and whenever it fills up you can make an attack, use an item, or cast a spell. As you go up in levels, you get quicker and can attack more often. When using a weapon, a dome-shaped grid pops up showing the range of your attack, and you can select one or multiple targets, depending on the number of shots you have with your gun. Running around and dodging enemy attacks is a major part of the combat.
It's the combat and character development that give PE a refreshing slant. The coolness of the actual play overrides the overall silliness of the plot. The FMV sequences are rendered beautifully and it's somewhat unsettling just how pretty it is to watch Eve melt down an audience of thousands in Central Park into a bubbling mass of orange-yellow goo.
Needless to say, this isn't a game for the faint of heart. Rats, spiders, dogs and people are all transformed into hideous mutations bent on killing you. Monsters jump out from behind mirrors and through windows, and you're forced to duke it out with undead dinosaurs and creatures which defy description.
Unfortunately, PE's storyline is as weak as its graphics are strong. First, the premise, all that jazz about the revolutionary mitochondria is lame at best. That, coupled with the incredibly poor writing we expect from games (especially games-in-translation) makes for some boring reading. The story is peppered with bizarre asides about divorced parenting and why dorky scientists will never get women. About the only redeeming quality of the story is the repeated use of the word "sperm," which makes me giggle every time. Parents don't fear, Eve is simply trying to have a child via artificial insemination because (as if you couldn't guess) her present body is breaking down and she must find another before achieving true global domination.
The game is divided into seven days, and about moderate length. It's not one of those 70 hour games like Final Fantasy VII, but not intolerably short either. Over a long weekend or something like fall break, PE can really suck the time away from you.
Overall, I enjoyed this game. The graphics and playing style make PE original and involving. While the storyline leaves a lot to be desired, the game has plenty going for it as it is. Be careful if you're a squeamish gamer, but if you're into gore and slime this will mark time nicely as you wait for the new Resident Evil.