by Josh Butler, reviewed on
Nick Of Time
It seems every day my friends are hassling me to know when there will be a third Parasite Eve game. “Ten years later is the perfect time to complete the survival-horror RPG trilogy” my mum keeps telling me, and Square-Enix are apparently aware of this. Strategically, in order to avoid the embarrassment of Black Ops-style masses crowding stores, the publisher has stealthily released a sequel under the name 'The 3rd Birthday'. A Parasite Eve game in all but name, plot, genre and platform, The 3rd Birthday is a time-warping, paradox-troubling, third-person shooter for the PSP, which takes Aya Brea on a third adventure she'll never forget, nor understand.
Let's Do The Time-Warp Again
Ten years is a long time in videogames, and nowhere is this more evident than in the game's cinematics. Even on the original Playstation, Parasite Eve's cutscenes were anything but primitive, but on Sony's handheld it's clear how far the series' visuals have come. The 3rd Birthday's FMVs surpass all but the best of this console's output, and as the opening sequence begins you'd be forgiven for checking if you'd accidentally placed your UMD of Advent Children in the disc drive.
The game starts with a Cloverfield-style invasion of New York City on Christmas Eve, in the year 2012. As NYC's greatest landmarks find themselves adorned with tentacled 'Twisteds', it's inevitably Aya Brea who is tasked with the clean up. As a member of the Counter Twisted Investigation, she uses her new-found ability of body-possession or 'overdiving' to travel to the past and prevent the Twisted outbreak, while unravelling the past she can't remember.
As nonsensical as that synopsis is, it would have been invaluable to me upon beginning the game. From the offset there are snippets of plot that appear to be obscure references to Aya's past, and yet later prove to have been intended as exposition. As your apparently innocuous actions in the past affect the present, you often find yourself watching cutscenes featuring the shocking return or absence of a character you weren't entirely aware existed. The 3rd Birthday plays fast and loose with basic principals such as time paradoxes, parallel universes and consequential character possession. The game quickly goes from esoteric, to incomprehensible, to evoking thoughts of sheer incredulity that anyone is expected keep up without the Wikipedia page open at all times.
As the cinematics finally give way to gameplay, The 3rd Birthday reveals itself as a simple yet proficient cover shooter. Utilising Resistance: Retribution's solution to the lack of second analogue stick, aiming uses auto-lock for all but select weapons and the result is a basic but playable shooter that flows nicely from the defeat of one foe to the appearance of another. The cover mechanic is also similar, as Aya only needs to run in to cover to hide behind it. However, after popping up to shoot, Aya can never be fully relied on to retake cover once you stop. Also, only select environments can be used as cover - no matter if they're at a less convenient angle than over objects - and ultimately taking cover is useless against all but the largest foes with the less tactical run-and-gun solution has a far greater success rate.
A simple yet polished, no frills PSP shooter
A mire of frustrating controls and incomprehensible plot