Primal Rage

a Reeeview item by J Nash (Thursday November 19th, 2009)

JN says...JN saysFor AMIGA POWER. I like this one because nothing occurs except that I explain why I’m recommending a rubbish game. Whatever happened to that movement of idiots saying reviews must be objective? Yep, I forget to care either.

For: A1200
Publisher: Time Warner
Authors: Probe

This month I’ve been to see Maid Marian The Musical, a stage show based upon the fantastically great television series. It was fantastically great, and if the certainly-triumphant tour passes through your home town, I recommend you go. You could then assure me I am not being enormously wrong in thinking Kevin McCurdy, who plays Mad Bloke, looks exactly like Tim Curry, except Kevin is black. Be sure also to buy a programme, which is written by the show’s authors and is a hoot, and which I was afforded the opportunity to study closely by Time Warner’s not sending the vitally important instructions to Primal Rage for thirteen days.

Like the same programmers’ conversion of Mortal Kombat 2, Primal Rage’s controls are remarkably unwieldy through the necessity of squashing everything upon a one-button joystick. (Except it’s not a necessity, is it? The year and a bit-old Shadow Fighter demonstrated the playable elegance of the simple swirl method. Then again, Shads wasn’t obliged to arrange things so a parent coin-op’s moves would work on the home version. Except the Amiga’s ones are subtly different. Help us, splendid Jesus. Wave your magic beard and make it better. No, nothing’s happened. So Primal Rage is needlessly clumsy, and there is no God. Bad day.) To pull off a special move, you have to hit fire twice, then hold it and do the waggle. Worse, diagonals are used extremely infrequently so you have to explicitly tap out away, down, towards (or whatever). And, exactly like in Mortal Kombat 2, two-button joysticks don’t work despite the options screen telling you they do. (Perhaps it’s Probe’s own two-button joystick. I must ask to borrow it.) The upshot of all this is playing Primal Rage, you just don’t have time to use the special moves and so don’t bother. (I personally gave up after beating my opponent to an empty-meter pulp, then being decisively killed while trying to perform a Brain Basher.) All rather damning, entirely in keeping with the game’s being quite dreadful on all other formats, and in no way explaining why I like Primal Rage heaps and heaps.

For one thing, Primal Rage, unlike every other beat-’em-up ever in the history of all things, makes sense. People in masks leaping thirty feet into the air and conjuring fireballs have tended to leave me cold, but two-storey dinosaurs wrenching wedges from each other’s necks is obvious and fine. Dinosaurs are great, as are dinosaur movies, and so ‘be’ing a dinosaur in what is, in effect, a dinosaur movie — but on the Amiga, is irresistibly appealing. The overwhelming grue, silly in Mortal Kombat, is here fitting. A deinonychus scrambling up an allosaur’s chest to rake claws down its face is a right and proper thing. And with characters being different species (although four of them are the same pair twice with new colours, curse it) you get to identify with your dino in a way that for me never happened in Mortal Kombat. (I recall not caring tuppence for losing at MK2; here, I was furiously swearing revenge when my wee but wiry clawbloke went down to a proto-ape.) What Primal Rage has in spades is imagination, from the plausibly ghastly tooth-and-claw attacks (and, yeah, there’re fireballs and things, but as they’re special moves you haven’t a chance) to the twisted genius of pouncing upon and eating your human worshippers for extra energy.

“But J Nash,” you quiz keenly, “what happened to the last eight pages of the magazine? And how can you balance leaving in protest against something or other with continuing to take freelance work even though you specifically maintained you wouldn’t?” Sternly I perform the single-hair extraction for non-attenders and rattle my ruler in your hymn book. “But surely you can’t recommend a game you’ve explained effectively loses half its moves?” you continue wisely. I rub my manly jaw.

The plain fact of the matter is, I’ve been having a tremendous time playing Primal Rage and in the excitement of racking up multiple-hit combos and ‘be’ing a dinosaur, I’ve barely noticed the absence of special moves. It’s abominable they’re so (needlessly) difficult to get working, of course, but my feats of honest pugilism have amused me greatly. The computer opponents have come on a treat since MK2, and provide a fierce challenge on the higher of the seventeen difficulty levels. Naturally, the two-player game affords greater time to master the (fatuously over-obtuse) special moves, and good luck to you. We didn’t really miss them.

But see here, Primal Rage — coming on four disks without being hard disk-installable is criminally arrogant. And the final battle ending is abysmal — not only must you fight everyone again (although if you’ve fatalitied a dino they come back as a far weaker ghost. I’ve been told) but the every-new-opponent loading is atrocious, and the way your dino doesn’t even fall down dead if you lose (‘Game Over’ suddenly appears in the middle of the screen) is alarmingly amateurish. There can be no excuse. (It doesn’t happen in the game proper. Ever.)

An odd fish, then, is Primal Rage, which through speed (it’s excitingly zippy), atmosphere (the digitised stop-motion monsters are fantastic, and the sound is fearsomely meaty), slick playability (I’m more than a little spruce with the deinonychus) and being about dinosaurs has won me over. But it needn’t have been such a close thing. (And I’m still uncomfortable about, essentially, recommending a game with such large bits ‘missing.’ But hey, opinions are what reviews are all about. Especially as with such little space we can’t really do concept ones any more.) Probe, loves, if you’re going to write a coin-op conversion, either go properly with the conversion (in which case keep the exact moves and support the CD32 pad) or tailor it precisely for the format and take a leaf from Shadow Fighter’s control book. (So what if the moves’ll be substantially different from the coin-op’s? Learning new ones is what it’s all about.) This compromise approach — and we told you when you did it with MK2 — can’t hope to satisfy.

Oh, and make the two-button option work or I’ll come round and set fire to your heads.

‘Be’ a dinosaur.

The special moves are a joyless exercise in tatty waggling. Lots of disk swapping. The two-button option still doesn’t work.

Marvellously entertaining, significantly more of a game than Mortal Kombat 2 and as good a coin-op beat-’em-up as you’re likely to see, but lags well behind the Amiga-tailored Shadow Fighter. Firmishly recommended.

Supposedly it’ll work if you have 2mb of RAM. We don’t so can’t tell.


(Pic of game bit with tyrannosaur fighting ankylosaur.)

DOUG McCLURE: Quick — up this bluff.

RAQUEL WELCH: Oo ee urghh.

(They recoil in amazement as a tyrannosaur gets one in the stomach from a triceratops. Except it’s an ankylosaur.)

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