Square Enix can’t half make a good looking game, whether it’s on PS3, Xbox 360 or as is the case with its latest title, The Third Birthday, on PSP, but like the ugly man says to the girl of his dreams, “looks aren’t everything,” and in the case of The Third Birthday there is certainly some truth in this.
The Third Birthday gets its name from being the third title in the Parasite Evil series. In this title you play as the female hero Aya Brea, who is tasked with trying to stop The Twisted from destroying Manhattan, which in turn involves travelling back in time. Aya has no idea what is going on really given that she has lost her memory, however that doesn’t stop her from kicking Twisted butt with some of her fantastic abilities.
Aya is your typical hero; she can run, jump over barriers and somehow carry a whole load of weapons without breaking sweat. Of Aya’s abilities, Overdive is the one you will find yourself making use of the most. By pressing the triangle button at any time, Aya can jump into any other human body, which makes getting to an enemy’s blindside a whole lot easier than running from one end of the screen to the other. Overdiving takes place at lightning speed, meaning it becomes almost second nature jumping from one area to another, while you also gain the health and weapons of the person you jump into, which comes in handy if you are running low on ammo or health.
There are a few twists to overdive, for example, you are able to use crossfire with an ally should you both be aiming at the same enemy, do this until the Twisted is weakened then you can simply leap into the body of the enemy and explode them from within, how cool is that? The Twisted are a fairly tough bunch to crack, at first they smack you with their tentacles or fire toxins at you, however , they do get a lot tougher, which means making use of the overdive ability to both get to their blindside and weaken them via crossfire, becomes essential.
Since the Twisted do get more powerful it’s quite handy that Aya starts to become no slouch herself. As you play through the game you will unlock new weapons (and there are lots to unlock), upgrade weapons to make them hold more ammo and become more powerful and, best of all, you will also be able to add new abilities to Aya’s arsenal.
The same menu which sees you upgrade and buy new weapons and equipment also serves as a hub for replaying previous missions. Within this hub you can replay missions, review data on The Twisted, CTI members and other character groups you will meet within the game. You will also be able to use this hub to change into any new costumes that you have unlocked along the way.
There are a few issues within the game, and unfortunately it’s these issues that drag the game down. The main issue is really the PSP itself, often during the game you will find yourself in frustration as the games camera swings around, leaving you disorientated while the Twisted behind you makes Aya pay. Often in situations such as this you will be crying out for a second analogue stick on the PSP. There are a few solutions to this frustration in the auto-aim feature and also the d-pad (which allows you to switch between enemies), however these are hardly ideal and certainly don’t make up for the lack of control over the camera.
As briefly mentioned at the beginning of this review, The Third Birthday is certainly a striking title, with the cut scenes especially looking like they wouldn’t be out of place on the PS3. The action itself is also fantastic to look at and doesn’t lag no matter how busy the screen gets. To add to the fantastic presentation, Square has done what it does best, bringing a stomping soundtrack, some decent voice acting and also some brilliant sound effects, making for one of the best presented games the PSP has seen yet.
The issues with the camera are a real shame because otherwise The Third Birthday is a decent and original PSP game. It seems that it’s not only Sony that will be glad when the NGP (with its two analogue sticks) finally gets here, because as it is The Third Birthday is only a good game, when it could have been an outstanding one.
You can purchase your copy of The Third Birthday here.