After a 3D platformer as brash as Conker's Bad Fur Day has been released, it's hard to imagine that another developer could take the genre into new territory. But that's exactly what In Utero has done with Evil Twin: Cyprien's Chronicles. Set in a dark and foreboding world locked inside the imagination of an orphaned child, Evil Twin is a bleak game. If visions of pastel-hued happy faces flit through your mind when you think of 3D platforming games, Evil Twin will wipe away these preconceptions with its opening cinema.
While stories generally take the backseat to gameplay in platforming games, Evil Twin has a decidedly twisted plot that perpetuates its grim tone. As the game begins, it's Cyprien's birthday, and all the kids at the orphanage he resides in decide to throw him a special party. Lost in his own self-pity, Cyprien decides that he would rather be an adult and clear his mind of childish things. Unbeknownst to Cyprien, his cries are overheard by a mysterious figure called the master, who warps the young lad to a world constructed by Cyprien's own imagination. Here, Cyprien must make some sense out of the parallel universe, find his friends from the orphanage, and destroy the master. Almost immediately after entering the parallel universe, Cyprien is greeted by a mutated elephant named Wilbur. Wilbur guides Cyprien through his adventure, offering insight into how to complete levels and acting as a save point once a certain number camera power-ups have been collected. In spite of Evil Twin's dark settings and situations, it also attempts to be humorous on several occasions. While the jokes aren't particularly funny, the lightheartedness of the dialogue in the game serves as a nice contrast to the rest of its subject matter.
As you might expect from a 3D platformer, Evil Twin's primary gameplay mechanic is jumping. The game is split up into almost 70 short sections, and each one requires a healthy amount of leaping from one platform to the next. While playing as Cyprien, you may jump, perform a modified version of the butt-stomp, and shoot a slingshot from a first- or third-person perspective. Using the slingshot from a third-person perspective comes in handy when attacking enemies thanks to its auto-lock function. The first-person view is essential when shooting switches that open new parts of the game's levels. Cyprien eventually upgrades his slingshot ammunition to include odd projectiles such as paper airplanes and bubble gum. Using the slingshot is essential to solving many of the game's puzzles. Tokens, which resemble a mask of sorts, are scattered throughout the game. These tokens can be used to turn Cyprien into his evil twin, SuperCyp, at any time. SuperCyp has a wealth of moves that are not available to Cyprien. He can shoot enormous fireballs, perform an electrifying lightning bolt attack, and reach high places with a super jump. As you collect the tokens, a meter located at the top of the screen will gradually build. If the meter is empty, Cyprien will not be able to transform. Each of SuperCyp's special moves requires a certain amount of token power, but even if you don't use these special moves, the meter still drains slowly. It's essential to constantly switch between characters in order to advance in the game--there are certain sections of each level that can only be negotiated by one or the other.
Playing as either character takes some getting used to. Jumping to platforms isn't really a problem after some practice, but walking along narrow ledges without falling off can be difficult thanks to the floaty running controls. In the game's current state, hit detection has yet to be fully tweaked, so it's often easy to get stuck on objects in the levels as well. Another problem with the game is that jumping and grabbing a ledge is inconsistent at best. Considering there are several portions of the game where this technique is required to traverse bottomless pits, hopefully this is something In Utero will polish up before the game's release in November. The objectives you need to fulfill to advance through Evil Twin aren't all that different from those found in other platforming games. You're often required to fetch items for a reward, reach the top of a designated structure, or destroy all the enemies within a given area. The level design is linear, but many times you may choose which section of the game to tackle next. However, the cryptic instructions handed out by the game's characters often make it difficult to figure out what the next task is and where it needs to be done. The bosses included in the game are mutated versions of Cyprien's friends with exaggerated physical characteristics and actions.
The latest version of Evil Twin we received doesn't look markedly different from the last one. The textures, though impressively varied for a PS2 game, still appear a bit washed-out. The character models are generally built of few polygons and look the same as the ones used in the Dreamcast version of the game. Cyprien's face is animated so that his mouth and eyes move during the game's real-time cinemas, but his character model seems a bit crude when compared with those of other games on the PlayStation 2. The same holds true for the more than 100 enemies in the game. There are knights composed of two pieces that split apart when defeated, enormous praying mantises, airborne beetles, and more. But the majority are the same models used in the Dreamcast version of the game, and they're quite blocky. The levels themselves consist of dingy caverns, dank jungle environments, and one that is completely constructed of cloth. No matter which level you play, they are all composed of the same bleak color palette, consisting primarily of earth tones. There are some nice effects included in the graphics that are used sparingly such as particle effects for poisonous gas, real-time lighting, and transparencies for the liquid substances in the game. But on the whole, there isn't much in Evil Twin's visuals that couldn't have been pulled off in a Dreamcast or high-end Nintendo 64 game.
The current build we have of Evil Twin is still missing streaming dialogue for the real-time cinemas, but according to In Utero, it will be included in the final version of the game. While we may not be able to hear the characters speak in the game yet, there is now text in English that aids in following the story. There is some light swearing in the text, but nothing that will secure the game anything above a teen rating. The sound effects are just what you'd expect, and the creepy music included in the game is an effective tool for setting the tone.
If you're tired of the traditional platforming fare and want to try something different, Evil Twin: Cyprien's Chronicles is shaping up to be a nice alternative. There are still some slight gameplay issues for In Utero to iron out, but with the game's release just over a month away, time is running out. While its graphics aren't much of an improvement on the Dreamcast version's, Evil Twin's visuals are more than enough to realize the vision its developers have for the game. Evil Twin for the PlayStation 2 is currently scheduled for release on November 27. Look for our full review soon.