The 3rd Birthday is the latest chapter in Square-Enix’s Parasite Eve franchise. The title’s rebranding coincides with a change in gameplay that sees the series morph from a role playing Resident Evil like survival horror adventure to a more action packed third person shooter. That’s not to say that the series has completely abandoned its RPG roots though. Blasting the hideous monsters you come across rewards you with level ups that strengthen your character, in addition to BP that can be invested into purchasing and upgrading firearms. Isn’t it odd how in games were you work for a government agency you are expected to buy your own weapons? These defence budget cutbacks are getting ridiculous!
Set in present day New York, players take control of Aya Brea – a blonde bombshell who is tasked with protecting the Big Apple from sinister entities known as the Twisted. Sadly the Twisted do not live up to their name and therefore have no interest in resolving their grievances with mankind over a friendly game of Twister. Perhaps they bat for the other team, as the prospect of contorting one’s limbs all over Aya on a spotted mat sounds most appealing. To save the day Aya has been authorised to use the CTI agency’s Overdrive System, which allows agents to travel back into the past and possess the body of any soldier who happened to be battling the Twisted at the time. It’s a bit like a more violent version of Quantum Leap.
During a gunfight with the Twisted players will have access to a selection of four weapons. Aya will wield whatever gun her host is holding in addition to a pistol, which despite dishing out weedy damage has the advantage of having infinite bullets. The other two weapon slots can be occupied with BP purchased guns that include rifles, shotguns and grenade launchers. One neat thing about Aya’s ability to switch between the soldiers she possesses is that if her host runs out of bullets she can change over to a colleague who is better stocked in the ammunition department. Teleporting between bodies also adds a strategic element to the combat, as you can warp over to an unhurt fighter who is not low on health or do sneaky things like appearing behind an adversary to shoot them in the back. Not very sporting, but it gets the job done.
Control wise the game handles okay, but there is certainly room for improvement. The L & R buttons allow Aya to aim and fire, the x button permits her to dodge whilst triangle is what you press to swap bodies. In addition to teleporting into friendly forces Aya can also temporarily inhabit an enemy to inflict massive damage, but doing so requires that you weaken your target first. Although this is a PSP game I played 3rd Birthday on my Vita, which left me longing for an option to map the camera controls to the second analogue stick. That would have been more comfortable than using the D-Pad. The D-Pad is also used to switch targets, as most of the guns you brandish auto aim on enemies. Great in theory, although in practice I often found myself frantically pressing the pad to cycle between foes until I was eventually facing my desired target.
My rating for The 3rd Birthday is a four out of five. Fans of Parasite Eve may be disappointed by the more action-oriented direction the series has taken, but I personally enjoyed it. Visually the in-game graphics and CG clips are very impressive for a PSP release. I especially enjoyed the damage effects for clothing that permit us to catch a glimpse of Aya’s bare buttocks. The only real fault I can levy at the title is that it does a poor job of explaining Aya’s DNA powers, which resulted in me neglecting them during my play through. The story also doesn’t make a lick of sense. That may be partially due to the fact that I haven’t played Parasite Eve, but the non-linear time travel plot and wacky twists didn’t help matters either.
The 3rd Birthday took me around eight hours to complete, but given that I only paid £7.99 for it I am not complaining. The short duration is actually a plus, as I am more likely to revisit the title to tackle the harder difficulties and acquire the unlockables on offer. Overall I would say The 3rd Birthday is a great game. It’s almost as much fun as playing Twister with a smexy lass.