By Emily Erwin
With so many shooter games becoming popular these days, I figured that it was only fitting that I reviewed a lesser-known one: “The 3rd Birthday”. Published by Square-Enix and developed by HexaDrive in 2011 for the PlayStation Portable in North America, “The 3rd Birthday” is a sequel to “Parasite Eve II”, though it is not required to understand what’s going on in the game.
The game begins on a snowy Christmas Eve in 2012 in Manhattan when strange life forms that resemble twisted roots suddenly pop out of the ground and start destroying the city. Later dubbed as Babel, they quickly take over the city, destroying buildings and even ruining the Statue of Liberty. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the Babel brings strange creatures that actively seek out humans to hunt and destroy. They are later named Twisted and continue multiplying at an astonishing rate, destroying anything in their path.
Fast forward a year and Aya Brea, a woman who can only remember her name, enters the picture. The Twisted have invaded well over seventy-five percent of the world and Aya is the only one who can save the world. This seems great, but let me first say that she has no formal training in using even the most basic of weapons and can barely hold a pistol steady when aiming at the Twisted.
That really puts your mind at ease, huh?
Aya is not alone in this fight against the Twisted and the Babel. She is aided by the members of the CTI, which stands for the Counter Twisted Investigation, and their machine called the Overdive System. Similar to the Animus in “Assassin’s Creed”, the Overdive System allows Aya to go back in time to change the past. The only problem is that Aya has to take over a body for this to work. Even more problematic, if Aya’s host dies, she dies as well.
Is this complicated enough for you yet?
Seriously, though, this is a pretty good game. It’s difficult to explain what exactly the game is, so I just tell people that it’s like a mix of “Resident Evil” and “Assassin’s Creed”. The Twisted sometimes remind me of zombies in their movements, but they attack similarly to the Dusks in “Kingdom Hearts II” in the sense that they jump and spin head-on into Aya. No matter what it reminds you of, “The 3rd Birthday” is best described as a first-person shooter/ horror game.
I’ll say right now that the plot is extremely confusing. Perhaps this is because I did not have the pleasure of playing “Parasite Eve II”, but I digress. Aya jumps back and forth in so many different points in time that it becomes very confusing. Fear not, for at certain points in the game, players can access a timeline that breaks down every single event relevant to the game, even if it occurred before the Babel attack.
The controls of the game may seem clunky when starting a game, but it becomes easier as players plough through the missions. And if it really is that unbearable, players can always change their control options. Personally, I think the gameplay is a lot of fun, especially when the weapons come into play. There are several different types of weapons to use throughout the game, all of which can be customized as Aya gains new abilities. Like many shooter games, the pistol has unlimited ammo, which definitely comes in handy during a difficult fight.
In addition to the weapons, Aya has an awesome ability called Overdive that she can use that causes substantial damage to her enemy. During Overdive, Aya literally takes over the body of the Twisted and damages them from the inside before jumping back into the body she was possessing. However, this is only possible at certain points in the game after a certain amount of damage has been dealt to an enemy.
“The 3rd Birthday” features a very eclectic cast of characters who help Aya on her journey. There’s Thelonious Cray, the no-nonsense investigator at CTI who acts as Aya’s trainer. Dr. Blank (yes, that’s his real name) is the casual tech guy in charge of the computer systems at CTI. Kunihiko Maeda is a (hopefully) good-natured Mitochondrial expert and helps Aya later on in the game. Given his blatantly creepy and slightly stalkerish advances towards Aya, I can’t be sure what his real intentions are.
While the game is really fun to play, there are some negative things about it. Aya, for one, served as a great annoyance, which is really problematic considering that she’s the only playable character. She acts like a really strong character who can tackle anything, but I feel that it changes when she’s actually in combat. If she gets hit in combat, she whines and falls to the ground, taking quite a while to get back on her feet. During this time, however, she is left wide open to attacks and I’ve actually been attacked while Aya was attempting to stand up again. This is extremely annoying when I’m in the middle of a difficult fight.
Another annoyance of mine is the repetitiveness of the missions. Aya goes through maybe two rooms, has a safety room where players can update their weapons and save their progress, go through a few more rooms, fight a boss, and move on to the next one. During combat, all of the exits are blocked off by the Babel and are cleared only when Aya destroys all of the Twisted. This is okay for maybe a mission or two, but when the whole game is set up this way, it gets really annoying.
For the most part, I feel like the game is trying to be a serious game, as horror games generally are. There are parts throughout the game, though, where I think the writers were trying to add a bit of humor to the story. When this happens, it is normally out of place and it just feels awkward rather than funny. The ending of the game, as complicated and confusing as it is, just seemed incredibly cheesy and tacky. A character (not naming any names) is shot and the camera hovers on him/ her for a few seconds and I jokingly thought, “They’re going to come back to life”. Lo and behold, they actually did. It’s those sorts of things that ruined the game for me and could have been left out.
All in all, I think “The 3rd Birthday” is a really fun game to play. The dialogue could use improvement and the characters can get annoying, but its great for when you want a horror/ shooter game and don’t feel like hooking the XBox up to the TV. I’m keeping it partially for the story, partially for the characters (even if they can be really cheesy), and partially for the graphics, but mostly for the fun gameplay.