Under The Skin PS2 Review

Released in Japan earlier this year under the guise of “Panic Maker” many did not expect Capcom to give Cosmi a chance to try and work his charm on a western audience, but gladly, following a name change, a PAL version is now available. Was it worth the long wait?

Gameplay

Meet Cosmi the tiny blue alien with an oversized head, he hails from Planet Mischief but whatever you do don’t be fooled by his cute alien looks! Once a mischiefian reaches the age of three, they are sent off to another planet to prove their trouble making skills. Unluckily for us Cosmi has chosen planet Earth and is here for one reason and one reason only: to prove himself to his fellow mischiefians and cause ultimate chaos. He is certainly one alien that does not come in peace. Welcome to Under The Skin. It’s Panic Time!!

Being a tiny blue alien with an oversized head, Cosmi may find it a tiny bit difficult to roam around Earth to cause the kind of chaos he wants to. Luckily, he has the ability to change his appearance with an out-of-this-world piece of alien technology. Meet the human data sucker ray gun, this will become your new best friend for the duration of the game. Once you have sucked the chosen human, and more specifically the chosen human data, you must run to one of the many tiny UFOs scattered throughout your chosen level. Once there, you will begin your transmutation into a more passable appearance that will let you roam around the city unnoticed. You will now remain unnoticed until you begin your trouble making ways!

Your “trouble making ways” consist of five “prank slots”, you get these each time you change into the form of a human you’ve zapped. These pranks range from regular tacks on the ground to a crazed stampede of elephants, but my favourite has to be giant hamburgers that appear from nowhere to fall from the sky onto your victims head. I have to admit the first time I saw it I burst out laughing. Each time you pull one of these pranks in the game the victim will drop a load of coins onto the ground and to complete the level you most collect a certain number of these coins in the given time. Once you perform a prank on an individual, that person sees red and will chase you around the level. If you get hit once you will be stripped right down to your underwear. Getting hit again makes you revert back to the “regular” tiny blue alien with an oversized head and you also lose a large percentage of your coins. Once in your alien form, if anyone sees you they will freak out and chase you. To stop the chase you must zap an Earthling, find a UFO, and change appearance so that the humans lose track of you. Do you see a pattern developing here?

The core gameplay of Under The Skin is based around those mechanics named above. Prank, coins, zap, run, change and you must repeat those until you have gathered enough coins to move onto the next stage! You may think this may get boring after a while and to be honest you probably will get bored after a while, but you will probably have finished the game or at least be near the end before the boredom kicks in.

Some levels offer a different challenge of an enemy coming after you, the most famous being Nemesis of Resident Evil fame. Another challenge sees “Panic Time” kicking in, this is the alien name for Rush Hour which sees the inhabitant of the chosen levels move around more quickly making you be extra careful about what you do.

Although the game contains 8 levels that range from CoCo Town, Pirate Land and Raccoon City, each level is rather small and eerily reminiscent of the one before. Each level also includes a different set of pranks for you to play around with but these are also very similar to the ones you saw in the level before. In fact, the whole game feels like it could have been expanded to include more features.

Although Under The Skin is an interesting concept and can be great fun at times, especially if playing with friends or even if friends are just watching, you cant help but wish there was more game for you to play!

Graphics

Under the Skin uses a graphics style reminiscent of Jet Set Radio, Wind Waker and Viewtiful Joe. However, the cell-shading is not nearly as detailed as those titles but still manages to remain stylish. While the above named games kept a percentage of realism to their graphic, Under the Skin is full of goofy character designs. Like I said the game is not very detailed but that’s not to say it looks bad, it has its own unique style. It looks like an interactive version of Futurama but everything is a caricature of real life, the game has some really good art direction and every character is taken to the extreme. There is even a cell-shaded version of Raccoon City included in the game with many famous characters making an appearance. The zombies, Chris, Jill and of course Nemesis are included and they all look great!

Sound

The voice work leans extremely towards the comical side with each character either having a comical accent, just being crazy or at times just saying amusing things. The sound effects, including those for UFOs and those for picking up coins, are also suitable but nothing special. The screams of the people you pull pranks on are funny and may even get a giggle out of you if you are in the right mood.

The music consists of appropriately “off the wall” tunes to suit the game perfectly, with each level getting a composition that suits its layout and theme. Sadly none of the music is particularly inspiring or catchy, it is not music you will find yourself humming on the bus, walking down the road or at your computer at work. In fact, you probably won’t even remember the tunes the moment you walk out of the door in the morning. On the whole there is nothing wrong with the sound effects or music, it just has a distinctly average feel about it and you can’t help feel they could have done better, especially on the music side of things.

Lifespan

The single player mode consists of 8 levels. Each level gives you approximately 10mins to reach your objective. Additionally none of the levels are extremely hard so you should complete them after a few goes. The addition of two-player versus and two-player co-op mode fleshes out the lifespan a bit but their inclusion adds only a minor amount of replay value to what is an already short game. You should have seen everything Under The Skin can offer you in about a week although if you are a quick gamer and rush through the levels it may only last a few days.

Overall

While Under The Skin lasts, it is some of the most crazy-zany-wacky-madcap fun you are likely to experience, but sadly it does not last very long. Due to the slightly repetitive nature of the game and its lifespan being rather on the short side, I believe that Under The Skin should be looked upon as something of a novelty game, but a very interesting one at that. It has a certain style about it and offers a different experience than you would find from any other games available today. You have definitely never played anything like this before!

It’s not very often we get these quirky off the wall Japanese titles released this side of the world for the simple reason that the companies don’t think they would suit the market. In most cases they are right as some Japanese games are far too “left-field” for some of us to grasp. Although Under The Skin is not the best that this eccentric market has to offer it is still a very interesting and imaginative game. If you’ve never experienced the madcap humour of some of the Japanese titles before, Under The Skin is a very good place to start. If you are looking for something a little bit different that is a little “out there” Under The Skin is certainly worth a go, or at least a rental!

7.1 out of 10

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