It was over four years ago when someone finally convinced me to try Tim Schafer’s newest project of the time, Psychonauts . I was reluctant, not because I had any doubt in Schafer’s ability, but simply because I had never been a platforming fan and something like Psychonauts didn’t sit high on my priority list. But I couldn’t ignore the amazingly high review scores and the insistent persuasiveness of my friend, so I finally sat down to play it. By the time I had finished, it was one of my favorite games ever; it was ceaselessly entertaining, continuously humorous, always inventive and on top of which, it featured several of the best-designed levels I had ever seen. Milkman Conspiracy, Black Velvetopia and Waterloo were all memorable and stand out in my mind to this day. Therefore, when I heard that Schafer was making a video game based on heavy metal, a genre of music I’ve been partial to for years, I just knew I’d have to pay close attention.
Well, the demo is now on the PlayStation Store and although it clocks in at a hefty 1.67GB, it’s well worth the wait. Eddie Riggs, voiced by the hilarious Jack Black, is the roadie of roadies and all I knew going in was that he would traverse a totally bad-ass metalesque landscape wielding an axe and a guitar. But we’re treated to the complete introductory sequence in this demo, and I immediately recognized Schafer’s patented flair and panache. It’s in the facial animations of the characters, mostly; those who are familiar with his past projects will likely agree. And when Eddie perishes beneath a fallen set prop – it’s not really a spoiler as this happens in the first three minutes – we just know he’s going to wake up in a world straight from Schafer’s charmingly twisted mind. And while we can only explore certain parts of this world in the demo, it’s clear that, as expected, the ingenuity and creativity will be a major highlight throughout this adventure.
The only issue, which I’ve heard will be addressed before the final version hits store shelves next week, is the overall control. It just feels too loose and the camera isn’t quite response enough, either, so despite the combat’s inherent appeal, we’re left with a gameplay mechanic that feels a little unrefined. Eddie himself is plenty fast and effective; the axe is used for quick strikes when up-close-and-personal and the guitar is basically his ranged weapon. It can strike with lightning from the sky and a geyser of flame will appear beneath an enemy if you simply hold down the attack (Square) button. The same idea is in place for the axe, only one uses the X button and when it’s held down, Eddie’s special – and apparently unblockable – move has him leaping high in the air amidst a temporary slo-mo effect, then slamming the axe down on the hapless foe. Then there’s the car that Eddie builds to “perfection” using a super-special guitar solo, and the controls for this sweet buggy are solid as well.
It’s just the speed at which Eddie moves and the camera that messes things up a bit. The character’s movements seem a little too fast and even jerky when quickly running around and changing direction, and the camera just doesn’t keep up sometimes. This game almost might work better with a fixed camera, ala God of War , but we assume it’s far too late to make such a drastic change. But provided they solidify some of this for the final product, the game should be plenty playable. Besides, at no point did I stop smiling when playing the demo: Jack Black is the perfect fit for this character (“and now, I shall teach you of French kissing”), the environment and design is just plain awesome and totally oozes “metal” (note that big metal demon’s claw when he places Eddie’s lifeless body on the stage in the opening cinema), and the combined humor and originality will allow this game to stand on its own. Even if you’re not a metal fan, you should still be able to appreciate the uniqueness of style, right? Heck, you don’t even need to know what a roadie is ; I swear.
Sadly, Brutal Legend is forced to battle Uncharted 2: Among Thieves on October 13. I’m not telling you to choose Schafer and Double Fine’s product over Naughty Dog’s; in good conscience and knowing just how freakin’ unbelievable Drake’s new adventure is, I can’t do that. But I still urge you all to seriously consider splurging and picking up Brutal Legend at the same time. I honestly doubt you’d end up regretting it.