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Video Game / Primal

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Four Realms. Two souls. One destiny.

"Civilization is only skin deep."

Perky Goth Jen and her gargoyle companion Scree battle through four elemental realms to restore balance between Order and Chaos. Along the way Jen gains the ability to transform into four demonic forms. Pretty Tropetastic for a single game not in an already established universe.

A British counterpart to ICO, Primal is as much or more about experiencing the game's universe and interaction between characters as it is about gameplay. Sometimes it's like a luxuriously animated old-school text adventure. In contrast to ICO's minimalist approach, Primal spared no expense in its presentation production values. Motion capture, BAFTA nominated soundtrack, machine band combat soundtrack, lavish object and character models, luxurious textures, top-quality voice acting, richly imagined worlds, cultures and races, realistic characters with sometimes extravagant amounts of dialog.

Developed by SCEE Cambridge, the development team responsible for MediEvil and MediEvil 2, Primal (2003) is a PS2 exclusive. It is a single player, two character action/adventure game focusing on Jen, a mortal girl attacked when leaving a nightclub with her boyfriend Lewis, singer in the club's band.

The attack leaves Jen and Lewis unconscious in a hospital. A short, dark figure approaches Jen's bed and raises her spirit up out of her body. The figure reveals itself to be a small stone gargoyle named Scree. Scree explains that Jen's body is close to death and she must come with him to the Nexus.

The player can control either Jen or Scree, an animated stone gargoyle, as they travel through four fantastic realms to restore the balance between Order, represented by Lady Arella, and Chaos, represented by Abaddon.

It has been released as a PS2 Classic on the PlayStation Network, then again as part of the Play Station 4's PS2 games lineup with trophy support.

Not to be confused with the Genndy Tartakovsky series, Primal (2019), or the 2019 Nicolas Cage film Primal.

This game provides examples of

  • 1-Up: Life Gems for Jen automatically refill her demon energy to full should she ever run out. This is only available to her when she is in one of her demon forms, however. Her human form also acts as an extra life if she runs out of demon energy, but it can't use Life Gems. What this means is that if she runs out of health as a human, it triggers either a Timed Mission for Scree to bring her back, or, if it happens during a boss fight, an instant Game Over.
  • Aborted Arc: Scree grills Jen about her Power Tattoo, saying the symbol is very important, and asking where the designer saw it. While the same symbol is seen all throughout the game, we're never told why it's so important, or what it means.
  • Adventures in Comaland: A possible interpretation of the events of the game; the opening provides plenty of evidence of subconcious projections. The club is called Nexus, the nearby church has gargoyles that exactly resemble Scree, the symbology of her tattoo is everywhere, and the tattoo might of been important to her and Lewis as they had matching tattoos; they are heavy into the metal scene, which may explain some of the fantasy characters, and it is implied that while Jen wants to be orderly, settled and stable, Lewis seems more into the chaotic rockstar lifstyle. And the monster that attacked them? Probably just a (very big and strong) looney fan of Lewis and his band, or a member of a gang Lewis fell afoul of, and the fact that nobody in the club actually reacted to the obviously inhuman creature (the trench and flatcap did little to disguse him).
  • Accidental Misnaming: Elizabeth calls Scree "Scream".
  • Action Girl: Jen kicks a surprising amount of ass for a waitress.
  • Actor Allusion: Jen says 'Hold it, Xena!' to a Wraith Guard Captain Valeera before they fight. Hudson Leick, who voiced Jen, played Callisto in Xena: Warrior Princess.
  • After Boss Recovery
  • Agony Beam: Raum uses this when you fight him in Aetha.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Enough of the demon tongue is spoken for flavor, sometimes to Jen, but the majority of communication with the races of Oblivion is in English on both sides.
  • All Drummers Are Animals: When Jen and Scree meet Adaro for the first time he's descended into a savage beast that's tearing apart a corpse. Jen comments that the drummer of Lewis' band looks like that after a few drinks.
  • Annoying Arrows: The enemy archers can be troublesome, but deal very little damage.
  • Apathetic Citizens
    • The Helot peasants in Aetha, the Realm of Air. Hiding in a cellar, waiting to be killed and fed off of one by one.
    • The Ferai commoners in Solum. They heard a terrible fight at Jared's camp. No one's seen Jared since. No one goes to check.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Wraith Count Raum, Countess Empusa and their daughter Elizabeth in Aetha.
  • Backtracking: Fortunately there are a number of portals which can instantly teleport Jen and Scree to any other portal they've found yet.
  • Bag of Sharing: Both Jen and Scree can pick up energy gems and keys.
  • Balance Between Good and Evil: More like Order Versus Chaos, but the chaos side has chosen to go for outright destruction instead.
  • The Baroness: Wraith Countess Empusa of the Aetha.
  • Battle Theme Music: by machine band 16Volt.
  • Berserk Button: Don't call Scree "short."
  • Beauty to Beast: Jen is a pretty-looking woman whose four transformations are all monstrous-looking creatures.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Jen and Abdizur stop Abaddon from destroying Nexus, but Jen is forced to kill Lewis, who's become Abaddon's champion, in the process. Abdizur says there's a chance the Well of Nexus could bring him back to life, but it's a very slim chance, and throws Lewis's body into it with Jen's blessing. Jen returns to her body in Mortalis, but will never see Abdizur again. Jen is later seen visiting Lewis in the hospital, but he's still in a coma and it's never revealed if he wakes up or not.
  • BFS: The large fire sword in Djinn form is the most powerful attack form in the game.
  • Bling of War: Wraith guards in Aetha. Armor as Costume Porn.
  • Bridge Logic: A tree bridge in Solumn and a statue bridge in Volca.
  • Button Mashing: Combat. Sometimes it works great, often it doesn't.
  • Camera Abuse: You see the raindrops hitting the screen when you look up or into the wind in rainy areas. You also see trails of water running down the screen when surfacing from diving.
  • Carry a Big Stick: Herne's weapon of choice is a large mace on the end of a staff.
  • City Guards: Guarding a door in Solum. Jen and Scree must show them the talisman from Jared to pass.
  • Cool Gate: The Rift Gates.
  • Captain Ersatz: Evil Count in a castle what could easily pass for the Carpathian mountains. Gains invulnerability, and perhaps immortality, by feeding off of the blood of poor villagers. Lampshaded by Jen's "I guess the ol' 'fangs in the neck' trick went out of fashion" when she sees the Blood Machine.
  • Courtly Love: listen to Scree the first time he describes Lady Arella. Since he's in her service and the only one of the party who can hold a flaming stick, he often carries a torch for her as well.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Scree is really Arella's champion, Abdizur, forced to use a stone gargoyle body he used to escape captivity in Volca. Foreshadowed when Scree possesses a statue of Abdizur to fight Belahzur in the Colosseum in Solum. Arella addresses Scree as Abdizur in the next visit to the Nexus.
  • Cute Monster Girl: Averted. Though not ugly or overly monstrous, the demon forms are definitely not "cute".
  • Decadent Court: The Wraith nobility.
  • Deadly Dodging: The final fight vs Ibliss in Volca. Jen must hide behind the largest lamps so the giant statue would destroy them trying to hit her.
  • Death Glare: Jen gives one to Scree when he proposes to just walk past her and turn on the switch that will start the turbine and kill Arturo, the Undine engineer. Scree later muses "We can't turn this on without chopping up Arturo. I kill him. Jen kills me. Hmmmm."
  • The Dragon: Belahzur, Abaddon's right hand monster.
  • Down the Drain: Aquis is a water level.
  • Dual Boss: Raum and Empusa are fought together.
  • Dual Wielding: All of Jen's elemental forms have a two-weapon attack, claws, lightning, dagger and whip, or double daggers.
  • Easter Egg
    • Walk up to the fire in the Hunt Camp after talking with the Shaman in a cutscene for an optional cutscene.
    • Have Jen chat several times with Scree immediately after a return to the Nexus.
    • When Jen gains the Wraith form, the grave stone she smashes says "RIP Laura Cruft", a (misspelled) Shout-Out to Tomb Raider's Lara Croft.
  • Elemental Powers: Not strictly speaking, but the four realms of Oblivion correspond to the classical four elements, Earth (Solum), Air (Aetha), Water (Aquis), and Fire (Volca).
  • Emergency Weapon: Jen carries a knife (given to her by King Herne in Solum) which she can use in human form. It's not as strong as the demon forms, but it does the trick if she's out of energy.
  • Emperor Scientist: Count Raum
  • Enfant Terrible: Princess Elizabeth, who amuses herself buy killing small animals and carrying around their corpses.
  • Epic Flail: Used by some wraith guards, paired with a large shield.
  • Exposition Fairy: Jen can ask Scree for help. In Count Raum's Mansion in Aetha an array of severed heads serve this purpose in a cutscene. In the mansion proper various severed heads randomly hanging around shout advice and encouragement.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Jen, when possessed by King Iblis' Djinn energy. Lewis, presumably possessed by similar means.
  • Fake King: Ferai Queen Devena of Solum is actually dead. She's been replaced by a demon magically to imitate her.
  • Finishing Move: Jen must kill some defeated enemies with a finishing move or they quickly recover some of their health. Weak mooks like the Malkai and lava people are exceptions.
  • Fire, Ice, Lightning: Jen's Undine form uses lightning attacks. The Djinn form uses flaming blades. The Realm of Solum is permanent night, winter, and snow.
  • Foreshadowing: Concerning Jen's origin, and Scree's true identity and Lewis involvement are scattered almost liberally.
  • Flaming Sword: Jen's Djinn form wields these and can alternate between twin blades or one very large one.
  • Flunky Boss: The fake Queen Devena doesn't do much except hide behind a force field during their battle; the boss fight consists of several waves of Ferai warriors, with a few Elite Mooks thrown in. Luckily, Jen has Jared on her side to help out.
  • Forgot About the Mind Reader: When Jen sees Chronos for the first time in a Nexus cutscene she says, "Jeez... he's looking at me!" Scree replies "Perhaps he can hear you, too."
  • Friendly Fire Proof: averted. Jen can be hurt by her few allies. Opponents can be hurt by each other. It's even possible to lure one opponent into the line of fire of an opponent with a ranged weapon.
  • Gameplay Ally Immortality: Scree disguises himself as an ordinary gargoyle while Jen is in combat, and enemies completely ignore him.
  • "Get Back Here!" Boss: Raum and Empusa have an annoying habit of flying out of range of Jen's attacks and raining down magical beam attacks.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: The Glakk is bigger than Jen.
    • On land it's slow and tough. Frequently fights in pairs.
    • In water it fires damaging pulses of water at Jen, in addition to being slow and tough.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Jen. They mostly carry over to her elemental forms, as well.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: The Wraith Royalty in Aetha, also Jen's dress at the masked ball.
    • The armor of the various Wraith guards, the Wraith musicians, and the Wraith at the masked ball is pure Costume Porn.
  • Grave Clouds: Aetha is perpetually covered by these.
  • Grave Humor: Wraith Jen breaks a tombstone for 'Laura Cruft' with a death year of 2003, the year Primal was released.
  • Guide Dang It!: Even with the hint system it can sometimes be somewhat confusing knowing where to go. Scree tends to be somewhat vague.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: If you have to rescue Jen after she gets kicked from the spirit world due to running out of health. At first, it's only heartbeats, which slow down over time (the controller also vibrates in time to the heartbeats); a dramatic strings-based track kicks in after about two minutes. The only other indication of your remaining time is a single verbal warning from Arella.
  • Heroic BSoD: Jen, after Aetha. Scree's pep talk is classic. "Now, my girl, stop that. Right, the best thing to do when things get as bad as this is to look at the facts. Agreed? Good. Fact number one- and top fact on the list- I'm still alive. Agreed? Good. Fact number two... you're still here to take care of me! Thank goodness for facts."
  • Heroic Willpower: Abdizur manages to project his spirit into a stone gargoyle through sheer force of will.
  • Hide Your Children: Played straight with the Helot children.
  • Horned Humanoid: The Ferai.
  • Hostage Spirit-Link: In the "rescue Queen Aino" mission in Aquis. If she dies (because of you taking too long about it), Jen also dies.
  • Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Scree can climb on much fewer walls than he should be able to.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Jen has a taunt move in combat. It does northing, but taunt.
  • Jiggle Physics: Jen, a B-cup at best, has a slight wavy motion on her cleavage when she runs. More of a graphical distortion than actual physics model.
    • When Jen transforms to/from a beast form, she rises into the air, tilts back, and the camera centers on her torso as she vibrates up and down.
  • King Incognito: Iblis of Volca pretends not to be the king when he actually is.
  • Lightning Lash: Jen's Wraith form wields an electric-based purple whip.
  • Living Statue: Scree not only is an animated statue, but possesses and animates other statues to progress in the game.
  • Losing Your Head: The snarky severed heads in the torture chamber.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Wraith Count Raum in Aetha.
  • The Maze: A small hedge maze in Aetha.
    • Lampshaded when Jen remarks, "Eugh. Mazes suck," on encountering it.
  • Mister Exposition: Scree at great length the start of the game and each realm. Generally at least two other characters per Realm.
  • Mobile Maze: There's one in Aetha. A switch in the maze causes it to change. That permits the player to advance to another switch that changes the maze again, but to a much simpler form.
  • Mood Dissonance: Jen is pretty snarky, sometimes even when it isn't called for; Scree calls her attitude "distinctively inappropriate." The only times her veneer cracks is when Lewis is involved.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Scree, in most cases. However, this is averted if he's possessing a statue and fighting. Also, although he has no visible health bar himself (his bar shows his "tank" of reserve demon energy) there are a couple places in Volca where Scree can die (the first is while he's transporting weights to a pressure plate to rescue Jen from the corrupted Djinn form if he gets hit by enough falling/exploding volcanic rocks. The second is if, while he's going to possess a statue to fight Jen in said corrupted Djinn form, he gets hit enough times by corrupted Djinn Jen). Either of these things causes a Game Over.
  • No Body Left Behind: Averted, all dead monsters leave corpses.
  • Order Versus Chaos: The entire premise of Primal. Arella was the literal personification of order, and is explicitly named to be so. Her polar opposite is Abbadon.
  • Our Gargoyles Rock: Scree
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: The Undine have a very fish-like appearance, with visible gills and fins in place of hair, but still sport Non-Mammalian Mammaries.
  • Painful Transformation: The first time Jen takes on a new demon form, it is shown as being painful. Scree states when she receives the Ferai form that it is painful at first, but her body will adjust.
  • Perky Goth: Jen is pretty cheerful overall, when she does get down in the dumps it's perfectly justified.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Jen wears one to the masked ball in Aetha.
  • Point of No Continues: If Jen runs out of health while in human form during a boss battle, she immediately dies. The same thing happens if any statue Scree is possessing runs out of health during a boss battle, since he can't use Life Gems or his reserve demon energy.
  • Power Tattoo: Jen has a circular design on her back that glows when she adopts various demonic forms.
  • Regenerating Health: But only under two circumstances. The first is when Jen is in human form and not in combat. The second is when she is in Undine form and in clean water. (Most of the water in Aquis is polluted, bar the opening lagoon. Jen doesn't lose health from being in polluted water, but she also doesn't automatically regenerate it.)
  • Reveling in the New Form: While Jen initially dislikes transforming, once she gets used to the enhanced abilities of her new shapes she becomes quite happy about them. Scree worries that she's maybe a little too happy with the Wraith and Djinn forms.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Jen's default attire.
  • Shield-Bearing Mook: Appear in all demon worlds, except Aquis.
  • Shock and Awe: Jen's Undine form uses electrical bolts as its primary means of attack.
  • Shout-Out
  • Shown Their Work: Take a look around the Wiki. Many characters and their names have meaning or relate to some other works in the world.
    • An example would be Queen Aino's namesake, from a Finnish poem about a girl who drowns herself rather than be married to an old man. Aino is introduced by "drowning" herself with air (She's from the underwater realm) as a sacrifice.
    • "Iblis" is the Islamic name for Satan (and indeed is classified as a djinn in the theology of Islam), in case you needed any hints that King Iblis was a bad guy. Satan is also The Great Deceiver; King Iblis first appears in disguise, manipulating the protagonists and later tries to corrupt Jen, the messianic champion of Order.
  • Sinister Scythe: Jared's weapon of choice.
  • Suspicious Videogame Generosity: Lodestones appear just when needed.
    • This may be partly due to a unique feature of the game. After playing an unlocked cutscene the game continues on from that point.
  • Take That!: at Lara Croft. Wraith Jen breaks a tombstone for 'Laura' Cruft with a death year of 2003, The same year both Primal and Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness were released. Angel of Darkness is also known for being a major bomb.
  • Tarot Motifs:
    • The four worlds Jen visits are each based around one of the Minor Arcana Suits (Solum is Disks, Aquis is Cups, Aetha is Swords, Volca is Wands).
    • The game also features an unlockable Tarot Card Gallery depicting some concept art pieces of characters from each of the realms.
  • Timed Mission: Shortly after you enter Aquis (the Under the Sea level) and get the "Undine" (fish-like creature) form, Queen Aino is raised out of the water. You have to turn two valves on the other end of the lake to get her back into the water. There's no visible clock, just her increasingly desperate cries of "Help me!" every minute or so, and if you don't rescue her, she will eventually die... and so will Jen.
    • The game manual states that Jen’s health as a human is her connection to the spirit world, which means that if she runs out of health, she gets kicked out of the spirit world and back into her physical body (which, as it is established at the beginning of the game, is comatose and near death). If that happens, the rift gates will open, and you, as Scree, have to get to one to bring Jen back. Just like the Aino mission, there is no visible clock, but you still have to move it, or risk a Game Over. (This only applies if you're not in a boss battle. Run out of health in a boss battle, Jen dies, period.)
  • Transformation Sequence: Whenever Jen transforms into one of her demon forms, which will obviously happen very often. Unfortunately, they're rather longer than needed.
    • They can serve a practical purpose too; switching forms in the middle of a fight will knock back adjacent enemies, giving the player a moment to strike back and gain the upper hand.
  • Under the Sea: A full-blown underwater level.
  • Voluntary Shape Shifting: Jen, the female main character, can shapeshift into unique monster-like forms.
  • Walk It Off: In human form Jen regenerates health when not in combat. Fighting in human form also saves Life Gems, which are automatically used when Jen runs out of energy in beast form. So there's a double reason to fight in human form as much as possible.
  • Wall Crawl: The gargoyle Scree can climb 'any stonework surface.'
  • Wolverine Claws: Jen's Ferai form.