Big boobs or big problems?
Welcome, gentle reader, to our little den of twisted bedtime tales. For tonight's acidic anecdote, I'll reveal to you the plight of another wretched game that was haplessly exposed to "The Curse of the Enormous Boobs."
Every gamer is familiar with this most ancient means of macabre marketing. The promise of huge breasts in Danger Girl amounted to a truly pestilential gaming experience, whereas the luscious pillows of the sea witch in Giants were cursed with game crashing bugs.
Tonight's victim is Portal Runner; a new 3DO game set in the Army Men universe. This unfortunate victim suffers from a bizarre bestial tease accompanied by a sickly sweet kiddy motif. It doesn't get any weirder than this.
The story involves the voluptuous Brigette Bleu's ambush of Green Army reporter Vikki G and her evil scheme to move in on Vikki's man, Sarge. As Vikki, you must team up with a "toy" lion named Leo and beat up on a whole host of poorly rendered villains, while solving uninspired, mind numbing puzzles. And just to keep things interesting, you get to collect gems that just happen to be strewn about everywhere. Quite original, isn't it?
Though the story falls on the lame side, it at least has the decency to be presented in a nice fashion with passable CGI and good voice acting. This is pretty much the silver lining to the dark Portal Runner cloud.
While the CGI shines, the rest of the graphics are just satisfactory. There are some decent lighting effects, but the majority of the game looks pretty cheap. The animations are jerky and the textures are bland. The level design is very linear, with lots of corridors and little mazes to search through as you hunt for inane quest objects. It's pretty dull and uninspired.
Other than the whole boob thing, the ability to play as Vikki, Leo, or Vikki riding Leo is supposed to be one of the main selling points of the game. I guess I'm supposed to mention that you can play as Vikki with Leo fighting beside her, but that's essentially the same as playing Vikki by herself. If those are the selling points, I want a refund.
With a control scheme reminiscent of the Resident Evil games, turning in general is a problem in Portal Runner. Left and right on the analog stick cause Vikki to turn in place, but if you don't press exactly left or right, Vikki will start running. And since the levels are very platformish in parts, this will cause Vikki to fall to her doom. It'd be nice if stationary/mobile turning could be toggled, but no luck. At least there's a little auto-targeting feature to help with your aim.
The other analog stick controls the angle of the camera and while it's a useful feature for looking around corners and gauging jumps, the camera doesn't usually go back to a default position after manipulation. As a result, the camera angles can get screwy, making it even harder to control Vikki.
In an even more tragic turn of events, Vikki is just plain slow. She doesn't dash or sprint or dive; she just sort of trots along without a care in the world. Leo is much faster and a lot more interesting to use, but there isn't much to do with him. He runs and jumps with the occasional claw technique, but he can't maul enemies like a fierce lion should. He's pretty much just a poor man's version of Spyro without the tight control or flame breath.
Portal Runner also includes a two-player mode where you can duke it out with a friend. Watch as your combatants bump heads and get stuck on each other! Be appalled at the amazing lack of firepower! Bang your head against the table for buying this sub-standard game!
What Portal Runner boils down to is another failed attempt at an interesting 3D platformer. It's got some nice CGI and a few neat lighting effects here and there, but with control issues, lame multiplayer and boring level design it's pretty obvious that the curse has struck again.