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PS2 Review - 'Kya: Dark Lineage'

by Thomas Leaf on Feb. 2, 2004 @ 1:34 a.m. PST

Steal your way through or fight head-to-head with hordes of Wolfens using original combat moves and magical strikes. Soar against various vertiginous wind currents on breathtaking flights. Slide down extreme entwined turbulent tracks, through challenging obstacles and lush environments. Journey through unbelievable acrobatic freefalls as you get closer to Kya’s quest to save her brother and defeat the Fortress of Brazul.

Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Eden Studios
Release Date: November 18, 2003

Gen-X Klub Kidz Krash Jim Henson's Dream World!

Kya: Dark Lineage (herein referred to as Kya) is another 3D platform adventure game for the PS2. It would seem that I have developed a library of these titles worthy of PhD study as it seems the genre of the year is multi-faceted genre hoppers. The rundown of Kya is pretty straightforward for a game that is anything but. You take on the role of Kya; a purple dreadlocked chica rocking low rise boot cut jeans and a girlish tank-top who packs an attitude and…a boomerang? The game begins with a rather well shot cinematic, which you cannot skip, where Kya and her half brother Frank are inadvertently swept away through some mystic portal into another world. Here you find that Kya falls in with a furry bunch of rebels who call themselves Nativs. Frank unfortunately falls captive to the foul Wolfens (who are actually Nativs that are crossed over to the Dark Side). As you can imagine, Kya makes a solemn vow to rescue her brother because that's what half sisters do. There is also a nifty, depending on how you look at it, plot twist where the villain of the game, Brazul is his name, was actually once Kya's long lost father. Kya assumed that her no good bum of a father peaced out on her when she was a little girl, but he was actually drawn into the world of the Nativs and became corrupted by power because that is what power does: it corrupts.

One of Kya's greatest strengths becomes apparent right from the start: style. Kya's design centers on a very cinematic feel that carries over from the cinematic cut scenes to the actual gameplay. I was impressed with the cut scenes as they were blocked and shot like a real movie. The dialogue and voice acting leaves something to be desired, but the overall composition of each cut scene is well directed and composed. High production values were sunk into this game and it shows, making the game feel more polished and in the end that makes the experience more fulfilling. A great deal of time and energy was spent on character design for this game. The various stages of the enemy Wolfens look as menacing as their foils, the Nativs, look cuddly.

Gameplay neatly steps from a platform adventure game to a beat'em up as you take Kya along her winding adventure deep into this mysterious yet vibrant and almost obnoxiously colored world. The 3D camera is easily maneuvered but comes to a screeching halt when it collides with an object, something that has always irked me. Why can't someone find a way to have the camera swing around freely and through objects so that playability isn't destroyed by confined areas?
Kya's fighting engine is almost a different game from the platforming aspect. You can tell when the screen changes its display and the 3D camera swings out for a more cinematic view. The controls are quite simple and enjoyable to employ. You have weak attacks, strong attacks and kicks. Combining button pushes and sequences along with control movement leads you to various combos which would soon grow dull if it were not for some interesting RPG type seasoning. Kya can find or buy bracelets. Aside from being quite the killer accessory, it is invests a more refined killer instinct within Kya. You see, Kya's combat moves are dictated by what bracelet she is wearing. These bracelets adjust or enhance Kya's fighting abilities which are crucial because later on in the game she comes across some rather nasty looking critters. Matching these bracelets with her "boomy" hairpiece, Kya can deal with most anything. Incase you were wondering, a Boomy is really a boomerang that Kya wears in her hair to hold it back. I don't know where these guys come up with these things. Anyhow, you can upgrade your Boomy by buying new and improved models; however I found the fisticuffs more satisfying than chucking hairpieces around.

One of Kya's powers that she earns right off the bat is the ability to exorcise unconscious Wolfens. You see, Wolfens are actually Nativs who have been corrupted by Kya's corrupted father, the nefarious Brazul. I love the word nefarious. It's a nice little touch for the younger gamers who are squeamish about blood and guts, but more importantly it might set a mom's mind at ease if she knew little Timmy wasn't ripping mutant wolves apart, but rather converting them back into tweaked out beanie babies with leather loin clothes. An interesting game so far, huh? Well, just wait, there's more.

Kya can fly. Well, not flap her arms and fly, but at times you'll find yourself getting kicked up and out by gusts of wind that allow her to parafoil like a…well, I'm not sure what. Perhaps the best comparison would be that of a flying squirrel. The flying aspects of game can either be really cool or really frustrating. The controls aren't very tight, nor should they be. A teenage girl wearing bell bottom pants isn't exactly aerodynamic, nubile yes, aerodynamic no. She can dive and swoop and pull nifty looking barrel rolls, but I found every time I tried to do something cool to avoid an obstacle I merely found myself crashing headfirst into it.
Kya can snowboard too, well, not snowboard, but board. You see Nativs, despite being an agrarian sort, they like to slide from village to village on these energy boards. Nativ Village even has its own resident X-Games fanatic who you can challenge to race for money. The boarding aspect of the gameplay is neat as a mode of transportation and fun as a diversion from the jump here, grab that ledge gameplay. The mechanics work like that of a bobsled where you make Kya lean into the turn to keep her stable while avoiding prickle vines and three legged spiders.

On the visual side of things, Kya excels. This game's visual design is unique in its feel and bright in its palette which is always a good thing. No one wants to look at brown and gray all day…well, unless you like Quake. The models are simple but very well animated and have their own charm. Sometimes I felt bad for the Scrawnies, the Wolfens you meet in the beginning, because they look so hapless. I felt nothing but contempt for the Kronoses as I savaged them. Their long claws and sickening toothy grins would make one frightening to behold beyond anything but polygons. Brazul is very intimidating as well; which brings me to something I have grappled with while playing through this game.

To my mind, Kya can't make up hers. The most troubling aspect to this game is how it straddles from being really eerie to really cute. Cute is cool. Metal Arms was cute and charming, but it also tempered that cuteness with an edginess not often encountered in gaming. Eerie is great too. Fatal Frame is entirely too creepy. When a game design suffers from this manic nature, it doesn't allow for the strengths of cuteness or darkness to really come through. Yes, the Wolfens and Nativs are total foils for each other, but the Nativs look so…fuzzy, I mean like Ewok fuzzy. I don't know about you, but the cuteness of an Ewok is so overpowering that my only recourse is to smack it with a hockey stick. Nativs broach that category.

At the end of the day, Kya: Dark Lineage is a good game. Its gameplay is tight and varied at times to keep you involved and challenged but not frustrated. The graphics are well conceived and polished to a nice shine. The cinematic story is better than most games despite awkward dialogue. The character design of Kya is admirable if only for the fact that she doesn't wear a triple E cup. She's a good heroine for little girls and little boys, although someone might want to tell her to chill with the tank tops. The music isn't epic. In fact, at this moment I cannot remember it all too well. This says a lot about my total interaction with this game. I simply didn't take to it as I have with other games like it. Manhunt, Metal Arms, I-Ninja, KOTOR, Crimson Skies, these were games that grew on me and grabbed me for all sorts of reasons. Kya has many reasons to grab onto; unfortunately none of them were for me. That does not mean they might not grab you. I would recommend a rent before a purchase for this one, however if you are big fan of adventure/platform games, then you would like this one very much.

Score : 8.0/10

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