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Under the Skin (PlayStation 2) artwork

Under the Skin (PlayStation 2) review

"There's even a Resident Evil 3-themed level, including zombies, a hulked-out Nemesis, and Jill Valentine, the latter which you can transform into and... yes, see in her undies."

With an influx of "realistic" games, featuring trained soldiers and mercenaries set against brown and gray backdrops, crowding the market, you have to go out of your way to discover the kooky and abstract titles that used to blanket the medium. That's why it's always nice to see a game like Under the Skin pop up every now and again. The premise involves being in control of a little, blue alien in diapers, arriving on Earth to start all kinds of mischief as part of his training. Problem is, he hit a satellite in the process, and now the humans are aware of his existence!

That's where the game's gimmick comes into play: you must disguise your alien as a human and pull different pranks on the population in order to achieve his goals. It's not as easy as it sounds, as you only get a set of five prank attacks per human; once they're exhausted, or if you dislike the remaining attacks, you have to search the area for a human with a set you like, capture, then run to a UFO for transformation. The attacks are various and goofy, ranging from thumbtacks on the ground and pies to the face, to elephant stampedes and giant hamburgers that drop from the sky! You won't get by unscathed, either, because pranked humans will give chase, and if you're not careful, you'll be assaulted by an angry mob. Hilariously borrowing from Ghosts'n Goblins, when hit once, you're in your undies, but another hit turns you back to an alien with a penalty, and more so until you gain a new form.

Making sure there's variety for variety's sake in this cel-shaded title, each stage has particular themes. The first location puts you in a city with normal residents and traffic, but then you'll have stages in a western town, with gun-toting cowboys and sand storms, as well as a casino filled with bunny suit girls, moochers, and a speedy coin machine that spills dough if you manage to hit it. There's even a Resident Evil 3-themed level, including zombies, a hulked-out Nemesis, and Jill Valentine, the latter which you can transform into and... yes, see in her undies.

Under the Skin is a light-hearted and cartoony title with an interesting gimmick, and it could've been an entertaining product to play over and over again. But, as seems the case with many Capcom games with intriguing ideas, it needed some fleshing out. The potential creativity from the game's concept is stunted by the restricted gameplay.

The goal in every stage is to collect 500 coins, or close to it, in a 10 minute time limit, with tiny modifications to the rule in each level; some levels want you to collect more than an AI rival, who start at 500 coins, and the RE3 stage tasks your alien with depleting the Nemesis of all its coins. Again, tiny changes, since you're basically doing the exact same thing, collecting approximately 500 coins. A bit more mission variation would've been nice, since gathering coins does become repetitive. Another huge hit to Under the Skin is that there's only eight stages, and with the whole 10 minute limit deal with each stage, you can complete the game in just under two hours, even when you're sucking.

In terms of "replay value", modes are unlocked when you beat the game, like time trial and split-screen versus, but here's the problem with this: these are only good in games that are fun to play multiple times. If the main game is repetitive already, why reward gamers with a new mode that does the same repetitive thing again? The versus mode is especially hurt thanks to levels having small map designs, meaning you can snoop around a skilled player as they prank humans, then scoop up all the coins that jump out, which is amazingly lame.

Since Under the Skin is a creation of Capcom, it would've been wonderful to see a follow-up where the ideas are expanded on. You know, more goal variety, a ton of levels with bigger maps, and extras that are actually cool. So it's disappointing and shocking this never had a sequel, considering this is a Capcom game we're talking about. It's one of those unfortunate situations where we're given a title with potential wanting to leap out at you so badly, and yet only receive a small sampling of what could've been, making Under the Skin a recommended experience... if you can find it really cheap.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (October 08, 2011)

In Blood & Truth, the protagonist is supposedly named Ryan Marks. But the Japanese title for the game, Ryan Mark's Revenge Mission, implies that it's Ryan Mark. Which one is it???


If you enjoyed this Under the Skin review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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Calvin posted October 09, 2011:

Ah man, sounds like this could've been a great novelty pick-up for the sake of... being a novelty. Nice review; had never heard of this one before. Fun read.
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pickhut posted October 10, 2011:

I had no clue of its existance, either, which goes to show how big the PlayStation 2 library is. Then I realized midwinter reviewed the game years ago after I picked it up cheap. XD

Thanks for reading the thing, and glad you liked it.
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honestgamer posted October 10, 2011:

I figure that when people give the PS2 and Wii libraries another 5 or 10 years to cool off and then come back to them viewing them as "retro" game libraries, there's going to be all sorts of excitement over the treasures that they "find." There are some great games for both systems that most people don't even realize exist, and with enough time even some of the titles that we currently regard as contemporary classics will be forgotten as future generations jump on the latest bandwagon and forget about what came before. It'll be an interesting thing to see.

Anyway, great job on this review. It was a game I had forgotten about, too, and when I read your review I found myself wishing that I had time to play it. And time to buy it, for that matter. And money.

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