Giants: Citizen Kabuto
Reviewed By: Kirk Hiner
Review Date: December 9, 2001
There are many things I do that annoy my wife. She hates when I lick pizza grease from my fingers, she hates when I wear hockey jerseys in public, and she hates when I yell from the computer room, "Tieraney, you gotta come in here and check this out!" The thing is, of course, she's always doing something more important than witnessing a cool feature in a computer game...or so she thinks. I mean, who's more important? Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Lara Croft? Tieraney's mom or a flock of sheep?
Exactly, but try to explain that to Tieraney.
This is the reason my marriage almost came to an abrupt end a mere five months after it began. Never before had I so often called Tieraney into the computer room to check out something in which she had absolutely no interest. The reason? Giants: Citizen Kabuto.
Giants is one of those rare games that take me completely by surprise. Despite all the research and reporting I do on Macintosh games, all I knew going into Giants was that it's for OS X only and that there was some controversy over whether the female in the game should have to put on a shirt. When nudity is a game's main draw, you know you're in trouble.
I only had to run through the first mission, however, to realize that nudity was not to be the most intriguing aspect of Giants. (The woman, Delphi, does have a shirt now, but we'll stick it to the censors by teaching you how to take it off. More on that later.) No, there's a selling point in just about every aspect of this game, and few of them whither with time.
Giants: Citizen Kabuto takes place on "the island", a fragment of shattered planet hurtling through space. Occupying the seas of this Island are the Sea Reapers, ghostly women who once ruled the island before being chased into the water by their own creation, Kabuto. This giant was built by the Sea Reapers to protect them from alien threats, but it turned on its creators. Seems the Sea Reapers should've read Frankenstein or at least watched the newer Gamera movies.
Having driven way his creators, Kabuto is lonely and big, and that's the worst kind of lonely to be. Before long, however a spaceship of five Meccaryns crash lands on the island on their way to holiday on the fabled Majorca. There you have it; Sea Reapers fighting to reclaim their island, a giant protecting that island, and a group of cockney space aliens trying to salvage their spaceship (and their vacation).
You start out the game controlling the Meccs. They're probably the easiest to master as the missions form a logical tutorial to illustrate their abilities. You start out running just one (Baz), eventually working your way up to all five (Tel, Reg, Gordon and Bennett). They've got your typical weapons and power-ups, but they're also equipped with jetpacks. This is what provides most of the fun in their missions. Ascending canyon walls, crossing valleys and descending upon enemies with the jetpacks is a...well, a blast. The jetpacks have a limited supply of power which quickly replenishes when not in use. As a result, you get unlimited--yet stuttered--use from them. Of course, when those don't seem to help, you can always instantly create a bush in which to hide. You've got to love that Wiley Coyote war strategy.
Most of the Mecc story involves rescuing your buddies. To do this, you need to enlist the help of Smarties, a race of tiny, beer drinking aliens who populate the island. As per usual, they ask plenty of favors before offering assistance, so you're quite often diverted from your task.
Throughout this section of the game, you control only Baz. This is fine, as it greatly reduces the complexity of the game and lets you focus only on the action, for the most part. The A.I. of the other characters is decent at times, but can become quite frustrating. You can tell them to attack a specific target, but then they all attack the target. You can also tell them to stay at a certain spot, and I found myself using this command frequently as they had a habit of brainlessly attacking an entire enemy platoon when they could've more easily be killed one by one. At other points, however, their ability to rush headlong into battle to pull attention away from other matters was quite useful.
Once you've finished the Mecc portion of the game, you move on to Delphi the Sea Reaper. She's pretty much shunned her mother Queen Sappho's wicked ways, and looks for a better way to bring peace and order to the island. Are the Meccs her only hope? They will be if they have anything to say about it.
Delphi's abilities are quite different from those of the Meccs and take quite a bit of time to master after all those Mecc missions. Her weapons consist of bows, a sword and some pretty cool spells. She also has the ability to "turbo" &teleport" about the island, allowing her to sneak up on enemies and get quickly out of trouble. These abilities all take much more finesse than those of the Meccs, and the first few missions do a decent job of getting you accustomed to them. Still, I found getting through the early Delphi missions to be harder than most of the later Mecc missions. This may also be because of my personal playing style, but it can be a problem with the game. Controlling characters this diverse may alienate players at a certain point, and I found it harder to get into the game when controlling Delphi than when running the Meccs. Perhaps this is why the developers originally wanted her to be naked.
Okay, parents put your children to bed. I mean, Delphi is a Sea Reaper, right? A creature of the sea? What kind of sea-faring creature wears a shirt? Logically, it makes no sense, and I only want these games to make sense, so, if you're willing to risk messing around with very important files, give this fix a try as illustrated at Walkthrough-Online.com:
Remember, you're not doing this to satisfy any freaky need to see pixelated, naked alien creatures, but simply to stick it to the man. Censor our games, will ya...
Now, there is no nude cheat for Kabuto himself. He's naked already, and the sensors didn't seem to mind that. Controlling Kabuto again takes quite a bit of getting used to. He has no weapons, after all, save for being really, really big. He smashes his enemies, he stomps his enemies, he throws his enemies, and he eats his enemies. It's all great fun.
Unfortunately, there are no Smarties to educate Kabuto in the Ancient Art of War. If there were, he'd just eat them anyway. It's just him against pretty much everyone, so getting through the early missions is actually tougher than the later ones. By then, you'll probably have strategies worked out. After all, despite being amazingly powerful, you can't just charge the enemy every single time.
The Meccs reacquire health by finding and buying health power-ups. Delphi does so by swimming. Kabuto gets his by eating things. Doesn't matter what he's eating, so long as it's alive. In fact, that's pretty much the only conundrum he faces in life; "Should I eat this Smartie for health or throw it at my enemies?" I faced the same problem in college, but with the candy, not with the aliens.
Kabuto also has the unique the ability to have babies. After eating enough Smarties, he can lay eggs which hatch to produce mini-Kabutos. It's all so tender, don't you think? Tender like the flesh of all those reaper guards you'll be eating.
So, there are your three distinct races. You have to control all three to get through the game, and you'll most likely develop a favorite. The Meccs are funny, Delphi's naked, and Kabuto's big. Take your pick.
Actually, lets stick with the humor of Giants for a moment. The cut-scenes between missions were always entertaining and were often quite funny as well. A few of them had me laughing out loud, and were the source of many shouts to my wife so she could see them. I may as well have been asking her to watch Benny Hill, however. In the grand British tradition, the humor is sophomoric at times and incredibly sharp at others. Sooner or later, though, it should make you laugh. If it doesn't, no worries. There's at least plenty to look at.
If Giants is our first glimpse into the power of OS X native gaming, then 2002 is going to be a great year. The graphics are amazing, managing to be bright, colorful, and wide. When you stand on a mountain top, you actually see the world expand to the horizon, not into fog. The field of vision is like that from atop the Empire State Building on a clear day, and there's plenty to see. The island's terrain is fun to traverse and provides many strategic points from which to pick your shots.
Of course, this all comes at a price. The minimum system requirements listed above are bordering on perjury. On my 867MHz G4 with a GeForce 2 and 640MB RAM, I still experienced slow frame rates in some areas. That's criminal, right? Many people are also complaining about the lack of multiplayer support of the box. MacPlay says it's on its way, but I doubt I'll be downloading that patch. The multiplayer levels will mainly give an RTS feel to the game, capitalizing on the base-building missions included. Fact is, these were easily the most boring missions. It's probably not wise to look at giants as an epic multiplayer game you'll be enjoying for the next two years. At its heart, it's a saturday matinee action movie, nothing more.
And, like at the matinee, you can't pause it and come back. There is no ability to save the game in the middle of a mission, so if you make it to the very end and die, tough. Go back and try again. Whereas most levels are short enough that this doesn't matter too much, this can become extremely frustrating on some of the longer ones. If nothing else, they should at least provide checkpoints that can be met so players can start later in the levels.
Giants: Citizen Kabuto is one of those games that people will either love or hate, I suppose. There's not a lot of middle ground here, mainly because the developers threw so much into it and apologized for none of it. It's not that anything's offensive, really, but that it's a very specific taste. Me? I loved it...or at least parts of it. I was wildly entertained by the Meccs, I cooled off a bit on Delphi, and then got back into it in a "big" way in the later Kabuto levels. I had a lot of fun with Giants...for what more can you ask from a computer game?
Now, I'm going to have some more fun by interrupting my wife's reading to ask her to help me select the screen captures for this review. This'll be hilarious...watch...
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