As a collector, one of the aspects of the hobby that fascinates me is the “hidden gem”. Games categorized in this way have an allure to me – they are good (maybe even great) but did not reach a high degree of commercial success. These games, generally, are not expensive because no one has heard of them. They tend to be quirky, and sometimes have aspects that are on the rough side – either they were not implemented well, or perhaps not fully fleshed out to begin with. This week’s game, Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy (Giant Bomb|Wikipedia) is a great example of a hidden gem.
The game starts with some fairly lengthy cut scenes that unfortunately are not able to be paused and do not have subtitles. I got some idea of what was going on, but not all of it. You play as Nick who has had his memory erased. He is then captured by “The Movement” (real original guys!), but is set free by a double agent who seems to know him from before his memory was erased. The story isn’t super interesting and seems like it will be full of cliches, but to be honest I’m wasn’t expecting much more.
The game is played from a third person perspective. You are given several tools in order to eliminate enemies. You have psi abilities such as telekinesis and remote viewing, as well as several firearms. Guns have a very generous auto aim on them, but are not very interesting in general – they all perform almost the same. The main draw of the combat in Psi-Ops is the psi abilities. Remote viewing allows you to effectively enable a no-clipping mode to see enemy patrol patterns in other rooms – very helpful in stealth sections. Telekinesis allows you to throw enemies or objects. This ability is both fun, interesting, and frustrating. Throwing enemies or just suspending them in air while you shoot them is a blast, and the combat scenarios let you be very creative with what you’re throwing around and when. The other interesting thing here is that the telekinesis ability takes advantage of the Playstation 2’s analog trigger buttons. Hold the trigger lightly, and the box stays at ground level. Press it harder, and the box moves higher relative to the pressure. Very cool and intuitive use of the controller. There are of course downsides. Getting the object you’re levitating to move closer to you takes forever and sometimes doesn’t work at all. Also, while levitating an object, your turning speed completely goes out the window and you turn like you have stick sensitivity in Halo set to 1. This is a real problem when you’re getting shot and you can’t turn quick enough to do anything about it. Overall the game play is exactly what you’d expect from a hidden gem – good with some real rough edges.
The graphics hold up fairly well – this is a PS2 game, and it looks it, but it is definitely on the better looking end of the spectrum for the system. Music and sound effects are OK at best. As an added bonus, there is a music video on the disk for a song written by the band Cold exclusively for the game. That video is priceless.
Verdict: Play again. While it has issues, I’m sure the rest of this game will at the very least be interesting. Definitely worth a second look.
Images courtesy of Giant Bomb