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The Player 

by MARTY DEMAREST & r & & r & Folklore & r & Rated Teen; Playstation 3 & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & creature from the Netherworld is called a "folk." There are folk like clanking crimson war machines, and folk like demon-gazelles with sleeping-powder in their horns. Whatever their size or shape, folk can only be destroyed by other folk. So I haul around a pack of folk, four at a time. (That seems to be the legal limit for folk in the Netherworld.) When I summon one of them with the press of a button, they appear in front of me like ghostly shades, attacking my enemies as they had once attacked me.





When a folk I'm battling has been weakened, its body slumps to the ground and a red, hazy specter floats above it. This is the folk's "id," and in order to use the folk for my own nefarious needs, I must absorb its id. Like a Ghostbuster I send a crackling stream of neon-colored power into the fallen folk's id. If the folk is weak enough, the id simply flies into my body with a wallop. For larger folk, however, I must battle against their ids, flipping the PlayStation 3's Sixaxis controller side to side, or up and down, in rhythm with the folk's dying heaves until it gets yanked along the stream of psychic energy. And then that's all, folk.





If Folklore were nothing more than these battles with folk, it might have been passably fun. But these fights are only interludes scattered throughout a slow, frustrating game that perpetually plays ripoff-Danny Elfman music. As the soundtrack churns, Folklore requires me to navigate tediously through the land of the living, looking for people who have unresolved business with the dead. Ostensibly these quests have counterparts in the Netherworld, where I must go and do battle with folk. But to get there, I must first endure slow, slideshow storytelling, and then wander through mazes that don't correspond with either of the game's two systems of maps.





THE GOOD: Every good idea in Folklore has been done better elsewhere, and those games are all still available in stores. Overlord, with its hordes of demonic minions, did the creepy-quirky vibe much better, and the 3D-modeled grass in that game even moved when I trampled through. The Nintendo DS's Wario: Master of Disguise offered me a multitude of powers that I could switch between at will, and provided a fluid gaming experience in which to use them. Even the Xbox 360's first-ever title, Kameo, allowed me to defeat enemies in more than one way, and I could play it co-op with a friend. In Folklore, despite the inclusion of two distinct main characters, the only thing a second player can do is sit back and mock the game.





THE BAD: It's been a long time since a game slowed down the experience of playing it this badly. Since Halflife and Metroid Prime -- a long time ago -- I've expected my games to load their levels quickly, preferably while I'm playing. But between Folklore's battles, between levels, between movies in which I do nothing anyway, the game loads and loads and loads. If it were any fun, I'd be missing something.





THE BOTTOM LINE: Folklore proves that even a lavish game on the cutting edge of technology can be legendarily bad.

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