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The 3rd Birthday candles in the wind

Basing a title on a reluctant hero is a popular archetype for developers, but in The 3rd Birthday they trap you into controlling a heroine who seriously seems to want to escape the game.

Technically, this release is an offshoot of the Parasite Eve franchise that is more than a decade old, but its connections to that series are loose and will barely register with even veteran gamers. You play as Aya, who must defend and save the human race -- and New York City, naturally -- from an alien invasion of The Twisted.

The gameplay includes shootouts with various creatures, and your ability to fend them off is, frankly, a simple matter of holding down the trigger button. When Aya nears death, you port her psyche into a nearby soldier and continue the fight. The tactic, you might recall, was used effectively in Mindjack. The cutscenes set up a pretty story that never develops into anything meaningful. Same goes for the weapon, costume and ability upgrades you earn throughout the brief campaign.

All the pieces of a good game are here, but they don't fit together particularly well, which is disappointing. Sort of like candles that go out before the birthday song is over.


RATING M for Mature

PLOT Don't let the name fool you, this is a third-person shooter

DETAILS Sony PSP, $30

BOTTOM LINE Hit and miss

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