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September 13, 2007 // 5:12 pm - In Folklore the barrier between the lands of the living and dead is far from impenetrable. Living souls that travel between are called "messengers," and Folklore concerns itself with two in particular: Keats, a worldly reporter obsessed with the occult, and Ellen, a young woman with a murky past. Both are lured to the town of Doolin in short order, and the death of one thrusts both on a journey through seven strange realms of the Netherworld.

Each metaphysical neighborhood is shaped by how the living view death, resulting in worlds as diverse as the thoughts that brought them into being. The Faery Realm is a psychedelic wonderland of glowing butterflies and vibrant foliage that feels more like an interactive painting than anything nature might manage. Warcadia, on the other hand, is a nightmarish eternal battlefield where bullets never stop flying and bombers never stop diving.

Whether exploring the watery blue of the Undersea City, or wandering the halls of the Endless Corridor, the beautiful otherworldly visuals can't gloss over the fact that something's not quite right in the Netherworld, and most of the residents aren't terribly pleased to see you traipsing across their property. Over a hundred different monsters, called "Folks," want to take a chunk out of your hide.

Whether you're strafing canon-wielding Brummbears, pounding googly-eyed cyclops with Popeye's forearms and a hideous grill of sharpened teeth, or whittling through one of a hundred other unusual enemies, every connecting blow knocks out blue bits of "id." When an enemy's id turns red, you hold down R1 and jerk the controller upwards to yank the poor bugger's soul from his body in what feels like a bizarre Ghostbusters-themed rodeo. In this surreal real-time adult remix of Pokemon's collect-them-all mechanics, Keats and Ellen can assign any monster they dominate to a face button and quite literally press it into service on their behalf.

Since each twisted mythological creature has its own destructive style, from spraying fire to spewing bullets to lobbing soap bubbles, and each can be upgraded by gathering items and defeating foes, Folklore has the potential to offer a stunning variety of strategic trickery. It's too soon to say whether common combat will devolve into an endless, if offbeat, hack-and-slash marathon, but it's clear the boss creatures that infest each world will demand some inventive handling, not to mention careful attention to the storybook pages you'll find about them in your travels.

There are tantalizing hints of additional mechanics at play, like the notion that Netherworld time doesn't function in quite the linear fashion we're accustomed to, and that decisions made with one character can affect the storyline of the other, but we're just going to have to wait till release to see if Folklore delivers on those possibilities. In the meantime, if this peculiar blend of mysticism, imagination, and somewhat sporadic action appeals, make sure you grab the demo off the PlayStation Network.

Preview: Folklore for PS3!

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