Did I mention how I am really, really bad with maintaining a clean slate of titles, with backlogs up the bum that I fix by picking away at it and filling my gap with another title? Well, I just did that, as I picked up a mostly forgotten title from 2010 and need to give my thoughts on it because that is fun for me.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Review
Release Date: 05/10/2010
Platforms: Xbox 360(Reviewed), Playstation 3
Developer: Ninja Theory
Publisher: Namco Bandai
I originally played this game sometime in January of 2011 if I remember correctly, after I saw it two weeks before release due to a visually keen trailer a friend showed me, where I convinced my local library to purchase the title and ultimately hinder its already doomed faith from a lack of marketing done by Namco Bandai. Who, in their wisdom decided to push out a new IP from a developer with only one other title under their name, for $60, in October. Not even breaking half a million in two months, with my paid price being less than a measly $5.
Under the nearly transparent guise of being an adaptation of the classic Chinese myth, Journey to the West, Enslaved is pretty much a game about a big muscle man named Money hitting robots with a stick. While also making sure to keep a young woman named Tripataka, often shortened to Trip, alive due to a headband that enslaved him to being her servant, with his life dependant on hers. As the duo travel through a post-apocalyptic world with west as their primary direction .
While a lot of the game can be summarized that quickly, the game does do a good job of providing hints into what could have possibly turned New York City into a lush semi-Urban forest, while doing something similar with the imposing Mechs that loom over the wastes. Although, the focus is more based on the duo of Monkey and Trip, as they go through a very odd relationship of one party having literal control over if the other dies. While going through their own arcs as the title goes on, as the characters do open up to each other and establish a believable relationship through the eight or so hours the title lasts. About halfway during which, the duo meet up with a third member, Pigsy, who more or less steals the show by being a genuinely humorous porky prick who I feel a bit rubbish for forgetting about. Since he does have pretty much everything needed for a cult classic character.
While the cast do have a very enjoyable dynamic with one another, the idea of needing to protect and babysit a character for the majority of the game, in the form of Trip, could go very bad. However, the game is structured so that she never goes against your orders and fumbles, or walks into enemy fire, as she spends most of the time hiding away and releasing an EMP to stun baddies when they get near, or far away from the action, acting as a decoy with next to no risk. And during the times where you do need to order her around, the interface is remarkably simple, just press LB and tell her to pull a lever.
And despite her location never being an issue, the game does not depend on her for everything. As the combat is pretty representative of someone who fights with a stick, just wack them and try to dodge or block. Granted, it was not that simple seeing as how I played the game on hard, where the enemies are far more aggressive and managing more than three can often be a pain due to how the camera zooms in during combat. I still had all my upgrades from my first playthrough, so I was in never much peril unless I tried to counter an attack due to how you need to block right when the blow lands, in contrast to pressing it right before. Which does make wailing enemies seem like the best option, and even though the moveset is limited two button combos, it felt pretty cathartic to smack around scrap metal until it exploded.
Although, I’d be careful with dubbing the combat as the main gameplay hook, as simplified wall climbing sections are about as prevalent. With their value from a gameplay standpoint arguably being null as they are remarkably linear, with the largest threat being how certain sections can break off of the traversable metal ruins, or how fire ejects from some handholds. You just need to keep following the glowing bits in the wall to continue and admire the world while you do so.
And even above that, the game has several other ideas it kicks around. Such as third person shooting bits where Monkey’s staff becomes a plasma cannon for a nice bit of something different in the game. Or instances where he summons a hoverboard called a Cloud, which controls surprisingly well in the half dozen or so instances where you get to use it. While also making for remarkably fun boss battles that mostly entail circling a big metal dog and zapping it before wailing on it. In a manner that never felt like I was shifting from one mode to another, as the game has a very nice feel applied to all of its parts.
Granted, there are a few issues with the smoothly integrated mechanics, mostly involving how the world itself offers little exploration outside of side pockets that most often hold orange orbs which you can use to level up your skills at whacking things and being whacked by things. So a lot of the game requires you to be in the right spot as you roll about looking for a jump point, or brush up a static bush in a random corner. Which does give it a very linear feeling that I’m normally okay with, however when I see a world that I think is neat, my response is to map it all out.
Fortunately, the game does a wonderful job at painting its rainbow hinted apocalypse, with one of the most appealing urban environments I’ve ever seen. Deep reds, vibrant greens, striking blues, and so forth. All wrapped up in the Unreal Engine with what looks like mostly out of the box shaders. A move that I’m personally impressed with, as the only thing I don’t like about the game’s visuals are the pop-in that occasionally moves in after I died and the game hid behind one of its surprisingly low quantity of loading screens. Only appearing in between its fourteen chapters.
While the characters are also given copious amounts of care from a design perspective, as there are few times where the animation didn’t flow well in the game. Which helps counter the fairly static environments a good amount as Monkey glides across platforms in a delightful bit of physics defiance. Along with designs that I could criticize, such as Trip’s tube top and that red mark on Monkey’s face, but help give the game a unique look that is only helped by excellent vocal performances.
It is very sad how Enslaved was pushed out as a pup in a pack of wolves, because the game does have a lot of that first game in a trilogy feel found in a lot of the now sealed trilogies made in the generation. With a good amount of variety for the allotted playtime, along with narrative and visual productions that make the notion of it originally being a film more than a little easy to believe. As it stands, Enslaved is a very well kempt double A title that adapts from the best while delivering its own unique qualities that make it more than worth for the few bucks it would cost.
Great! (16/20) An impressive product, but won’t always astound due to a fair number of flaws that are difficult to ignore. Still worth your cash and a few hours of your time.
Oh, and a witty little manner to ask for comments that I’m too tired to come up with… I really like criticism, okay?