Friday, January 7, 2011

Enslaved: Odyssey To The West



It was interesting to play this game in such quick succession after Majin. Both games fit into what I call the "partner game" genre, but at the same time, they're radically different. First off, whereas Majin had you exploring an open world, with the ability to go back and forth to prior locations with ease, Enslaved is very much level based, meaning once you've beat one level, it just shunts you along to the next.
The other is the relation between the two partner characters, you play as Monkey in this game, who is both a powerhouse, and an incredibly agile climber. Trip is your partner, who is a relatively unskilled fighter, but she has a great amount of technical ability, as well as a number of useful gadgets.
Okay, I'm going to stop comparing this game to Majin now, because it just doesn't seem that interesting anymore.
So, premise: It's the far future, the world has been wrecked, cities crumbled, and the native life has reclaimed much of it. It's truly a beautiful amount of decay to wander through all of the derelict structures teeming with green life, a lot of detail was put into it, and it shows. Unfortunately, within all of this greennes, or leftover warmachines, collectively just called Mechs, many of them just sit around in a dormant state, passively waiting for any squishy organics to come within range (I'm assuming they don't bother animals, because while they world isn't teeming with larger creatures, I do remember seeing a deer go bolting away from me). In addition to that, there are also ships, with mech soldiers that go seeking out humans, in order to abduct them and enslave them. It's never clearly stated whether or not two separate parties are at play there, they could be working together, or at least originated from the same place, just with different commands, or not.
The story starts off with Monkey captured and imprisoned on a slaver ship, when Trip breaks out of one of the other cells, and seems to initiate the slow self destruction of the ship, Monkey manages to escape from his cell and tries to make it to one of the escape pods. One of the greatest, ridiculously intense scenes follows, with Monkey ending up on the wings, as the ship flies sideways and clips a skyscraper, narrowly avoiding brushing Monkey off. Eventually he and Trip end up in the same pod (after a fashion). Once Monkey wakes up, he finds that Trip's placed a slave control headband on him, which has been coded to her vocal commands, as well as her lifesigns, if she dies, he dies, if he ignores a command, he suffers great pain, and eventually dies. She's enslaved him to the end that she needs a body guard to help get her back home.
That's the gist of the premise. The greatness comes in the clever dialogue that's written between the two, and the superb voice acting that really lets it shine. Monkey and Trip feel real, which given his ridiculous name, and the fantastic setting, is really saying something.
How does the game play? You're Monkey, a shirtless gorilla of a man, he uses an expanding electrically charged staff to bludgeon mechs until they stop moving, there are little experience orbs all over the place, that Trip can use to upgrade your abilities, more health, stronger attacks, more damage, etc. Trip helps out a little, by occasionally pulling levers, and opening doors, but really, Monkey's the star here. There's some fun play with the partner dynamic though. Occassionally you'll have to hide from turrets, or sniper mechs, and you and trip will take turns making distractions, while the other runs to the next piece of cover. You can also carry Trip through dangerous terrain, like minefields, and while you're carrying her, you can actually throw her up to handholds, or across short gaps (I really enjoy tossing her around for some reason).
Really, the gameplay's not particularly original, but it never felt like a chore. The only thing that did bother me about it, was how glued to the ground Monkey felt. You can't just jump whenever you want, you hit the a button, and if you're moving, you roll, if you're near an edge you can jump from, you'll jump, drop down, or climb up, all depending on the environment. It can eliminate a lot of needlessly falling to your death, but there were more than a few parts where I just wanted to go over the edge, or climb up, and while Monkey has clearly displayed the agility necessary to accomplish such feats, I would have to move until I found the point where the game designer actually wanted me to jump. That's just a minor gripe, and versus the alternative of maybe falling to my death repeatedly because of mistimed or aimed jumps, I think it's preferable.
So, time for the bottom line, it's a great enjoyable ride, and really worth the scenery, I highly recomend it, and I hope that more games in the future take a cue from the well written, acted and directed dialogue.

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