|System: PS3, X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Ninja Theory||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Namco Bandai Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct 5, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is basically a whirlwind tour of everything thats popular in third-person action games these days. In fast succession, players encounter it all: platforming, melee combat, teamwork, vehicle and turret sequences, puzzles, stealth, shooting, and plot. This isnt the most innovative game on the market, and it doesnt do anything spectacularly well. But the developers made this entire smorgasbord of play styles flow into each other nicely, and virtually every aspect of Enslaved feels polished and competently constructed. More important, this title is just plain fun to play and hard to put down. In short, its definitely worth at least a playthrough.
The plot is a science-fiction take on the classic Chinese story Journey to the West, with some extra ideas cribbed from The World Without Us (a book by Alan Weisman, who envisions what Earth would be like without humanity and likes what he sees). As the game begins, its 150 years in the future. The protagonist, Monkey, is trapped on a spaceship as a slave when all hell breaks loose and the ship starts to crash. Monkey flees from his cell and makes his way to the ships escape pods. A fellow slave beats him to the last available pod, however, and Monkey clings to the outside as the pod ejects and plummets to the ground. It lands in New York City -- or what used to be New York, anyway. The skyscrapers are crumbling, and colorful, beautiful vegetation has grown around them. There are no people, and there are no hints as to what happened to cause this state of affairs.
Having miraculously survived the fall (his cartoonishly large muscles must have cushioned the blow), Monkey awakens from unconsciousness to find himself with Trip, the slave whod beat him to the escape pod. She informs him that she put a slave collar on him while he was out. This means two things: she can control his mind whenever she wants to; and if she dies, he dies. He has no choice but to help her survive. After some initial bickering, during which Monkey vows to kill Trip as soon as the collar comes off, they set off to find whats left of Trips old village, and the adventure begins.
Much of the gameplay time is spent simply traversing the terrain in an almost perfectly linear manner. Theres a fair amount of Uncharted-style platforming, but these sections exist more to occupy you than to challenge you. Monkey springs from one handhold, pole, or ledge to another with the simple push of a button, and hell refuse to jump if you try to leap in the wrong direction. Every once in a while, youll have to carry Trip through some hazards, or toss her to a ledge she cant reach on her own, or create a bridge for her to cross. The only way to die while platforming is by failing to jump quickly enough when something youre standing on starts to fall.
Fortunately, the exploration is broken up by battles against the lethal mechs that now inhabit New York. By combining a few simple mechanics in an interesting way, the developers made these fights feel unique, even though theres really nothing about them that hasnt been done before, and better.
Early in the game, Trip, whos a technical whiz, wires a dragonfly to act as a spy camera. Using the dragonfly, she checks out each group of mechs before you fight them. Most mechs are dormant to begin with, and the dragonfly clearly indicates how far each mech can see. Sometimes, theres room enough that you can sneak past the mechs without even battling them, giving Enslaved a small helping of stealth.
Most of the time, however, you have to fight. Your weapon of choice is your staff, which can be used both to strike your enemies with light and heavy attacks, and as a gun that shoots plasma and stun rays. You also have a shield and can evade attacks. The fights can feel like button-mashing sessions sometimes, and some control issues get in the way (the long animations make it difficult to time your button presses), but they do a decent job of blending mindless fun with some light strategy.