REVIEW: Enslaved Odyssey to the West
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a game developed by Ninja Theory, and published by Namco Bandai. It is available for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. It is a less than mediocre game and clearly intended for a ‘casual’ audience. The Xbox 360 game was played for the purposes of this review.
I’ll admit I’m hesitant to give a bad review to a post-apocalyptic kind of game, as I generally like this kind of stuff. What drew me to this game was the art work, the cover art, and the screenshots. It’s very different than most post-apocalyptic kind of scenarios, in that the world isn’t so desolate and barren. So think Wall-E, but instead of dust and nothing growing, there is plant life growing all over the place. The New York skyline is full of greenery, the buildings are
literally taken over by plants, slowly being broken down to the effects of Mother Nature. The idea of exploring New York like this is was really appealing to me.
Unfortunately, that is where the appeal ends. Heard of two people abandoned on an island that don’t really like each other at first, are forced to work together to avoid immediate death, and totally end up falling for each other? If you haven’t, that’s alright, because Enslaved has you covered. You play as your classic tough guy raised in the jungle. The “I have no family and I have no name” kind of hero. You and your companion are prisoners of some sort, and she controls you by means of a headband device which doesn’t allow you to leave her side without killing you. Which is why the game is called “Enslaved.” You, “Monkey,” are enslaved to Trip, your companion.
Later in the game, as Monkey and Trip become friends, you can more or less go you where you want. However at the beginning of the game this is really frustrating. Monkey dies almost immediately and there is almost no chance for you to get out of this and having to re-start at your last checkpoint. It does go away later, but when you’re trying to learn how to play the game it sure doesn’t help.
That isn’t the only restriction you have. The game is on rails. You have no control over where you jump, where you land, or which bars or footholds you can use. Everything you can jump on or use to climb glows and flashes, so there is absolutely no mistaking where you need to go. You can’t even die, unless you are in combat. So what does a “game on rails” mean? This means is that there is no real exploration or platforming action involved, the gamer is just kind of along for the ride, and you press “A” a lot.
Let’s not beat around the bush. The gameplay is as trite and trivial as brushing one’s teeth: a menial task about whose importance you barely care about, as there is no challenge to be found. If you can’t jump somewhere, the game doesn’t let you. If you want to jump off a cliff, you can’t. If there is no foothold for you to use, you can’t go that way. In this sense, the game loses all of it’s platforming cred and has nearly zero exploration value as there are (almost) no alternative routes you can explore.
Things just gets tedious. The game doesn’t really change, the same things you encounter in the beginning of the game, are the same things you’ll be doing near the end of the game. Halfway through the game you are still piggy-backing Trip, or having to backtrack to throw her up to a ledge to move on, or launching her across a gap she cannot jump.
Your weapon is a staff. Much like the staff in say, Beyond Good and Evil, or the staff in Star Fox Adventures, to name two games from the previous generation. The staff can magically do things like shoot energy blasts which are called plasma, or switch to a stun blast. Unfortunately, just like the exploration and platforming aspect, combat is also limited. The “A” button attacks and the “Y” button is a more powerful attack. Mashing the two buttons in different combinations throws your enemy off balance and allows you to do damage.
There is an upgrade system for your staff weapon, to add more health, more shield, different combat moves and such. The “currency” is what the game calls “tech orbs.” Collecting tech orbs feels almost like a Spyro gimmick with the gem collecting, there are a certain number of tech orbs in each level and if you care to know, you can find out how many you’re missing via the HUD.
I’ll give the game credit: the New York section of the game especially, is really neat to play through. It is neat to “explore” the area, even though you aren’t really exploring it. The ending of the game is also very awesome and thought-provoking, and leaves you with a sense of “hey, this game wasn’t all that bad, was it?”
Enslaved really seems like an intriguing game on the surface, but underneath it is a game that takes you on a railroad ride in a coach car. There is no real exploration aspect to the game, and to call it a platformer would be insulting to the genre. It is a mediocre game at best, and you should only play it if you are attracted to pretty landscapes, or if you want a filler game at a low price.