Enslaved: Odyssey to the West on the PS3 is truly a breath of fresh air. It brings together a whole variety of features that lots of games seem to be forgetting about. Too many of today’s games are taking the same route whereby they play an overly morbid soundtrack accompanied by a plethora of dark gritty graphics. Forgive me for being critical of some frankly brilliant games, but, they are depressing. When I buy a game, I buy it for one of two reasons. I either buy it to challenge myself, or, to give myself a smile. I mean, that’s the whole point of a game. Enslaved does this on so many levels, whilst keeping you engaged in a gripping and believably emotional storyline.
You take the role of an unlikely hero known only as Monkey. He is a strong brutish loner, capable of traversing landscapes with ease and a certain finesse. After escaping a slave ship, you find yourself engaged in a complicated relationship with a technically gifted escapee slave named Trip. She ensnares Monkey by fitting him with a Slave headband, forcing him to help her return home or face death. Monkey, who’s use to only taking orders from no one, finds himself having to hang on Trip’s every word, obeying every action. This relationship soon evolves throughout the story as they encounter challenges, helping each other out when needed, and learning each other’s stories.
Enslaved tells its story through its beautiful visuals and believable characters. The voice acting is spot on, each word telling a piece of the puzzle with dialogue remaining consistently believable. The animations are realistic, portraying life-like facial expressions that add a whole other depth to the characters. All this, and a superb music set-list, add together to make up some impressive cutscenes that accompany the dramatic storytelling. With the cutscenes being co-directed by Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings, King Kong) and the story co-written by Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later) it is to be expected that they are impressive and will leave a lasting imprint on your memory of the game.
As touched on, the game features stunningly vibrant graphics, detailing lush green environments and marvellous derelict cities. Traversing across these environments you encounter an interesting blend between nature and man-made civilisation. It seems almost as if nature is reclaiming its place on Earth as the dominant force after man has become all but extinct following a post-apocalyptic disaster. The game is able to marry these ideas and present them to you in a positive light, which is interesting considering it is an end of the world scenario.
There are problems in Enslaved, though. Sometimes the frame rate can become slow or jumpy, with loss of sound and delayed effects. Also, whilst the game follows a largely linear path, it is debateable whether this is a good thing or not. Personally, I think it works well for Enslaved. It leads you through the game well, coupling up the gameplay with the story just right so that you get an equal balance of both. One problem with Enslaved is the ending, it just sort of, ends. I won’t go any deeper into that though.
The gameplay itself is inventive, but not the best. At times you will find yourself annoyed by tricky camera angles and having to anticipate Monkey’s slow reaction times. Once over the small hurdles though, a gem of a game lies underneath. Monkey’s primary mode of attack is his extendable staff, which can be swung in a variety of manners, where more options open up later in the game. Like with Monkey’s staff, the game introduces you to upgrade your equipment as you progress. At times you may find yourself battling mechs on all sides and this is where some tactics become involved. You will have to consider your actions and use the block, dodge and counter moves, making for challenging fights.
Aside from the fighting aspects, Enslaved brings a lot more to the table in terms of game mechanics. First and foremos, these come from your unlikely companion Trip. Together you will have to work to solve puzzles, most of which aren’t too challenging, but are a fun addition to the game. Certain features can be utilized by your techy sidekick, one of which being the decoy option. When faced by a dastardly turret spraying bullets left, right and centre, Trip deploys this which distracts the turret allowing Monkey to storm his way to disable it.
All in all, Enslaved is a wonderful game. Ninja Theory seems to have produced a well-paced, inventive action-adventure game with great cast and scripting. It is a shame then, that it doesn’t seem to have received the kind of praise and recognition it should have. However, the upside to this lack of praise is that you should be able to pick it up pretty cheap. If you want a game that is a little different, beautiful in its attention to character animations, scripting and graphics, then Enslaved is for you.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 3 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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