Video Game Review: Enslaved (2010)
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
Developer:
Official Webiste
Plot: Based on the Chinese story “Journey to the West,” you play as Monkey – an escaped slave in the distant future who has to keep a girl named Trip safe. You see, Trip broke out of the slave ship and upon exiting, fashioned a slavers headband on your head. You have to follow her commands, or you feel pain. If you stray from her too far or she dies, you die. But she says if you get her home then she’ll set you free, so that’s what you go do.

Along the way, however, you have to fend off giant robots (called “mechs”) that are trying to recapture you. What follows is a series of platform “puzzle-solving” (I put this in quotes because it’s not exactly difficult at all, since they highlight everywhere you can go and everything you can interact with), some action, and some fantastic worlds and characters as you both Journey to the West.

###

There are a few things to keep in mind about this game. First off, the visuals are gorgeous. Absolutely excellent world creation and good character design. The voice acting is top notch, and the music is, well – I hope the next time I go see Video Games Live they perform something from it.

The downside is that the controls are a little tricky sometimes (it wants to be an action platformer, but it plays like an adventure game – limiting your actions in certain areas and making it difficult to play. More on that, later), and the camera can be a pain in the butt. There’s also quite a bit of texture popping throughout the game, which doesn’t ruin anything per se, but it’s very noticeable because the game is otherwise so gorgeous.

So let’s talk about gameplay for a moment. You spend most of the game jumping around (like a Monkey…see what I did there?) and getting from point A to point B, but there’s also a level of interaction with the NPC (that’s non-player character, for anyone who doesn’t play RPGs) Trip. You spend a lot of time distracting robo-turrets from shooting her, or asking her to distract them so you can sneak up and take them out.

There’s also some combat, as you have an electric staff of sorts that allows you to beat up robots and also shoots energy blasts, either to stun or destroy. This is good for distance enemies and some bosses, as the bulk of the baddies you can just perform moves on and beat them with little effort.

The camera during combat does tend to get a little too close, and when fighting multiple enemies this can be a little difficult. While beating on one guy, you may not be aware that another is charging up to stun you – or about to clobber you from behind – or calling for reinforcements. However, the combat animation is pretty awesome, and you do unlock moves as the game progresses to help keep things a little fresh.

Combat is not the focus on the game, however. Sneaking past turrets and platforming are at the forefront of this game. But don’t let that discourage you if you’re easily frustrated by platforming like in Tomb Raider or Uncharted – this is much much easier.

Which isn’t to say it’s boring or dull. The environments more than keep things fresh and interesting. You’re just not going to find much challenge here, as the game only lets you do certain things at certain times.

As I mentioned above, the game plays more like an adventure game. If you’re unfamiliar with the genre, they tend to keep things pretty straight forward by only letting you climb when you have a place that the game developers want you to climb. Or swim. Or interact with in any way. In this regard, Enslaved is a little frustrating. I want the game to play like Uncharted – where I can interact with more, but never feel lost of lead astray from where I’m supposed to go, but given the freedom to explore this world.

For a game where one of the most gorgeous characters is their environment, there’s not a lot of opportunity to explore it. You only really get to do what the developers want you to do. This isn’t exactly a bad thing – it just felt a little limiting to me, and I was a bit disappointed.

What wasn’t disappointing was the story, which is very character driven and full of twists – however predictable they may have been from time to time. There’s a reason this ancient tale has survived all these centuries, and it shows in this game as well. There are a lot of cut scenes, just to warn you gamers who prefer to “play first,” and they’re not really skippable. But again, they do show off the great character designs, incredible environment, and fantastic animation and voice work.

Enslaved is certainly worth owning, but be sure to find it on sale or used. The game is on the shorter side, and experienced gamers can breeze through most of the chapters in a few hours each. I found a pretty good deal on Amazon.com for it – but you can also check gamefly or another site.