Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a game that popped on my radar just recently. There wasn’t a lot of hype about it and it was released in between some serious AAA titles. It is made by Ninja Theory. You may know them as the maker of games like Heavenly Sword and the Devil May Cry reboot (currently in development).
The Story: Enslaved is based on the 400 year old Classic Novel “Journey to the West“. It has been completely reimagined and is written by Alex Garland, who has also written 28 Days Later and The Beach. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic America. Trip and Monkey are the main characters of the game. They have both been captured by slavers. The ship runs into trouble and crashes. Trip not being a fighter or warrior hacks a slave headband and places it on Monkey, who has been knocked out after the ship crashes. Monkey, now enslaved to Trip, has to stay within a certain radius of her and keep her alive. If she dies, he dies.
The Gameplay: Jumping, climbing, whizzing around on a hoverboard, puzzles and hitting things with a stick are all the elements of gameply. There are jumping sections from the simple just point A to B jump to the most complex, timing 3 pulsing fires and a turning gear to get through. Combat does not happen during the jumping sequences. Some of the jumping puzzles are quite difficult. You will spend some time moving the camera around trying to find the next spot to jump to. Trip, not having the jumping ability of Monkey, needs to team up with him from time to time to cross difficult jumping sections. Sometimes he will just carry her across on his back, others he will throw her across the gap. Be careful when you throw her though. You have to make sure she gets across and follow behind her. She may lose her grip and fall to her death. Remember, she dies.. you die. There will be sections in the game that will make you want to throw your controller across the room. In particularly, I can think of a certain boss battle that had me ranting and raving! The puzzles are difficult enough that you will really have to look at them and think to figure some of them out. Monkey’s hoverboard, or cloud as its called in game, brought about a couple hours of mindless fun whizzing around the landscape.
Combat: Combat is a mixture of ranged and melee attacks. You have a staff that you use to fight with. The staff can also be loaded with charges that either stun and enemy or do damage to them. There are various attack routines that can be performed to deal great amounts of damage. You also have a shield to help augment your health. Alot of times, you will need that shield to help you. Some interesting things of note about combat is the ability to roll to avoid being shot, the auto cover during combat situations and the distraction mechanic. The distraction mechanic is interesting. When a ranged enemy targets one person (either Monkey or Trip) the other one can distract the enemy for a short time, making the enemy forget about the first person it attacked. The boss battles are difficult using the different skills that you have learned through the game.
Graphics: This game is gorgeous. The landscape and detail to everything is truly beautiful. There is tons of evidence through out the game where you see Mother Nature is taking back her planet. In the starting city, which is New York City, there will be several places you see that will look very familiar. There were times that I just sat there in front of my TV and just stared at the screen amazed at the beauty and scale of some of the scenes in the game. Truly a joy to play.
Verdict: Fun gameplay, challenging puzzles, difficult boss fights, fluid combat system, and great story and character design make this a good game.