Saturday, November 18, 2000

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West | 8.0

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is an action adventure game from developer Team Ninja that attempts to re-imagine the ancient Chinese story Journey to the West with a bit of future apocalyptica flare.

You follow the story of a young tech girl named Trip and a battle-hardened vagabond named Monkey. After escaping from a slave ship, Monkey must escort Trip safely back to the village she was kidnapped from, whether he wants to or not. Set in a time where free men struggle to survive in a world dominated by the homicidal mechanical ruins of a long ended war, you must run, jump, and smash your way through crumbling cities and clockwork goliaths to reach your goal.

I had a lot of fun playing Enslaved and can honestly say that I fully enjoyed the experience. That experience, however, has to be taken with a grain of salt. Do not purchase this game expecting a deep gameplay experience. It is very straight forward. Run and hit things. That's pretty much it. The battle system mainly boils down to pressing the attack button repeatedly while intermittently tapping a dodge button. There are some more aspects involved but nothing really game changing. Outside of combat, the game has a heavy focus on parkour-style exploration. However, this feature is noticeably shallow. Rather than preforming any button combinations that may require mental and reflexive dexterity, you simply run toward the object in front of you and tap jump, and your character takes care of the rest. Hell, you don't even have to guess at where to go next, because that area will be lit up brightly just in case you stopped to wonder if you had to go anywhere but straight for once. Level designs are straightforward, with exploration only ever really extending as far as 'there is a path that veers slightly to the right, lemme check there for something new'. This isn't going to scratch your adventure game explorer itch the way say, Ocarina of Time may have.

That being said, this game is enjoyable so long as you don't go into it expecting more than it is capable of offering. It is beautiful. The graphics are fantastic, and the world Monkey and Trip travel through is at times breath-taking. Sapphire blue skies that reach out to the horizon, as well as lovingly detailed urban environments with the lush greens of invasive nature are the staple of this game. I often found myself stopping and playing with the camera angles just to get a look at the world the developers had crated. The level design is also fantastic. Yes, they usually are straightforward, but the complexity of the scenery and architecture around you will quickly help you forget that you are essentially traveling down a convoluted corridor the whole time.

Another winning point for this game is the characters. At first they seem rather cookie-cutter at first: the strong hero tasked with protecting the weak, but support-effective girl, and the third wheel comedic relief. While they do fill these roles rather typically, their personalities, dialogue, and voice acting truly set them apart and above other video game casts to date. Also, the game has a very subtle sense of humor that took me completely by surprise. I found myself at several moments bursting with laughter at dialogue and cutscenes that were delivered with such perfectly unexpected comedic timing. The motion capture is phenomenal, and by the end of the relatively short campaign you will feel a true sense of humanity from each of the heroes. Speaking of the end, I was pleasantly surprised by that as well. Without spoiling anything for you, be prepared for the game to end with a twist that is both unexpected and slightly unsettling.

All in all, if you're a fan of adventure games and can appreciate a title for its good points without it being some ground-breaking achievement, get this game. However, don't you dare pay full price for it. Nothing more than $30 is acceptable. If you do find it for cheap though, jump on it. So long as you dive into the game without expecting it to give you things it can't promise you should be able to garner a sense of appreciation for it, as I have.

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