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Videogame review-- ENSLAVED: Odyssey to the West
VIDEOGAME: ENSLAVED: Odyssey to the West
DEVELOPER: NINJA THEORY
PUBLISHER: BANDAI NAMCO
SYSTEMS: PLAYSTATION 3 (Reviewed), XBOX 360
RATING: T (TEEN for BLOOD, LANGUAGE, SUGGESTIVE THEMES, VIOLENCE)
Endorphin Factor: 5/5
Frustration Factor: 3.5/5
Scoring system average: 4.5/5
GAMES IT COULD BE COMPARED TO: UNCHARTED SERIES, TOMB RAIDER
DETAILS: Part puzzler, part beat 'em up, part platformer, and all heart....that's the best way I can describe this fun filled romp into a post apocalyptic wasteland from Ninja Theory.
Meet Monkey. Somehow this big brute of a guy got captured by slavers, and is being transported to New York to enter a life of forced servitude. Naturally, he doesn't like it.
Meet Trip. How in the hell did she get out of her cage? She's on the run, and has caused a massive disruption which is forcing the aerial slave ship to crash.
Monkey sees Trip, and keeps asking her to wait. Scared, Trip silently refuses, and runs on.
The escape from the airship serves as the tutorial for this game, where we learn how to negotiate obstacles, and engage in basic combat. As you run for your freedom, you keep hearing that the number of escape pods is reducing as they blast off from the ship. Monkey finally reaches the last pod, only to find Trip at the controls, sealed within the pod. She launches them both out of there, with Monkey on the outside.
Recovering from the crash landing, Monkey wakes up to find himself adorned with a slave headband....placed upon him by Trip. Naturally, Monkey is angry, but Trip explains (after a forced demonstration of the headband's less desirable powers) that it is simply an insurance policy. She doesn't want to enslave Monkey. She just wants him to help her get home. If he'll do that, she'll remove the headband. Seeing he has no choice in the matter, Monkey agrees.
And so begins our adventure to the west, as the unlikely duo team up to make their escape from New York.
As the story progresses, we see the two characters becoming more accustomed to each other, and ultimately realizing that they truly do need each other to escape....slowly forming a friendship in the process. As it turns out, wearing the headband has its advantages for Monkey. Thanks to the tech savvy Trip, he has a HUD to size up the situation, and Trip can use a dragonfly (a mechanical one) to scan the area, and give Monkey the reconaissance he needs to complete the tasks ahead, be they combat, or exploration, or getting a gadget to work.
The game is very linear, but the controls help make this world feel not so restrictive. Monkey can climb up any surface, and/or object that blinks slightly. One can see where the brute got his name.
The graphics are really nice too. Not quite as gorgeous as, oh, say Uncharted, but they are beautiful. Monkey looks like actor Ed Ross (Lethal Weapon, Red Heat) in the face, and even sounds a little like him, but he is voiced by Andy Serkis. (Hey, why does that name sound familiar? Probably because this is the same guy who gave voice and action to one Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy....yeah, the Peter Jackson one.) And Trip is a real cutie. The emotional display in this game is also quite nice. When you see the size difference between Monkey and Trip, you'll think..."he could break her with his pinky!"
The game has a sense of humor as well. It really turns up a notch when the duo meet an old friend of Trip's father, named Pigsy. You'll just have to play the game to see how he got his name, and how he plays into all this.
My biggest gripe with this game is the sound during cutscenes. It tends to get a little off track if you have to repeat a level after a couple of times. Eventually, the sound gets back on track, but it can be distracting in the cutscenes. This is not an in-game problem....just during the cutscenes. The music is beautiful, and the sound effects are well-done. And the voice acting is also on par with Uncharted.
As you continue to play, you'll discover Monkey's other tricks, including combat with a power staff that can be used as a bo, or as a projectile weapon....you have to find ammo for it. Monkey also has a shield that protects him from machine gun fire for a short time, as well as a melee shield that pops up when you block a melee attack. As you collect energy orbs, you can upgrade your skills and your weapons/assets with Trip.
Teamwork is a large part of this game. As I said, Monkey and Trip come to heavily rely on each other. Sometimes, you might have to get across an area where a few enemy mechs (your most numerous enemy) might be patrolling. You can have Trip set up a decoy so you can get to the next available cover. You might have to ask Trip to run to a point, and while she's doing that, you can distract the enemy mechs in turn. Sometimes, you have to determine when to go ahead of Trip, and when to send her ahead of you. Other tasks are context sensitive....having Trip engage a switch at the right moment, or set up a decoy. As you find health vials along the way, you can have Trip heal you...although I've not found any use for that since one of the unlocks I have is to regenerate health (slowly) over time. And health packs are usually plentiful.
During combat with mechs, especially the bigger ones, certain powerups will respawn (stun and plasma ammo, mostly). Dealing with the mechs, sometimes the combat can seem a little repetitive, but it's not overly so....there is some strategy involved, again, when dealing with the larger mechs.
PARENTAL ADVISORY: Violence- Mostly against mechs. Lots of metal smashing. Blood- Minimal shed. Language- Not super heavy...largely restricted to the "S" word. Suggestive themes- So far, just a suggestion of possible sensuality/attraction between Monkey and Trip....but nothing that would offend a parent, or spoil a child's innocence.
BOTTOM LINE: I haven't beaten the game yet, but I've gotten through a sizeable chunk of it, enough to determine that this is a fun game to play. I don't know what the replay value is, if there's any at all....but it is an engaging story, and a good way to blow away a few hours.
When asked what I thought of human civilization, I replied: "I think it's a wonderful idea."
(Modification of a Robin Williams joke).