Enslaved review

Remember the old TV series that appeared on our screens back in the 80s entitled ‘Monkey’ which featured the coming together of four very unlikely characters? The show was based upon the classic sixteenth century Chinese novel ‘Journey to the West’ by Wu Cheng’en and offered action, lots of comedy and decent family viewing. Well, development studio Ninja Theory of Heavenly Sword fame, headed by renowned actor Andy Serkis have resurrected the tale with a post apocalyptic contemporary flavour in the latest multi-platform action game entitled ‘Enslaved – Odyssey to the West’ giving it its full name. The game’s story isn’t as fleshed out as the TV show, but does bring three of the familiar characters together in an epic journey of action and puzzle solving. Cue the enslaved Monkey, his captor, Trip and the laughable Pigsy who will either make you laugh or cry. Is this glorious looking journey one worth embarking on, or is the game all visual fidelity with little substance behind it?

Gameplay:

Enslaved starts you off with a dramatic opening scene which you might have experienced if you’ve played the recent Marketplace demo. You’re immediately introduced to the rather hard nosed escaped slave, ‘Monkey’ and the extremely delicate looking ‘Trip’ whose paths collide in the most obscure of manners. Once the initial story is revealed – which to be frank is pretty self explanatory and bare bones, then you can get on with the gameplay which comprises of a eclectic mix of platforming, melee combat and some dizzying hoverboarding (replacing the rather funky cloud as featured in the TV adaptation). Monkey isn’t a happy bunny, or should that be monkey as his existence becomes tied to Trip who captures him for her own selfish desires. It’s at this juncture that the game’s direction is aiming to goad you into hating her character only for the rest of the game to nurture a distinct fondness for her within you after about an hour or so play. It’s Prince of Persia (the Xbox 360 version) all over again, in fact the similarities are quite profound.

Comparisons to other games aside, your main task is to navigate a series of levels using the skills of Trip whilst you control the character Monkey as he swings, climbs and gets into skirmishes with the game’s singular mechanized enemy. Using a few simple commands you can lure enemies away from you using Trip’s Decoy tech, or when it suits lure the enemy to you so that Trip can travel safely from one point of cover to the next. It’s a pretty simple set up which the game constantly throws at you to keep the twitchy fingered players a little more entertained.

The reason for this is because the pseudo platforming elements are engaging, but also a little dull, simply because there’s no sense of discovery or achievement as your pathway is always highlighted for you with flashing inanimate objects or even a cursor at times. This somewhat pulls you out of the game world and makes the whole experience a little too easy. Great for the impatient, but lacking for those wanting a bit of depth. The resulting gameplay merely becomes an exercise in moving from one ‘area’ to the next with a bit of conversation and plot thrown in-between…and then some basic combat.

The game’s combat is satisfying but relies too heavily on simple button presses with a limited number of attack moves. As the game progresses you’re able to add new moves to Monkey’s repertoire, but this feels like lip service more than anything as you can get by with the basics. There are a fair few fights to break up the more subdued platforming puzzle solving, including some obligatory boss battles to spice things up, although neither offer anything too taxing. It’s safe to say Enslaved is aiming to appeal to the less hardcore of gamers, and whilst you might experiences one or more deaths throughout the game, the punishment is never that severe.

Graphics:

The game’s visual style shines through, and much like the opening of Halo Combat Evolved, once you’ve landed firmly on the ground you’ll be presented with an at times, spectacular looking game world. The decaying matter of a once bustling city is easy on the eyes as are the main characters but what will hinder your appreciation are the forced camera angles and the slightly overly twitchy controls. There are also plenty of imperfections if you look closely enough, but overall, nothing that should detract too much from a beautifully crafted world.

Sound:

Enslaved’s audio opts for a less intrusive approach with a minimalistic vibe as opposed to a full on blistering soundtrack. This works well with the game’s desolate imagery of a destroyed world, but can mean some moments of audio emptiness. The voice acting is top notch though as you’d expect, with Serkis offering a temperate yet soft portrayal of the leading character, and Lindsey Shaw gives Trip enough edge that you care. Richard Riding’s Pigsy though is very entertaining, but what gives the characters much presence is how well the facial animation technology is used.

Longevity:

The game can be completed in a couple of sessions if you wade through the 14 levels back to back. However, there are some collectibles and an increased difficulty option if you’re compelled to jump right back in again for a second play-through. For some, the length might be just right, preventing the gameplay from becoming stale, whereas for others a bit more is most likely desired simply because the game is over a little too quickly.

Overall:

Enslaved is an interesting adventure game that builds on the characters via cinematic direction to affiliate the player with their plight a little more readily. The gameplay is fluid but lacking in depth to really make it stand out. There are some neat moments such as riding the hoverboard, but other than some graphical stand-out features, there’s little else to captivate beyond the aesthetics. If you’re after an action adventure game that isn’t too taxing and you’ve got some time to spare, then Enslaved is well worth picking up for an afternoon or two.

 

8.5/10

Written by: Rob Cram

Rob Cram has hundreds of video game reviews, thousands of articles under his belt with years of experience in gaming and tech. He aims to remain fair and free from publisher/developer influence. With his extensive knowledge, feels his gaming opinions are valid and worth sharing. Agreement with his views are entirely optional. He might have a bias towards cyberpunk.

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