Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Any game with a budget instantly goes for the all-out epic approach, trying to throw the kitchen sink and some kind of cataclysmic event that only you can face. Ninja Theory wisely spent their budget instead on an intimate, highly polished little game. It feels like it starts after some kind of epic, with the planet completely abandoned, killer robots prowling the street and the protagonists in shackles. After an impressive first level the plot of the game is set up. Is it to eradicate the robot foes that plague the surface? Are we escorting an atomic McGuffin to centre of the enemies base? No, instead two characters work together to make it home.
For such a sparse narrative almost all weight is taken by the leads. Monkey is a muscled rogue; capable, cocky and appropriately world weary. He is played by Oscar winner Andy Serkis, aka Gollum from Lord of the Rings, and the high quality of his voice acting absolutely nails the role. On top of this Monkey is one of the best animated characters in any game, I remember how impressed I was with the seamlessness in Assassins Creed but this game puts that to absolute shame.
Monkey is accompanied by Trip, a smart but weak young girl who imprisons him to make sure she gets home. Again her performance is spot on and much against the trend of female characters in video games she is neither a super powered heroine nor damsel in distress. Across the game she saves the duo as often as the male. The writing has also gifted the pair with realistic humanity and the inevitable romance is done the best in any video game.
Visually the game indulges in palette greens and blues, with gorgeous vistas. The character models are superb and the art style is amazing, wait until you meet the perfectly designed Pigsy, with a flappy robot ear, snout, roles, sweat, a hoof and a bandana.
There is one major criticism, this is an unbelievably linear game and the platforming is practically impossible to fail as you can only jump when the game lets you. That’s not to say it’s boring, it keeps everything brisk and fair, but the hand holding every now and then can get on your nerves.
I’d also like to praise the fantastic DLC, that does something completely different while having the same level of polish as the main game. It’s unprecedented for a game to make me cry, but for the £6, 5 hour add on to have me balling like a baby is nothing short of a miracle.
Like anything creative and innovative in the game industry Enslaved failed to sell at all, it just managed to shift its 700,000 copy. The good news is you can buy this game on the cheap, I got it for £6 on eBay 3 months ago and its money very well spent. It isn’t perfect all of the time but I guarantee you haven’t played anything quite like this and also that you’ve spent much more money on worse games. If you like your games with a story and fluffless, this is the game for you.

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