"West, Here We Come!"
Well, it turns out that for me this game has been indeed a bit of an "odyssey to the West". Twice in a row I fell victim to a glitch on the Xbox 360 version that prevents the game from autosaving, and twice in a row I had to play it from scratch, all the way to the middle. I still loved Enslaved though, so I decided to give it another go. We uninstalled the game to see if running it from the original disc would solve the problem, and it did. I’ve finally been able to play, and I’ve been able to save. Phew! I’m telling you this because apparently there’s a glitch the developers left behind. I’ve looked online and I’m not the only victim of this saga, so my recommendation is, do not install the game on the hard drive! Play from the disc!
If you’ve followed my recommendation, you’ll have a great experience with Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. I had been waiting for this game for months, as I always do when good adventure games are announced. There are so few of them that it’s tough to not be excited when one of them finally comes out.
In a post-apocalyptic setting, Enslaved will have players take on the role of Monkey, a tough loner who’s been trapped in the enemy’s sky ship and who’s looking for a way out. Unfortunately, when he gets out, not everything’s golden: he’ll have to share his newly-acquired freedom with a funky lady named Trip, who is in search of her hometown, located just 300 miles to the West. This tech-savvy girl needs Monkey’s help in order to survive, so she affixes a piece of technology on his head when he's unconscious to be able to send him commands he’ll have to obey. What’s more, he’ll die if she dies, so he better take good care of her!
- Enslaved isn't short of action -
At first, this may seem like a drag, but in no time you’ll realize the collaboration of the two characters is for the better. Also, they’ll become friendlier as you advance, so the headband won’t have to work very hard. The benefits of this device is Trip can use her technology to explore locations and detect possible dangers, transferring this info to Monkey so he can act accordingly, avoiding perilous obstacles such as land mines, incoming enemies, etc.
The characters will grow on you. They’re well-designed all around, and their initial attitudes allow for an evolution of both themselves and their relationship. Trip is a somewhat shy and reserved character, but also a smarty pants who always knows where to go next. Monkey, at first, seems like little more than an angry Jack Bauer after the terrorists let out a canister of nerve gas in the middle of a mall; he’s rough around the edges, bad-tempered, and he sports a surprisingly grave voice. Of course, knowing Andy Serkis (LOTR’s Gollum) lends the voice to the character explains it all. Serkis has also co-directed the dramatic cutscenes of the game, which is a plus.
The trip to the West is not an easy one. The city of New York has been ravaged by mechs, which are still around and ready to attack if they detect you. Combat against these metallic foes is a common theme throughout the game, and luckily, it’s well done. At first Monkey will only have a couple of basic offensive moves, but as you advance and gather the orange technology orbs spread throughout (which is a bit of a chore), you’ll be able to upgrade your skills, your shield, and your weapon - a versatile staff that, depending on what you pick up along the way, will allow you to shoot periodically, either killing or stunning the enemies. Most of the time, however, you’ll fight them from a short distance, kicking their shiny butts with the staff and executing strong combos that will make them break into a thousand pieces… well, maybe just three or four to be exact. You will also be able to take them over and even employ their weapons and turrets once in a while, which is a fresh change of pace.
- Monkey can take over the enemies' weapons -
New York and its surroundings look amazing in Enslaved. It’s certainly not the New York you know, but an obliterated one that has been taken over by lush vegetation and degradation as a result of the years that have gone by since mankind fell victim to these terrible, mechanized creatures. The environments are breathtaking, and seeing the crumbling leftovers of what once was Grand Central Station or the Empire State Building evokes feelings of angst. Like most post-apocalyptic games and movies, it reminds us of how small we really are. Of course, this urban jungle seems like the perfect playground for this engaging adventure game, and it presents plenty of opportunity for wonderful platforming segments in between battles.
Much like in Prince of Persia, Uncharted, etc., Enslaved: Odyssey to the West will have you climbing from ledge to ledge, swinging from a pole, balancing over beams, or grabbing onto handles conveniently placed over the mossy walls in order to reach the next available platform. This kind of platforming is very gratifying, and it works well for the most part. Nevertheless, I found the controls to be somewhat questionable in certain parts of the game. For some reason, the game decides how fast or slow you can move at any given time, and even though Monkey will be mostly fast and agile, there will be sections where you just want to push him forward, because he advances soooo slowly. A more precise pressure-sensitive control stick to reflect the speed of the character would have been a much more natural way to do it, so it’s strange to not see it implemented very well in a game of this caliber. Luckily, it won’t affect you too much.
Another thing I didn’t like about the controls is the lack of jumping abilities, except when you’re in front of something they want you to jump over or on top of. Again, this seems unnatural, and it often breaks the flow. Also, sometimes, if you’re not correctly positioned right in front of a platform or a box you need to jump, Monkey will just perform a roll and stay right where he started. This was annoying, though not exactly hair-pulling annoying. The camera, on the other hand, was frustratingly bad at times. For the most part, it follows you where you need to go and provides you with a view that’s actually useful. Moreover, you can control it thanks to the right control stick. However, on several occasions, it will trap you in an angle that’s at the very least counter-productive, and sometimes it’s just downright awful, preventing you from dealing damage to or defending yourself from one (or many) of the furious robots.
- Monkey must defend Trip from evil mechs -
Fortunately, other than these little control hiccups, which aren’t really very common, I didn’t find other complaints with the game. In fact, I enjoyed it thoroughly and would even play it again... when I forget about it and my two accidental re-plays. If Ninja Theory, the same team who created another of my favorite games – Heavenly Sword – had completely polished the game, I would have given it a very high score. The production values are high, with a wonderful soundtrack, magnificent voice acting, and, like I mentioned, awe-inspiring visuals throughout.
If you’re a fan of action / adventure games, do not let this opportunity pass. With Enslaved: Odyssey to the West you’ll have a blast. It's best to not let the minutia bog you down, and just look at the big picture: Enslaved is a really enjoyable game loaded with fun combat, engaging platforming segments, motivating puzzles, memorable characters (not just Trip and Monkey), and a lengthy and interesting storyline enhanced by a truly cinematic presentation and plenty of tactical gameplay.
GameDynamo's Score for Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (X360)
An enthusiast of gaming adventures as well as party and puzzle games. Writer, editor, translator, graphics designer, and a multitasker at heart. Maria has worked in the gaming industry since 2007, though she's been a gamer since the eighties. She proudly wore her Spain jersey when they won the 2010 World Cup!
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