It is the distant future and just as is assumed in most post-apocalyptic stories, the machines have all but stamped out most of humanity. Those humans still wandering the devastated, in this case, America either spend their time hiding from the still active killing machines or slavers rounding them all up. Two of these survivors being a brilliant technophile nicknamed Trip and "Me Smash" hulk of a man nick named Monkey. Both of whom have been captured and shipped out to the evil Pyramid to be executed or added into the slave population.
Luckily, kind of, Trip figures a way to escape and in the process Monkey breaks free and the rest of the slaves are left to crash and burn. Trip no just wants to go home and Enslaves (Ha I said it!) Monkey to help her get there. From there enters all the misadventures of Monkey and Trip on their Odyssey To The West (Ha I finished it!) to get her there and make sure humanity no longer needs to worry about the slavers.
That is the abridged version of the story so to not spoil things. How did the rest of the game hold up?
Enslaved is powered by the Unreal Engine much like many games out or coming out so it is expected that the visuals will be top notch. But what it really comes down to here is the visions and concepts of the artist involved. Something which I would say was very impressive. Yes we've seen other renditions of a destroyed New York and surrounding areas, but the artists over at Ninja Theory made it feel new and unique while making sure you still felt like you were jumping around New York.
This uniqueness also jumps over to the creatures and character models as well. At least for the most part. All of the mechs used in the game have the same basic designs as other machine type enemies they still felt new. Even the dog, while feeling much like the ones described in Fahrenheit 451, seemed really different. Then again, that is my interpretation of the description from the book. In the end though I loved almost every one of the designs used.
I do have to say that one design seemed really close to another character from Ninja Theory. Trip looks like she could easily be the close sister or daughter of Nariko from Heavenly Sword. Maybe they just love that model and form, but it was a little too close for me.
So with a rich newish type world where there are plenty of opportunity to do just what they did with the graphics, I feel that Ninja Theory kind of let this one fall through the cracks. In almost all of the environments and sequences, the music and sound effects didn't really do much to add to the game. In fact there were points where I remember there not being any music going on. This wouldn't be too much of an issue, but it was during an action sequence that seemed like it would have benefited from some high action music.
On the flip side though, I don't think I have heard voice acting as well done in a long time. I felt very engaged with each character more so due to their acting. Life was really infused which in turn made me care even more about each of the characters in the game. Even the basic repeat scripted "Help Me Monkey!" didn't get on my nerves as much as it should have. In fact it made me like Pigsy more when he should have really be one of the more disliked characters in the game.
If you have played any action/adventure type game like God of War you pretty much will understand the controls of the game. Granted there are a few differences, explained below, but in general they are the normal button mashing type of controls. All very responsive and really well placed in configuration.
In Enslaved you do have the option to fire energy blasts from Monkey's staff. An action that takes a bit of time to get fully use to as it functions like how aiming and shooting does in most FPS games. Only if you are hit at anytime Monkey puts the staff back down and you lose what you were aiming at. Even if you have not moved and neither has the target. Something that gets very aggravating when forced to take out an enemy that is doing mass damage while surrounded by little annoying attackers. I understand why this is in the game, but I feel it harms the controls.
Another weird controls system for the game is the Trip command wheel. To access the commands you need to hold the left shoulder button and then select with your left stick. Why they did not link it to the D-Pad I do not understand? You never have more than four options to select from so I don't see why not go the easier way of things. Instead the D-Pad is not used and you have to go through a few extra steps to get Trip to do anything.
Enslaved is pretty much broken up into two types of game play. Platforming and combat. There are a few puzzles in the mix, but they mainly consist of platforming.
Now what is interesting here in the combat is that it doesn't really flow like other games of this type. Mainly when it comes to not changing up your attacks or attack patterns. You are fighting robots after all, why would they not learn from your consistent actions? So you are forced to keep things original as possible in the order of moves you do. That or use Monkey's stun attack on everyone so they don't have the option to defend and you can beat on them as desired. Kind of nice twist instead of just waiting for them to open themselves up for attack.
As for the platforming, it is very reminiscent of Prince of Persia minus the time flowing and the wall running. It also seems to be lacking in the ease of flow as well. While it is mainly jumping from glowing object to glowing object, the game seems to forget that at times. Not in any real major way, like making you fall from a hand hold, but more in the way that Monkey will stop if you are not pointing the left stick in just the perfect way. Something that could mean life and death, but mainly just the flow and speed of climbing.
One more thing that really falls under platforming, instead of something else, is the Cloud riding. The Cloud being the blue glowing disc we've seen in images and video. It pretty much adds platforming over water as if it was ice and the bottom of the Cloud was covered with KY jelly. It moves around a lot and is hard to get anything done accurately, but when these portions take place it is rare that precision needs to be thought about outside of hitting speed boosts.
I can honestly say that I have not been as enthralled with an action game as I have been with Enslaved since God of War 3. The story, the characters and the overall experience of Enslaved kept me, well, enslaved to my console until I was able to get to the climactic ending. I actually see myself playing through again for fun and not just for the trophy whoring. Now that I know the story and how it ends, it interests me to see what kind of nuances I missed during the first play through.
I completely recommend picking up Enslaved: Odyssey To The West for anyone that is into the action/platforming genre of games. Also if you are in the market for a big and epic story in your game, again this is for you. I'd also go as far to say that if you don't have the funds or are still wary about giving Enslaved a try with your hard earned money, give it a rent. You will not be let down. Another great game from Ninja Theory!
Enslaved: Odyssey To The West was developed by Ninja Theory and Published by Namco Bandai on October 5th 2010 for the PS3 and XBox 360. The game retails for $59.99. A PS3 copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.