Enslaved: Odyssey To The West Enslaved
was one of the games I was looking forward to playing, as Journey To The West
is a text with a huge amount of potential for an outstanding videogame translation. A heady mix of Oriental mythology told through memorable characters that combines plenty of rowdy violence and lust with a deeper spiritual undercurrent, along with the geek cred of being the basis for the late '70s television show Monkey
. Although the game's redrawing of the story with unoriginal science-fiction overtones (machines take over the earth after making humanity all but extinct) and replacing the religious mysticism and demons of the original, the overgrown cities that have formed the basis of much of the game's pre-release publicity is at least a colourful and more hauntingly subtle representation of a post-human world. I had time to play the first two chapters of the game, the first showing protagonist Monkey escaping a disintegrating prison ship by hitching a ride on last-human Trip's escape pod, while the second had them moving through a crumbling cityscape teeming with sentry mechs and explaining how Trip comes to exert power over the wild Monkey.
The demo wasn't bad, but resolved much of my disappointment that I likely won't get the chance to play any further into the game given how there are no plans for its release on PC (or, obviously, on Wii). The main problem is that there were no signs the developers could think of anything interesting to do with the source material other than use it as an excuse to justify yet another end-of-world scenario. If anything, the TV series seems to have served as greater inspiration than the text: the novel's Tripitaka is male, though was played by a girl on television and here becomes yet another Ninja Theory Nariko-esque heroine with red hair, shapely buttocks and blow-job lips (which her perpetually astonished expression seemed designed to show off). Monkey's egg-shaped prison is a neat visual throwback to the television character's origins (in which he bursts out of a giant rock egg, whereas in the novel it's just a rock), but the character himself becomes another muscle-bound protagonist, albeit with funkier hair (horribly textured, incidentally) and a strip of cloth dangling from his belt to resemble a tail. Sure, the demo only showed the earliest parts of the game, yet there was little effort to introduce the characters or give any deeper meaning to their quest. The unskippable cutscenes (in a demo!) were rife with contrived dialogue and misjudged attempts at humour. From a gameplay perspective, it's playable enough but lacking anything that hasn't been seen and done many times before. Aside from a very irritating shaky camera in the first chapter, Enslaved
does everything you'd expect from this kind of game competently but not exceptionally. The platforming takes inspiration from the Prince of Persia
series, but takes away any tension by making it apparently impossible to fail any jumps or acrobatics – Monkey simply won't obey your commands if you mistime a button press or aren't standing in the right place. Combat combines the usual standard, power and wide attacks that quickly turns into button-mashing. The Monkey-Trip combination play, again, uses the standard tropes - cause a distraction to let the vulnerable Trip sneak past guards; she waits while you take out a more powerful enemy or lift a heavy obstacle - without taking any risks. Beyond Good & Evil
was similarly unexceptional in combat, but layered its world and plot with intelligent ideas and twists that elevated the overall experience of the game. Enslaved
has the source material to do something incredible, but didn't show any signs of using it for anything deeper than surface aesthetics and leaving the core experience competent, but all too familiar.
Tomorrow's games will be the all-action trio of Killzone 3 (3D)
, SOCOM 4
and Crysis 2
. Thanks to everyone for reading!
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