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Monday, October 18, 2010

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West on Xbox 360 Impression

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a retelling, loosely, based on the 400 year old Chinese novel Journey to the West. This spin puts games in control of a rugged young lad named Monkey as he is … enlisted to help the tech savvy Trip get home, over 300 miles away in the Western direction. As the story unfolds gamers will see a vision of America full of ruin 150 years in the future, that is if they take the journey. Will Enslaved deliver an epic adventure, let’s find out.

Gameplay – Far future, civilization in ruin, killer robots and slave traders on the prowl and gamers are put smack dab in the middle of one of these slave ships. Gamers take control of the buff, strong, agile Monkey who breaks out of his cell/capsule thanks to the escape of the tech savvy Trip. As the two escape the soon to be crashed slave ship, in New York, a unique adventure is about to begin. Gamers control the now enslaved (title, ah!) Monkey as he’s wakes from the crash. He has a slave headband, modified by Trip, on and the girl is determined to get back to her village 300 miles away. The headband is tied to Trip’s vitals, if she dies so does Monkey. Now the journey begins and gamers will be confronted with vast landscapes, killer robots and engaging puzzles. The main objective is to get from point A to B using Monkey to remove obstacles and get Trip around safe and sound. Trip is no pushover as her technological expertise allows for hacking of robots and more. There are camera and control issues but overall it’s an epic quest to get Trip home.

Graphics – The landscapes are graceful and harsh depicting the fall of civilization and emergence of nature. The settings are stunning at times which makes up for the mostly repetitive looking killer robots. The characters look good, are unique in design but when Trip’s hair melts into her shoulder, well there’s not really an excuse for that pop in/out. The game looks great in HD but it makes the little glitches (rare but there) all the more puzzling and noticeable.

Sound – The banter between Monkey and Trip starts off rough but shines in the end. Monkey carries the day in what is a solid voice acted game. The explosions, effect sounds do the job and the score has some trippy and catchy tunes, a few of which feel very suited for a lounge with Red Bull and vodka in hand (people still drink those right?)

Design – Trip holds the potential to be such an annoyance but she’s actually useful, not a burden for Monkey or gamers. She is the brains to the brawn of Monkey and creating puzzles and ways to use technology to solve them is well done and manages to stay fresh … expect for the recycled ‘Monkey lift object, Trip run under’ animations. A huge joy for this gamer was seeing the wasteland of America, a treat in post-apocalyptic movies and games. Well done, visually stunning at times and fun to navigate.

Miscellaneous – If gamers snagged a copy the Marvel published Enslaved mini comic gives a different look at the escape which opens the game as well as some background on each character. The art style in these four short stories vary and really don’t match the better design in the game but it’s a very nice accompanying piece of storytelling. The included concept art speaks to the epic landscapes found in-game.

Overall the stage is set for an epic journey with two very interesting characters, great voice acting, catchy music, beautiful landscapes, settings and graphics with one tiny little hitch. The camera and controls feel wonky, like an early preview build of the game. Monkey does not control as smoothly as a game of this billing would imply but the camera is the biggest knock since its set and limits gameplay options at times. These are neither minor, nor major annoyances from what is an overall solid and enjoyable game. Not much reason to re-journey once complete but a heck of a time on this trip with Trip and Monkey.

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