by Jeff Gates
reviewed on PS3
When I first heard about Enslaved: Odyssey to the West I was very skeptical. A platform/action game where you play a character being led and ordered by a woman who has power over your every move? It sounded more like a bad relationship (or a crappy Jake Gyllenhaal movie) than a good game to me. However, upon playing the demo for Enslaved all of my reservations about it vanished. Immediately after finishing the demo my mind was set on purchasing and reviewing the full game, but would I be as happily surprised with the full game as I was the demo?
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, developed by Team Ninja (creators of Heavenly Sword) is loosely based on ‘Journey to the West’, a classic Chinese tale published in the late 16th century. While ‘Journey to the West’ is a story of Buddhist monks pilgrimage to India to obtain sacred texts, Odyssey is about Monkey, a nomadic loner who has been “Enslaved” by an evil group known only as Pyramid.
The game begins on an air ship transporting slaves where we meet Trip. Trip is keen with technology and uses her wits to hack a terminal which causes quite a bit of chaos. Things begin to explode. Monkey, freed by accident by a blast that tipped the pod he was captured in, sets out to the escape pods while the craft begins to crumble and crash to the Earth. To his distaste Monkey comes across Trip stealing the last escape pod. One spectacular action sequence and a mild concussion later Monkey awakes to find that Trip has been so kind as to fit him with a slave headband. This headband, which is typically used on slaves to control them, is being directed by Trip to force Monkey to lead her home against his will. Thus begins the relationship between Trip and Monkey. It becomes an enthralling focal point throughout the game. The dynamic between Trip and himself plays out in a way that does not deter from the story but adds to it.
The similarities between Enslaved and Playstation 3 blockbuster Uncharted 2 begin here. Both games posses a lead man who is not only strong and fearless but also very lovable as a character. Nathan Drake of Uncharted 2 is a witty, persistent and amiable character that fans have grown to love. The same can be said for Monkey. Throughout the game this riveting hero makes us laugh, cheer and pump our fists as Monkey kills the foe and saves the girl. There is something to be said for a lead role that can solely keep gamers attention instead of simply relying on action or explosions. However, Enslaved certainly isn’t short on action.
Surviving the Aftermath
The combat of Odyssey to the West is fairly typical of the genre. One button performs light attacks while another completes heavy attacks and a third executes a shield maneuver. Monkey’s weapon also bolsters the ability to fire plasma projectiles at enemies from range. The controls, and the animations that go with them, are fairly simple and repetitive. Barring some minor changes via upgrades that the game offers there is not a great deal of variation in the moves you will see throughout the title. This is a blemish for Enslaved that many will notice but few will be turned off by because the game brings so much more to the table.
Every so often, most frequently in boss battles, you will be given the chance to ride the Cloud, a hover board like device that Monkey possesses in his arsenal. It is essentially a fun tool for traversing dangerous areas and maneuvering around large bosses. While the combat mechanics don’t offer much in the form of variety the enemy contribution is much more pleasing. There is a nice parity in the mechs you will be facing.
Incredible story, action, & visuals. Great fun.
Slightly repetitive gameplay.