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2/08/2011

REVIEW: Enslaved Odyssey to the West (PS3)


Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is an action-adventure title developed by Ninja Theory, the people behind Heavenly Sword. The game is a re-imagining of the Chinese story “Journey to the West” which also inspired the first Dragon Ball. But unlike the anime series, Enslaved tells the story from a post-apocalyptic and much more mature perspective.

            The game tells the story of a man who is trying to escape from a ship full of slaves, the man (called only “Monkey”) uses a staff that can grow to any size as a weapon, rides some kind of antigravity platform around which he calls “cloud” and has climbing abilities even Nathan Drake would be jealous about. As you can see, Monkey is another version of Kid Goku. In his attempt at escaping the ship he comes across a girl named “Trip” who is also trying to escape, she has excellent computer and hacking abilities and is trying to get back to her hometown where her family lives. After escaping, Trip puts some kind of headband on Monkey which messes with his mind and forces him to do everything she says. Trip is a new version of Bulma.

            So the objective of the game is to help Trip get back to her town in a world now ruled by robots who seem to have taken control of the entire world after the human race. In your travels, you will have to cross post-apocalyptic cities full of ruins which look really beautiful thanks to the power of the Unreal Engine 3. The environments are full of water, plants, debris and just about anything you can imagine from a destroyed and desolated world. But the real beauty of the graphics in this game is the characters themselves. Monkey and Trip look excellent, they’re probably the best looking characters I have seen in any game using this engine, they’re full of facial expression, fluid movements and reactions to everything that happens around them. Graphically, I can say the game gets near perfection.

            Sound-wise the game is very good as well, the voice acting is really well made and the dialogs fit perfectly in every situation, the voices fit the look of the characters perfectly and since the game has a lot of cinematic, the voices play a very important role in the story-telling, fortunately their quality is excellent. The music is also very cool. It doesn’t have many songs but the ones it plays are nice and fit in the context. They’re nothing special though.

            Along with the graphics, the best thing in the game is the gameplay. Since it’s an action-adventure game, you can expect a combat system like the ones in God of War and Ninja Gaiden. Just like in those games you have the square button for weak attacks and the triangle one for the stronger hits. You can also roll to avoid damage with X and even shoot laser beams by aiming and firing with the L2 and R2 buttons. You are able to mix these actions on the go to add variety to the combat. A really cool detail Enslaved has is that normally when Monkey kills the final enemy in a group, the last hit is delivered in an amazing cinematic way, and this normally means the fight is over.

            Besides the combat, (which as you can see, has nothing innovative but it’s not bad at all) you will travel at all times with Trip and solve puzzles with her help, this puzzles are usually solved using Trip’s intellect and Monkey’s muscle. When you hold the L1 button, the camera will aim and zoom at Trip’s position, so you never lose sight of her. In the puzzles, doing this also opens a series of context-sensitive commands you can give to Trip (which is ironic given that she enslaved Monkey). Example, in one puzzle both characters will have to cross some ruins while taking cover from some automatic turrets that are firing at them. Monkey will have to distract the turrets and tell Trip when to move to the next cover so she never gets hit by any bullets. Sometimes, Trip herself will have to distract the enemies to allow Monkey to sneak up on them for a quick and easy kill. In other puzzles, Trip will be in command of some machine with moving platforms and things like that, Monkey will be able to tell her when to move the platforms so he can cross and climb some gap. 

The key to finishing the game is not only running around killing enemies, in fact, Enslaved has much less combat than many other titles with the same genre. You’ll have a perfect balance between fighting the mechs and solving puzzles using team work between Monkey and Trip. Besides commands for puzzle-solving, you can also ask Trip to upgrade your weapon and stats but she’ll require some orbs to do so, orbs can be picked everywhere in the game and work like the currency in it. You can upgrade your health, how many hits can Monkey endure while blocking, the strength of the staff’s hits and things like that which make the game more accessible in the later chapters when combat becomes much harder.

Since this is a single-player game with a story you can finish in around ten to fifteen hours of gameplay. The title doesn’t offer much in terms of replay value besides playing the game again in a harder difficulty or aiming at unlocking trophies and achievements depending on the version you got. But that really depends on what kind of player you are, in my personal opinion, finishing the story in this game several times would be fun since the game is pretty good in almost every way. But don’t expect anything different and a harder (or easier) difficulty if you go and play the game a second time.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is an excellent title that will most likely go unnoticed but I truly recommend it because the graphics, plot and gameplay are very well made and you can clearly see that Ninja Theory worked very hard at giving life to these characters and creating a beautiful world to tell us another version of the famous Chinese story that also gave life to Dragon Ball.

Graphics and Visuals…………10
Music and Sound Effects……....8
Gameplay……………………….9
Replay Value……………………6

Overall Score…………………..8.2/10

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