Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Monkey see, Monkey do
The year is, like, sometime in the future. And, as any discerning gamer knows, the future always comes in after a catastrophic global war and some sort of robot apocalypse. So there was apparently (I mean, obviously) a catastrophic global war, and some sort of robot apocalypse. Now, everything’s tumbled about in ruin, the robots are enslaving the scattered and decidedly shabby remnants of humanity, and it turns out that night time doesn’t happen anymore. That bit’s new. That bit’s also not really ever explained, but I’m guessing it’s probably something to do with radioactive fallout or the planet having ceased its rotation or the moon exploding or something. Maybe I’m making too much of it.
Anyway, stuff starts happening when this guy, Monkey, and this chick, Trip, contrive to escape an airborne slave transport just before it crashes. Hilariously, Trip then pretty much enslaves Monkey with a magical Headband of Ironically Unpredictable Post-Enslavement Re-Enslavement + 5, so he’ll escort her home. Apparently nobody asks nicely for favours in the future either, but I guess all that global war and robot apocalypse and no night time business probably put their tempers somewhat on edge. I know I can get quite grumpy if I haven’t slept probably.
So Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is kind of a mashup of a bunch of other stuff. There’s a bit of Prince of Persia-style platforming (the 2009 one; in other words, it’s impossible to fail, and seems like a largely superfluous game mechanic that just gets in the way between one place and the next, and the controls are occasionally sketchy), and a bit of… actually, it’s Prince of Persia again (hitting stuff with stuff, with just a couple of combos, but bashing X over and over works too). There’s kind of a cover system, and sometimes you get to play with a hoverboard. There are also loads of floating balls of energy that you can collect, and Trip – by some inscrutable futuristic means – is able to instantly transform these into upgrades for your weapons and shields. I know, I can’t work out why someone else hasn’t picked them up already either.
From time to time, the two characters have to cooperate to negotiate situations, via a basic popup command interface. This includes, for example, Trip using a broadcasting device to distract enemies so Monkey can move into close combat positions. It’s not much and maybe doesn’t quite fulfil its potential, but it’s kinda interesting and helps to develop a realistic sense of co-dependence, which works in the context of the relationship between the two.
The dumb platforming, minor control problems, simplistic and repetitive combat and a slow start aside, the game manages to be quite a lot of fun. This is mostly because the story’s not too bad at all, the characters are likeable enough and their interactions are mostly believable, the graphics are gorgeous, and the voice acting is superb. It’s such an arbitrary thing to say about a game, perhaps, but when voice acting is done properly, it can make such a huge difference to a game’s immersion. So everything packaged together just works, and you’ll probably forget about its shortcomings because you’re too busy being entertained. Which is kind of the point.
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