July 1, 2012

/ by Tin Salamunic

Developer(s): Ninja Theory
Publisher(s): Namco Bandai Games
Platform(s): Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: October 2010

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a post-apocalyptic action adventure game based on the 16th Century Chinese tale Journey to the West. As Monkey, the player must help a young woman named Trip navigate the ruined remains of civilization hundreds of years after a war with machines (known in-game as mechs) destroyed humanity, in an attempt to return her home after her escape from slavers.

The Good
- Fantastic story
- Great art style

The Bad
- Controls can be difficult to work with
- Very linear

Hands down, Enslaved’s strength is its narrative. The story is made compelling because of how incredibility believable the characters are.  The dialogue in the game is very well written, and is delivered via superb voice acting and enhanced with lifelike animation. Despite the gloomy setting of the story, the game has some truly funny moments as well. Without giving any details away, it can be said that the relationship between characters feels convincingly real, and the player will become quite attached to them by the end of the game. Indeed, when Trip cries out for help when mechs attack her, the player rushes to her aid not to stave off the game over screen, but because she feels like a real person that the player doesn’t want to see killed.

Enslaved’s art style is another high point of the game. Despite having a post-apocalyptic setting, the game’s environments and character models are quite colorful. The ruins of New York City, where the game’s first few levels take place, are particularly captivating thanks to the lush green blanket of vegetation that has covered the rubble in the years since the war. Later levels that consist of more traditional post-apocalyptic locations, such as wasteland and tribal villages, manage to stay distinct and interesting thanks again to the game’s art style. The game’s character models are decidedly original - mechs have an almost organic, beast-like appearance and the clothing style of our travelers can best be described as an oriental take on the outfits seen in the Mad Max movies.

Enslaved has a game play formula that is almost identical to that of the Uncharted series. The player will enter into areas that must be traveled via platforming, areas that must be cleared of enemies, and will occasionally enter locales that host some sort of large, multi-step puzzle. Trip, as the player’s almost constant companion, provides various support actions including upgrades to Monkey’s equipment, and unleashing EMP attacks against mechs. Combat in the game consists mostly of melee action in which the player can block, roll, and execute simple combo attacks.  The controls could be better. Sometimes Monkey will roll into a low wall rather than vault over it, as the same button controls both actions. Also, there are times when Monkey will not respond to a jump action unless the analog stick is angled just right. Another small problem is the game’s linearity; there aren’t even alternate routes to take through the game’s stages.  Luckily, these issues are minor annoyances and do not ruin the game.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a journey that needs to be experienced by all gamers who love excellent video game narratives. With endearing characters and an exciting world, this game is highly recommended, regardless of its minor issues. 

Review by Jack Jacobs

Final Score “Superb Narrative” 9.0
Incredibly detailed environments, fantastic animations and meticulous character models.
It’s solid, but unoriginal and somewhat awkward and repetitive.
Immersive story with extremely likable characters.
Top Notch voice acting and great music. The voice actors did an amazing job of making the protagonists feel like real people.

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