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Bev Chen
15 Oct, 2010

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Review

360 Review | Is this Monkey Magic?
The release of Heavenly Sword back in 2007 was something of a godsend for PlayStation 3 owners, especially since the console’s early days were hindered by its high price and limited exclusives. The game was well-received in a variety of gaming publications, and seems to have set developer Ninja Theory on the right track, because their new game, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is as good, if not better.

A retelling of the Chinese legend Journey to the West, the parallels between aspects of Enslaved ’s story and the ancient myth are transposed in an interesting way, but players with no prior knowledge of the source material will still find the eight-hour campaign enjoyable and very accessible. The game puts players in the shoes (or lack thereof) of Monkey, a lone wanderer who is unintentionally rescued from a slave ship by a tech-savvy woman named Trip. After fitting Monkey with a headband that prevents him from abandoning or attacking her, the two become unlikely partners, searching for freedom and a way home. The relationship between Trip and Monkey is well-written and succeeds in being emotional and poignant, making them a perfectly characterised and believable pair. More cynical gamers will probably say at this point, “So it’s basically a giant escort mission!”, but the relationship dynamic is far more than that.

It’s all about working together for these two.

It’s all about working together for these two.
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As Monkey, you are the brawn of the outfit, and will find yourself taking on the brunt of the Mech enemies. Of course, some situations warrant a stealthy approach because as strong as you are, the Mechs are no pushovers. Trip proves to be very helpful in both these regards. Several gameplay segments see her using a mechanical dragonfly to scan the area, highlighting areas of interest, Mechs and, in some cases, their weaknesses. Choose to be stealthy, however, and Trip can summon a decoy to distract the Mechs’ attention long enough for you to get around them. Trip can also upgrade Monkey’s abilities by using the orbs you collect from fallen enemies.

Cooperative elements aside, the combat itself is exciting, fast-paced and cinematic without having to resort to quick-time events. You will find that simple button mashing will rarely, if ever, get you through a battle alive and as a result, quick and careful thinking is the key to victory. There are also other factors that you can use to your advantage – for example, some Mechs will explode once you damage them enough, meaning that you can push them into a group and take them all out at once. Monkey can also use his staff to either stun or destroy Mechs from a distance, which is especially useful against enemies with guns.

The other main aspect of Enslaved is platforming, which is comparable to that of Uncharted 2’s. As in Uncharted 2, the platforming elements are very intuitive and require you to tilt the control stick towards a handhold, which are easily distinguishable thanks to the faint shimmer they give off. This makes for very smooth climbing, but the controls feel well-weighted and appropriate for someone as muscular and burly as Monkey. There is no room for error either as Monkey will not jump unless the jump is possible – if you die, it is entirely your own fault.

Getting dizzy yet?

Getting dizzy yet?
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At some points during the game, you will have access to Monkey’s ‘Cloud’, an item that essentially acts as a one-man hoverboard. Using the Cloud not only allows you to move much faster, but can help you reach higher places. Of course, there are limited areas in which you can use the Cloud, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying our time with it. The Cloud controls easily and feels neither too loose nor too stiff and unresponsive. Needless to say, it was a pleasant surprise as we were a bit wary of how the platforming elements would play out with a high-speed disc at our feet.

The main gripe we have with the game is the camera. In Enslaved’s attempts to be cinematic, the camera will often swivel around and change angles, leading to that disorienting moment where tilting up will make you run in the opposite direction. During platforming and normal exploration it’s not such a big deal, but it can turn the tide of battle if you’re not careful. We also ran into a few moments where the framerate would drop inexplicably, although never when we were surrounded by a large number of enemies.

BOO!

BOO!
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You’d think that the depiction of a decrepit city would be awash with dark colours such as brown and grey, but not in Enslaved. Environments are bright and colourful, but never to the point of gaudiness. The ground is covered in lush, green grass and buildings are practically wrapped in vines, which makes for nice eye-candy. There are some scenes during the platforming adventures that are nothing short of breathtaking, such as while balancing on the top of a huge windmill. There are a few neat graphical effects as well; chunks of rock will fly off barricades if they are shot at and will even crumble if damaged enough. In terms of the characters, Trip and Monkey are animated particularly well during cutscenes and each have believable facial expressions and natural animations to match.

Andy Serkis, best known for playing Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films, provides the voice of Monkey. He does a superb job of it too, as do the rest of the voice cast. The music is very impressive as well, with subtle ethnic influences and at times an ethereal quality to it. Those who pre-ordered their copy of the game from JB Hi-Fi will have gotten a bonus soundtrack, but obviously it doesn’t come close to hearing the music set to the segments of the game you are playing.

With its entertaining story, engaging characters, gorgeous visuals and solid gameplay, Enslaved has set the bar for developers looking to make an action-adventure game. Hopefully, Ninja Theory can continue making games of this calibre because at this point, fans know what they are capable of.
The Score
Enslaved is a game that has managed to sneak past the hype radar, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most enjoyable and entertaining action-adventure titles this year.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Content

Ninja Theory shelves Enslaved 2
23 Sep, 2011 Bummer.
Enslaved isn't dead just yet
29 Jan, 2011 Namco Bandai consider its future.
Enslaved DLC detailed
02 Nov, 2010 He just wants to be loved.
12 Comments
3 years ago
Damn it I had no interest in this until all the reviews came in!
3 years ago
I'm playing it now. I highly recommend it.
Damn, it's been an incredible year for gaming!
3 years ago
Yeah I downloaded the demo and it was great fun!! Just ordered mine off Ebay...
3 years ago
For some reason I cannot stand this game.
It just so plain.
3 years ago
Hmm... Found it on ozgameshop for $57, might be worth a shot next payday. for those interested, http://www.ozgameshop.com/xbox-360-games/enslaved-odyssey-to-the-west-game-xbox-360

I love seeing low hype ames that turn out great.
3 years ago
Since when was this game not hyped? I've seen as much on this game as MoH.
3 years ago
I haven't seen to much on this. All I've heard has been Devil May Cry fans using it as proof that DmC will suck/rock.
3 years ago
Been playing this game and I'm quite impressed icon_biggrin.gif
3 years ago
Esposch wrote
Since when was this game not hyped? I've seen as much on this game as MoH.
Really? Maybe we were just looking in different places. The first I heard of it was in JB Hi-Fi's STACK magazine and even then I wasn't convinced I would buy it... but then I played the demo.
3 years ago
First I saw of it was when I saw the demo on Live... which convinced me not to buy it. Go figure.
3 years ago
God, Joystiq has been writing about it for months now.
3 years ago
I wont be getting this game soon, as I am currently obsessed with Sonic 4, and New Vegas comes out on Thursday. But its either this or Vanquish that are next on my list: I would have thought the latter (come on, it's Mikami) but after hearing all these reviews on Enslaved now its going to be a hard choice.

October has been very good to us... maybe too good
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| More
  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  07/10/2010 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $99.99 AU
Publisher:
  Bandai Namco
Genre:
  Action
Year Made:
  2010
Players:
  1

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