Review: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (X360)

Review: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (X360)
3.5/5 Review Score:

Gems are always a nice thing to unexpectedly run into. Whether they’re of the diamond kind or of the video game kind, it is indeed a pleasant surprise. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is of the latter variety (unless someone dropped some jewelry at the factory, you lucky fool). I had heard a bit about it before and during release, but then it more or less vanished into obscurity. And, that’s a shame. A game played on a whim turned out to be a fantastic experience, with great voice acting, a heartfelt story, and believable characters.


Enslaved Screenshot 1


Enslaved: Odyssey to the West takes place on an Earth some 150 years in the future after a devastating war using machines has left humanity sparse and the leftover “mechs” still carry out their prime directive: kill humans. You play as an escaped prisoner named “Monkey” who is enslaved by a fellow escapee named Tripitaka, or simply “Trip”. She wants to get back to her people and has recruited you to make sure she arrives safely. Using a slave headband, she has essentially bound his life to her’s because if she dies, Monkey will follow suit. So, facing a decrepit and decaying New York City filled with killer mechs, you have to escort and protect Trip on the journey home. Now, if you’re familiar with Akira Toriyama’s manga series Dragon Ball you’ll notice some general similarities while playing and this is because, interestingly, the game is also an adaptation of the same ancient Chinese tale: Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en. Just, with more mechs and post-apocalyptic America.


Enslaved Screenshot 2


The game play is mainly consisting of platforming and combat. Platforming entails swinging and climbing around New York and various environments, but while you may be hundred of feet in the air, you can’t die from a misstep or a missed jumped. Any deadly drops are surrounded by invisible walls, keeping you on the platform unless it’s somewhere you need to go. There’s also very little exploring to do, as most of the levels are linear, though tucked in out-of-the-way corners and ledges are Tech Orbs which give you more currency to exchange for upgrades. The camera would make it difficult to explore or platform either. It’s a fixed camera during most jumping segments and a free-control camera during combat and doesn’t control well. But, to make up for the simple and easy platforming, the combat can be tough. Fighting enemies is of the “walk into an obvious clearing and be attacked by enemies” variety, where killing all the enemies opens up the next area to move to. Now, you could mash the attack button at the various bots that head your way, but you’ll probably quickly be killed, even on the easiest difficulty. You have to mix in blocks, dodges, and (after some upgrades) countering if you hope to survive. You also have a chargeable stun attack and some other moves you acquire during your journey to help, but combat can still prove a bit challenging if you don’t learn how to use your available skills. There are also some “vehicle” segments where Monkey hops on his “Cloud”, which is a hover board.


Enslaved Screenshot 3


While the game play is pretty run-of-the-mill, almost everything that envelopes the game play makes up for it. To start, the visuals are fantastic. Most post-apocalyptic games are brown, off-brown, and grey. Enslaved‘s environments are vibrant and alive, where there are greens and foliage everywhere you look and it really looks like nature has taken back the world. Character models are detailed and well-done as well, especially Monkey, but this probably due to both his voice work and motion capture model being Andy Serkis who has done motion capture work for other monkey-like characters, such as Gollum/Sméagol (The Lord of the Rings) and King Kong (um…King Kong). You truly feel invested in Monkey and Trip’s journey. During cinematics, their facial animations and voice acting seem genuine and never seems over-the-top or “fake”. Helping the attachment you feel toward these characters is the isolation they’re placed in during the game. Other than Monkey, Trip, and later Pigsy, you never encounter but one other human being in the course of the game.


Enslaved Screenshot 4


Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a good game. While the game play is not anything to write home about, the environments and visuals make for an experience worth playing. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and in the end you’ll probably be angry when you see those credits roll! What happened to Monkey and Trip?! Who was *beep*? Was *beep* *beep* *beep*?

Command: give score, Fire Hawk.
Fine fine. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West gets a 3.5 / 5

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