Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Earth in a post-apocalyptic state is an all the more fascinating setting than the present day; while the prospect of nature reclaiming cities with its green, leafy goodness is somewhat more pleasant than a nuclear wipeout that colours the world grey and brown, and makes mans best friend a rabid, frothy-mouthed bloody nightmare.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West had me captivated from the beginning, and if you enjoy a good story there’s plenty of ambiguity and intrigue to draw you in from the start. The plot and characters are based on the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West, and Enslaved offers an exciting interpretation of the monk’s journey to India. The main protagonist, Monkey, has been captured (although it’s difficult to imagine how with his Gorilla-like physique and acrobatic finesse), and placed on a slave ship heading to “Pyramid”. In a wonderful fluke the slave ship overheats and starts falling apart piece by piece, beginning with Monkey’s cell as he punches out the metal encasing with an enormous bare fist.

In the distance a young woman (Trip) is a step ahead of Monkey in escaping the ship, and heading towards the rapidly diminishing escape pods. In a sign of things to come, controlling Monkey is a joy as he must traverse the disintegrating ship, by tapping X and nudging him in the right direction he moves with speed and lithe, while the set-pieces are distractingly large-scale and exciting (believe it or not being distracted by pretty things was my most frequent cause of death). Monkey desperately grabs the outside of the last escape pod as Trip activates it from safely inside, catapulting her and Monkey into the remnants of Grand Central Terminal.

Upon awakening, it’s at this point that you are introduced to the slave headband, which Trip fitted on Monkey after the crash landing. For once, there’s a genuinely brilliant excuse  for the protagonist to go out of his way to keep friendly AI alive: if Trip dies, the headband will release a lethal dose, and Trip can also issue commands via the headband that will cause Monkey pain if he is disobedient, all to ensure he will safely escort her home. Additionally, tech orbs dropped by attacking mechs and scattered throughout the environment can be used to upgrade Monkey’s health, shield, combat and staff, and once you finish the game all your upgrades and orbs will remain, allowing you to continue improving his talents in later playthroughs.

Throughout the journey, Trip’s expressive wide-eyed gaze and regular apologies won’t really make you feel like a slave – more like a guardian, a guardian to a character who is actually intelligent and sincerely feels remorse for her actions. While she offers genuinely useful input throughout the game without getting stuck on scenery, being attracted to bullets or yapping useless information at you like most “friendly” characters tend to, in ordinary situations she will reliably take cover out of harm’s way, and offer support in the form of distractions or gathering data on the local whereabouts, letting Monkey get on with what he does best – beating mechs to shreds with his staff and swinging effortlessly across dangerous heights.

On the PS3 texture pop-in was fairly regular, and on odd occasions the framerate ground right down when there was a lot going on, but these are small complaints against one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played this generation (though if there’s one thing that genuinely irked me it’s the ‘ding’ of a PSN trophy popping up after getting me all emotional in a lovely cutscene). I was originally planning to end on a funny quip about Monkey’s inexplicable hair style with his gelled-up locks, but Pigsy actually beat me to it. So uh, Pigsy? He’s pretty good actually, he had a line about having “some pretty wild computer skills”, which he said promptly before smashing a computer to pieces.







9 responses to “Enslaved: Odyssey to the West”

  1. TimG13 avatar

    I’m really looking forward to this one, but with a couple of other games already pre-ordered (and just as eagerly awaited) I don’t think I can afford to splash out another £40. It is something to look forward to for Christmas, however.
    A great review by the way.

  2. Duncan avatar

    Cannot wait for this! Ninja Theory have done an epic job. 😀

  3. Zekton avatar

    Oh man, I just love Journey to the west, I’ll definitely check this out. It had somehow gotten under my radar, thanks for bringing it up!

  4. Emily avatar

    I really fell in love with this one, I kid ye not, I’m starting my third playthrough tomorrow. Just can’t resist that Pigsy fella.

  5. Aris avatar

    I played this at Eurogamer Expo on Sunday, and played through the demo an hour ago, and genuinely couldn’t decide whether it was awesome enough to warrant a purchase. I’m glad to see that it does bear some similarity to Ico, which I suspected from the sliver of story delivered in the relatively short demo.

    Lovely review, too.

  6. Mark P avatar

    I’d have liked to have watched the old Monkey! TV series before I played this, but I only played the demo for this about a week or so ago and it wasn’t until then that I knew that I wanted it.

  7. Lauren avatar

    Played the demo afew times now, its helping quench my thirst till Friday! The graphics and flow of the fighting is brilliant. And Monkey is just amazing. Its great a classic TV series has been remembered in the gaming world.

  8. Jake avatar

    I’ve played the entire game today and I have loved every single minute of it. There’s not an iota of the game I didn’t like. And, as with Emily, I want to go back and play it through again. Amazing game. And I think I’m slightly in love with Trip.

  9. Matt avatar

    This may well be one of the beat games I’ve played this generation. A surprise hit amongst all the big-hitters, and it has genuine heart to boot!

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