Review: Enslaved: Odyssey To The West

There is a man named Monkey and a woman named Trip. New York City is in shambles, its landmarks collapsed or covered in ivy. What looks like a new co-op game is a singleplayer epic, gaming's new sci-fi original.

Enslaved: Odyssey To The West comes from Ninja Theory, development studio behind Heavenly Sword which claims as its best attributes games with fun combat, terrific visual styles and voice-and-body acting by Gollum himself, Andy Serkis. This is an original sci-fi road movie of sorts with likable characters: the player's prisoner man Monkey and the computer-controlled Trip, a young woman who has affixed a crown to Monkey's head that will murder him if he strays or if she dies.

Ideal Player

People who like Uncharted and other games full of jaw-dropping scenery through which you can acrobatically jump your hero; also people who love the sometimes-flirtatious dynamic seen as far back as Prince of Persia: Sands of Time that has the controllable lead guy bantering with the lead female throughout the adventure.

Why Should I Care?

Do you want to play a new game that has new characters? This is no sequel, and that's not something you can say for most of the other games coming out later this year. It's also the latest release from an ambitious studio that next gets to work on a new Devil May Cry, so gamers might want to see how these upstarts are doing.

Hold up. They are putting out games in the late 2010 that aren't sequels? They sure are, and Enslaved is all the more fun because of it. This is the post-apocalypse (story by Alex Garland of 28 Days Later fame). We're on the run. We're climbing the rubble of the Brooklyn Bridge. These are things fiction has shown you before, but you still won't be able to predict every piece of Monkey and Trip's adventure.

Gameplay is king, right? Sometimes. Enslaved's best qualities aren't playable. They are the things you look at, like the scenery I captured here from an early level in the game. Graphics so good I called my wife into the room to check them out:

Is that your roundabout way of saying the gameplay isn't any good? Much of the gameplay is what we can call Modern-Simple, the 21st century style of being able to trust that button-mashing and pushing the stick while frequently tapping "A" will get you through the game's combat and platforming without worrying about death. This is a game with content you chew through, as the gameplay isn't there to make you panic, just slow you a tad. You'll never fall and die, I promise.

"Easy" isn't a dirty word to me. Can you describe the gameplay more? Monkey uses a staff he holds with two hands, Star Fox-style, to batter enemies or to shoot stun and blast projectiles from afar. But enemies - read: mechs - often have shields or guns, compelling the player to call Trip to cause a distraction. Less complex but more impressive is the game's platforming, a series of amazing set-pieces across extraordinary, ruined landscapes. These are the wow, the things you'll cherish.

Andy Serkis, the lead voice and body-acting talent behind Ninja Theory's Heavenly Sword and Enslaved acting as the digital Gollum in The Lord of the Rings.

Heavenly Sword, Enslaved studio Ninja Theory's 2007 debut PlayStation 3 game.

Buy It

If you want a non-sequel, something fresh and sci-fi, and if you're not going to bellyache about it being done in 10 or 12 hours.

Don't Buy It

If you want more depth in your melee combat than some basic light and hard strikes, a block, a roll and a few upgradable powers; or if you're against seeing the most beautiful Unreal Engine 3 game with bright blue skies on the market.

The Bottom Line

Enslaved boasts the winning Prince of Persia dynamic of hero and heroine learning to get along as you trapeze to the next rooftop. But while the game's storytelling is solid, that Andy Serkis influence is just polish improving the main star, the game's scenery. Beautiful, led by enjoyable characters and not very tough, Enslaved is the Uncharted of the season, a pleasing vacation in a great-looking version of our world.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West was developed by Ninja Theory and published by Namco Bandai Games, released on October 5 in North America for the Xbox 360 and PS3 for $US60. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through the campaign and thoughts about the ending I can't spoil here.


    Ok, so the new review format is cool and kinda not cool, Maybe they should also add in more of the orignal Loved/hated stuff?

    Anyway. I downloaded the demo and was quite impressed. Gameplay wasn't that great, but the visuals and story seem great. I'll probably order this once uni's out of the way.

      They do sort of have the Love/Hate stuff in the Buy It/Don't Buy It sections, but I would like to see that expanded.

      I'm not sure about the game. It looks nice but I have never put looks over gameplay and the gameplay sounds too simple, meaning it could end up feeling repetitive.

    Yeah, i'm not too keen on this new format... it also gives some really mixed impressions..

    Also, this review has made me even less interested in this game now. It just reminds me of prince of persia, where the visuals were amazing and the characters were ok, but the gameplay started feeling like a chore after a while. Don't get me wrong, i did enjoy prince to some extent, but it was a title i picked up for something like $15... which is probably around the same price point i'll wait for this to drop to...

    From the demo this game falls verry much into the "push a direction and press the A button to win" category. The navigation between fights feels really uninteresting to me with every thing you need to interact with flashing every two seconds. There is vey little to work out or connect with in the demo. I think the game will be a miss for me.

    Seems like a bit of wasted opportunity not letting you choose to play as Trip or Monkey. Monkey could of been for those who want to play a tank like character who just runs in, takes damage and bashes everything up whilst Trip could of been for those for like light, speedy attacks and moving around a lot.

    Maybe I'll try this out, I don't know. It only lasts 10-12 hours so I guess I'll rent it for a weekend.

    An "original sci-fi road movie?" How did you miss the part where this is a re-telling of the classic Chinese legend 'Journey to the West?'

      Ha , reviewers always get setting and genre mixed.

      This game is a fantasy with a SCI-FI SETTING.

      Also Americans didn't grow up with the classic TV show and tend to know less of the legend because of it.

        *starts humming the "Monkey Magic" theme song*

          Haha hell yeah. Personally, I can't wait for this game. It looks like a great interpretation of a classic story.

    I played the demo and I wanted to keep playing after it ended, that's enough for me to purchase.

      Same. Even though looking at it objectively the gameplay was generic to the extreme, the atmosphere and storytelling made me simply not care about that and want more.

    Played the demo, definately picking this one up. It evoked a really strong sense of character interplay, as well as a focus on narrative - something I've not seen since Prince of Persia 08. Which I adored.

    Also, the new review format is great! 'Loved/Hated' are such polar concepts, so it's good to have a bit more of a 'discussion' style review.

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