Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is an exciting action platformer that combines dramatic set pieces with impressive environments and even more impressive voice work to create a game that engages emotionally while remaining fun to play.
In a lush, post-apocalyptic world ruled by killer robots, Monkey and Trip team up to survive and find a way home. Monkey is a large and capable simian-like man who has all the acrobatic abilities of Spiderman combined with the strength and physique of Superman. Trip is a wiry girl with advanced technological know-how but no means of defending herself. That’s why she needs to enlist you, Monkey, in order to help her get home safely. And she does this by placing a hi-tech slave helmet on you while you’re out cold that allows her to hurt you when you don’t comply with her wishes as well as kill you if her vitals ever drop. It’s this partnership that forms the basis for the entire game as you traverse across dangerous landscapes and battle killer mechs in an effort to get Trip home, free yourself and discover why people are being kidnapped and enslaved.
Unless you follow the videogame industry, this is probably the first time you’ve ever heard of Enslaved. Although Enslaved was released at the same time as such A-list titles as the new Castlevania game and Medal of Honor, there’s a lot this game has to teach its more high-budget brothers.
The game play flips between acrobatics in the vein of Prince of Persia and Assassins’ Creed as well as combat and dramatic set pieces in the vein of God of War. If you’re looking for challenging platformer, this isn’t it. The game holds your hand through these sequences by highlighting the areas that Monkey can jump to and doesn’t allow you to fall off anywhere else. This proves to be a good design choice because not only does it look awesome as you leap from ledge to ledge, but having the player use a more manual style ala Prince of Persia might have served to make the game frustrating rather than entertaining. The combat feels mostly smooth and rewarding, providing you with a wide array of melee, ranged and blocking moves to help combat a variety of enemies. You can also collect tech-orbs from defeated enemies in order to purchase upgrades from Trip.
The best parts of the game, however, are the voice acting and the cinematic sequences. Voiced by Andy Serkis (“Lord of the Ring’s” Gollum), Monkey serves as an annoyed and entertaining counterpart to Lindsey Shaw’s (“Neds Declassified: School Survival Guide’s Jennifer Mosely”) Trip. The banter between the two is playful and usually entertaining, and combined with the third character introduced during the second half of the game, the developers at Ninja Theory (Heavenly Sword) do an excellent job at making you care about the fates and story of its minute cast of human characters.
While Enslaved might not quite be worth the $50 price tag for a money-starved college student, it’s a game that will be worth picking up for a discounted price come Black Friday or Christmas time. At an 8-12 hour playtime, there are plenty of achievements to be gained by replaying specific chapters of the story as well as the added incentive of keeping all your upgrades after beating the game. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West won’t make a lot of waves this holiday season, but it’s certainly doesn’t deserve to be missed by anyone who loves a good story or engaging characters.