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Retro Respawn – Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

I was feeling quite nostalgic when replaying one of the oldies. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a post apocalyptic action-adventure game. Announced in September 2009 and released in October 2010 by Namco, the game has a sweet desperation to it that takes you through an emotional rollercoaster. The voice of the main character “Monkey” is none other than Andy Serkis, which is also pretty cool. Andy had a lot of involvement in developing Enslaved since the beginning. Let’s take a look at how Enslaved was as a game and how far things have come.

You play the role of Monkey in a third-person perspective. The post-apocalyptic world is a result of a war between man and machine. Your aim is to take your companion Tripitaka, or “Trip”, to her home after facing a heart-racing aircraft crash. Trip takes you as her prisoner and threatens that you will die by way of electrical, vision inducing, headband if you try to leave or if she is injured or killed. After you take Trip home, the story continues with taking orders from Trip and taking her where she needs to be safely. As you fight your way through robotic monsters, also known as “Mechs” on your journey protecting Trip, you get to see their relationship grow. Your weapon is a staff that doubles as a close combat fighting weapon and a long-range projectile. As you take this perilous adventure with Monkey and Trip, the story takes a very serious and deliciously dark turn. Along the way you enlist the help of “Pigsy” who is a friend of Trip’s father. He looks like a partially mechanical pig man. He is hell bent on destroying the Mechs and becomes quite helpful for a little while. He also has a thing for Trip, which comes across a little bit creepy. There are fast-paced sections and slower-paced sections to the game. You may find that Trip is suddenly in grave danger, and so you must rescue her from imminent death. If you don’t get to her quick enough, that’s it, game over. Some of the slower-paced sections are when you are just traversing the environment. You will hear Monkey and Trip having light conversations, even having a bit of a laugh with each other, or having some serious conversations. This all adds to getting to know the characters. Partway through the game, you also get an amazing hoverboard. At first you only get it for a few minutes to give it a go, but a bit later you spend a good 20 minutes on it, and it is one of the more light-hearted and fun parts to the game. As you follow the story, you will solve puzzles, fight giant Mechs, learn a lot about the characters and pull off tricky acrobatic feats.

Enslaved was not without problems. One of the issues is that there would be the odd occasion where Trip’s eyes would disappear and they would just be completely white, or they would kind of roll off to one side. The cutscenes would sometimes crash and break, causing the characters to be talking but their actions don’t match what they are talking about. With any game that is slightly advanced for its time, there were bound to be some issues or random glitches. Another problem is that the controls are a bit delayed. You can be fighting a Mech and be pressing all the right buttons at the right time, but there is a noticeable delay. As you play through the game, you will learn to compensate for this.

The thing I love about Enslaved is the story. Without giving away too much, the ending takes an unexpectedly dark turn that leaves you feeling emotional and makes you a little worried about where humanity is heading. Thinking back when I first played the game in 2010, I remember feeling in shock when it ended. When the credits were rolling up the screen, it was a bit of a “red wedding” moment where you just kind of sit there with your mouth open. The creativity and colorfulness of the landscape is also very beautiful, and even though there is quite a serious story to the game, there are times when you just stop to take it all in and enjoy how imaginative it is.

Thinking about the time this game was released, which was nearly 8 years ago, it feels a bit underrated. Games today, especially post-apocalyptic games, have become much smoother and the graphics have made things much more detailed. Now in a game you can pretty much see each individual hair on a character’s head, count the petals on a flower or see individual blades of grass, so there is an obvious change in graphics. There are still issues nowadays with glitches, audio synchronisation and cutscenes randomly crashing, especially within online games where the servers are overcrowded, but these are easily fixed with a patch. In the days of Enslaved, if there were any issues, it was a bit too late because the game was already out and they had to be as perfect as they could be. Even with the few issues it did have, the majority of the game ran smoothly.

With everything said, and with the game being quite old, it is one of my favourite games, personally. I have replayed this game quite a few times over the years, and although games today are more detailed, delicate and are constantly pushing the boundaries of gaming as we know it, this brilliant action-packed story just becomes more and more emotional for me each time I play it. Like I said, I am not going to give anything away, so you will need to play it to find out what the crazy twist is at the end of the game or even if it’s just to see if you can spot the artistic mistake when Trip’s eyes go weird. It is not a very long game, and not a lot of people remember it or even know about it, but it is emotionally engaging, and that, as a gamer, is very important to me.

Developer: Ninja Theory

Publisher: Namco Bandai

Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC

Release date: 5th October 2010

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