Pin It

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West 

It’s love at first electrified-headband-attached-to-your-character.

click to enlarge Piggybacking through the post-apocalyptic world
  • Piggybacking through the post-apocalyptic world

Like all buddy-cop/true-love stories, Enslaved begins with the two main characters meeting under less-than-romantic circumstances. In this case, Monkey, a glowering tree-trunk of a man, and Trip, a ragdoll-haired brainy girl, are both slaves aboard an airship that crashes somewhere in Brooklyn. Then, while Monkey is unconscious, Trip snaps a headband on him and programs it to electrify his brain if she dies. This, naturally, convinces him to protect her.

Despite the non-consensual origins of their relationship, Monkey and Trip are soon exchanging affectionate glances and joking with each other as they make their way across the remnants of post-apocalyptic America. For the most part, Trip decides what needs to be done and Monkey, operating under my command, does it. (Or do I operate under Trip’s commands? Hmm…) Often, this means Monkey must run back to Trip whenever she’s attacked by the metal-taloned robots strewn around the landscape’s wreckage.

Despite her intelligence, Trip hasn’t figured out how to design a weapon for herself. Or maybe that’s what Monkey is. Most of his fighting is done with a power-charged staff in swirling, swooshing cyclones, but he can also use his staff to blast enemies from a distance. I was impressed with how many times the game managed to make me switch back and forth between the two methods of attack. Unlike other God of War clones — even God of War itself — Enslaved strives to bring variety to what can quickly become a button-mashing, repetitive activity.

This imaginative diversity extends to the game’s levels as well. There are perhaps too many sneak-through-the-minefield and avoid-the-dormant-robot levels. But there are also jumping mazes, extended boss-brawls, gauntlets of pure carnage and backtracking puzzles. Enslaved also gets away from the circular arenas that plague almost all third-person melee action games. Battles in Enslaved take place atop hanging bridges, along narrow ledges and in junkyard arenas that are chewed up, during the course of battle, by rampaging robots and artillery fire.

But it’s the duo of Trip and Monkey that makes the game more than just a fresh tweak of videogame conventions. Monkey is performed by Andy Serkis (Gollum in Lord of the Rings), who knows more than most performers about conveying a character through layers of technology. With Lindsey Shaw as Trip, the actors depart from the grim pretension of videogame performances to sound despairing, sarcastic, silly and aggravated — in short, alive.

THE GOOD: In a season full of sequels and spin-offs, Enslaved is a courageous launch of a brand-new story and characters. With its compelling setting, endearing characters and enough weak points worth correcting, I hope Enslaved becomes a series. I feel about this game the same way I did about the Uncharted franchise, which used a decent adventure game as a platform for an exceptional sequel.

THE BAD: The camera is sometimes under my control. At other times, it automatically pivots to follow Monkey’s action from a fixed perspective. And at other moments, it seems to be operating under deranged commands from another dimension.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a captivating journey that will hopefully continue.

Tags: ,

  • Pin It

Speaking of Games

Latest in Film

  • Swing and a Miss
  • Swing and a Miss

    Hands of Stone can't carve out a distinctive space among boxing biopics
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Texas Heat
  • Texas Heat

    Hell or High Water is the crime drama you've been waiting all summer for
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Gun Show
  • Gun Show

    Jonah Hill and Miles Teller are armed and dangerous in the true story War Dogs
    • Aug 18, 2016
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri
Bad Hex final show, Sea Giant, the Bight

Bad Hex final show, Sea Giant, the Bight @ Saranac Rooftop

Sat., Aug. 27, 7 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks


More by Marty Demarest

  • The Cowboy's Cowboy
  • The Cowboy's Cowboy

    A Canadian sings about the life —  not just the lifestyle — of the new West
    • May 15, 2013
  • Completing the Trilogy
  • Completing the Trilogy

    Mass Effect has finally arrived
    • May 23, 2012
  • Minecraft
  • Minecraft

    Adventure and survival too often give way to mindless crafts in this building-block simulator.
    • Feb 8, 2012
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Still Celebrating

    Boy George and Culture Club paved the way for genre- and gender-bending rock stars
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Where Are the Women?
  • Where Are the Women?

    A critic's year-long deep dive into the way movies portray half of humanity
    • May 12, 2016
  • Behind the Music
  • Behind the Music

    The Grammy Awards are about much more than what you see on TV
    • Feb 11, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation