IDL FEATURE – Day 8: Platfromers – Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

The fourth category on my list of five is dedicated to platformer titles. Now this definition can be somewhat vague, but to clarify, I’m meaning games where the traversal of the game world takes precedent sometimes involving puzzles or obstacles. All the Mario iterations, Prince of Persia, even Assassin’s Creed utilize this gameplay mechanic. Mirror’s Edge did this from a first-person perspective, as well as Portal, thanks to the mechanic that gave the game its name. I’d even argue that Rocksteady’s Batman/Arkham series belongs here. Combat is heavily focused, yes, but the traversal of the city and arenas is of equal importance. Putting all these worthy contenders aside, I chose Enslaved.

Honourable mention goes to Batman: Arkham City and Assassin’s Creed 1. Arkham Origins nearly beat out its predecessor, but notable bugs and glitchy sequences nearly broke the game for me, as mentioned in my review.

Day 8 – Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Developer: Ninja Theory
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games

Enslaved is a little known game from Ninja Theory and published by Namco Bandai Games. The story is a re-imagining of the novel Journey to the West and follows our heroes Monkey and Tripitaka, or simply “Trip”. Monkey, a beastly ape-like man with burned tattoos designs covering the majority of his body, and Trip, a lithe, lovely red head.

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The game takes place in a futuristic post-apocalyptic world, and as Monkey, we are charged with the task of protecting Trip. We’re connected through a digitally linked headband, and if she falls under harm or perishes, or even if our distance apart becomes too great, we’ll share a similar, deadly fate.

Released to critical acclaim, Enslaved showcased beautiful, colourful environments. The reviewers out there, myself included, also applauded the realistic and expertly performed motion capture and dialogue of Monkey and Trip. But no one bought it. Selling less than a million copies, Namco dismissed any notions of a sequel.

This is a big shame. The game may have suffered because of the title, or as an unfamiliar franchise in the Western world, but it deserved to be played. The combat was fluid, and while the story might not have been its strongest feature – it didn’t break any new grounds – the re-imagining and the emotionally engaged characters made up for any shortcomings. The platforming however, is the most deserving aspect worth mentioning.

As monkey we spend a lot of time climbing walls and poles alike, a lot of times with Trip on our back tagging along. With Andy Serkis as the artist behind the motion capture, every movement and interaction between Trip and her slave are masterfully realized and authentic.

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The game may seem forgettable at a glance (probably why it didn’t sell), but for many reasons its remained at the forefront on my verbal list of great 360 games, and I encourage all others to play it.  This game alone is the reason behind this Top 10 list, and I’ll likely play through it again when its backwards compatible.

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Tomorrow – Story Category: Grand Theft Auto V ->