Enslaved: Journey to the West Review

Posted: October 6, 2010 by brice42 in Reviews

Imagine a game that looks like Uncharted, feels like Beyond Good & Evil, and fights like Batman: Arkham Asylum.  The amazing game you’re picturing in your head doesn’t exist, but Enslaved will almost fool you into thinking it does.  It smoothly blends puzzle situations and combat, all amidst near-constant platforming of the acrobatic variety.  It looks amazing, Monkey, Trip, and Pigsey (the only 3 characters) are entertaining and very well-performed, and the story (when you are finally clued into what’s going on) is not bad, but doesn’t cover any new ground.

BG&E fans will love the staff-based combat, the tactical puzzles, the wide open Cloud sequences, and the sense of wonder and awe Enslaved puts forth (also the porcine sidekick).  Fans of Arkham Asylum will be familiar with the combat setup, but will really miss the Batman come fightin’ time.  Fans of Uncharted can remain aloof for now, Enslaved isn’t quite as smooth, but it is just as pretty.

Fans of platformers will not be disappointed at all.  Imagine if Nathan Drake and Korban Dallas had a child and only fed him steroids before abandoning him to be raised by a family of trapeze artists, and you’ve got Monkey, our protagonist.  Enslaved has some really wicked platforming sequences, but it throws some old tricks at you too, in case you’ve had a brain aneurysm since the last time you had to time your leaps to avoid hitting the moving sawblade/gear/flamethrower.

I’m not sure who passed the law among video game developers that every protagonist should be a master of parkour as well as kickassery, but I’m kinda starting to want to track him down and have stern words.  It blew my mind in Sands of Time when the prince would run on walls and flip around on flagpoles to get across levels, but that was seven years ago.  Now, leaping from one obvious handhold to another is easy, and rapidly approaching boring, even if it still does look awesome.  Also, I’m getting kind of tired of the run-around-and-collect-shiny-things game mechanic.  I do appreciate the ability to improve my character, but I don’t appreciate running around the levels like a maniac collecting orbs that are just lying around.  I mean come on, Ryan and I were comparing Enslaved: Journey to the West to Sonic the Hedgehog.  Just give out the XP for smashing robots, and put more of those image-mask icons around the level.  Those were cool enough by themselves to warrant exploration.

While I’m talking trash, I have to mention the most glaring flaw in the game.  As Monkey, you are literally enslaved by a hacked headband that will administer pain and death for not following orders.  Your master is Trip, the token hot redhead.  During the course of the game she gives you exactly three commands.  Two of them are during the same cinema you first see the headband, and the third is immediately after that cinema, and she just commands you to follow her across the room.  Not once did I ever chafe at the yolk of servitude, because not once was it ever forced upon me.  The only thing you must do is keep Trip and Monkey alive.  Before the game came out, the developers promised to fully explore the concept of slavery between the characters, but all you do is threaten to kill her a couple times, rip a couple deadly robots apart while she watches, and she never sasses you again.  The emotional climax in which (SPOILER!) Monkey tells Trip to turn the headband back on after she frees him is utterly devoid of meaning because he never suffered the pain of disobedience (well, he does in the cinema, but I as a player was never compelled to do…anything).  Plus, that headband looks freakin’ sweet, I’d tell her to leave it on too if all she ever asked me to do is stuff I was going to do anyway.

All in all, Enslaved is a decent little action-adventure title.   If they ever continued the Advent Rising story (PLEASE!), this team would be who I’d give it to.


  1. lagunawsu2 says:

    I too feel the need to have stern words with most game writer’s protagonists these days. Preferably in a dark alley. With a baseball bat.

    Main Character Atrocities of late:

    Final Fantasy XIII (making cloud female was cool, but not engaging)

    Just Cause (on any level, the BAD GUYS are cooler sounding and looking. It’s like they told some two-bit voice actor “Just do Antonio Banderas and it’ll be cool.”)

    Gears of War (in fact I will include here MOST FPS’s, why these people can’t find good writers I’ll never know…talk to Bioware people!)

    The Newest Metroid (I don’t care for these games, and never will, but the guys at Team Ninja RAPED SAMUS…it is utterly sad. I watched a few cinema’s and Samus goes from being a strong, intelligent, cunning character to a scared, diminutive and indecisive one.)

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