Enslaved is a brand new, third person action adventure set on Earth 200 years after an unnamed disaster destroyed civilization and left mankind as separate tribes fighting to survive against the threat of evil mechanoid slavers. Located mainly in the overgrown ruins of New York and the surrounding wasteland, the tale focuses on the plight of two innocent characters lost in the ruins. Monkey, a powerful and athletic warrior and his travelling companion Flip, a tech smart young woman, are thrust together after the slave ship they are both imprisoned on crash lands. It's a simple enough tale but one that stands out in the way that it is told. Perfectly animated facial expressions, superbly acted voices and genuinely engaging dialogue all make the story and developing relationship between Monkey and Flip believable and captivating. It is a rare thing for a computer game to inspire genuine concern for its characters in the player, Enslaved manages it with aplomb. The arrival of Flip's portly pal Pigsy later in the game also brings with it some great moments of humour as well.
Controlling Monkey, of whom the voice and likeness are provided by the talented Andy Serkis (of Lord of the Rings fame), means that as well as fighting to save yourself you'll also be fighting to protect Flip, a role made more resonant as the game goes on. As well as keeping her from harm you'll have to create platforms and remove obstacles in order for her to progress. In return Flip can open locked doors and upgrade Monkey's equipment. She also possesses an EMP which disables nearby mechs and a decoy that can distract them allowing monkey to scamper close enough to strike without being shot down. Having a buddy that must be protected can often be frustrating in games, thankfully this is never the case in Enslaved, where on the contrary it would feel completely wrong for Flip not to be there, so strong is the bond between the characters.
Like his namesake Monkey is adept at scaling heights and leaping great distances between handholds. Climbing is pretty straightforward and apart from a few crumbling ledges or spinning cogs it is pretty much impossible to get it wrong. To make things even easier there is usually only one path that you can take and each graspable handhold or pole flashes an unmissable white. Despite a lack of challenge it is still satisfying to see Monkey perform death defying leaps and clamber up impossible ledges at the press of a button.
Combat in Enslaved is also a quite simple affair. Armed with a spinning staff, Monkey possesses only a handful of moves with which to mangle mechs. That is not to say that combat is easy. In later levels and with multiple assailants at a time the difficulty ramps up and Enslaved's simple and rhythmic combat system really starts to shine. Blows are chunky and visceral with particularly successful strikes earning a close up of Monkey's grimace as his staff smashes clean through a mech. Monkey's staff can also be used as a projectile weapon, hurling super hot plasma or shocking bolts of electricity at distant foes. The ranged attacks are devastatingly effective so ammunition is quite scarce to compensate and make you think before you blast away.
The lush garden landscapes of the first portion of the game are a particularly beautiful introduction to the excellent visual design that is present throughout. Exploring the landscapes for tech-orbs, used for purchasing upgrades, is actually quite a pleasure although slightly twitchy movement controls and the ever prevalent invisible walls can occasionally frustrate.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is not a ground breaking game, its main gameplay elements of climbing and combat are pretty simple compared to other titles but what Enslaved does best is to tell a simple story very well and with great levels of emotional and visual imagination. From its beautiful locations to the slightest smile on Flip's face, Enslaved is a captivatingly human game which will grab your attention and not let go until you complete it.
8 out of 10
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