bdhurkett's ENSLAVED™: Odyssey to the West™ Premium Edition (PC) review

Almost great?

Having just finished it, and being forced to pick a rating... four seems too generous, but it deserves more than three and I'd rather round up. I'm inclined to give it the half a star just for finally being released on PC (the port is serviceable, as well - not an upgrade over the now three-year-old console version, but performance is okay and it didn't crash).

I played with a 360 controller, and managed well enough for someone who hasn't played that many "block and dodge and special move and etc" kind of games. There were some oddities and niggles, but I don't know well enough to say if they were actual bad decisions, a gameplay style I never quite got used to, or just my own incompetence. Except for a few short difficulty spikes I never found the combat a chore, and the checkpoints were kind enough. Even with the fairly limited number of enemies and moves it never feels like there's a single perfect way to get through a battle.

Considering the somewhat lukewarm praise for combat, it might not be shocking that I found the non-combat sections more interesting. The platforming parts of levels are essentially impossible to fail, since your character has infinite stamina, never misses a jump, and won't move at all if a gap is too large or high. It makes them more of a puzzle than a test of skill, and not even much of a puzzle, but swinging and leaping around the levels is still fun. Speaking of, the levels themselves definitely help the game. Purely graphically it's nothing special, but the colour and design make up for that, and the numerous invisible walls are hidden fairly well. One downside - the camera itself, which caused more than one of my deaths from switching to a poor fixed angle without warning and, particularly when the player is stuck in a corner, does its best to obscure what's going on.

As for the plot - and this is a purely single-player game, so it's fairly important - I'm not sure what to say. I wouldn't be that keen to spoil the details, but I'm mostly just not sure what to think yet. What I can say: the first third of the game was my favourite, I might get more insight once I look up the 16th century Chinese story it's based on ("Journey to the West"), and it's the main reason I didn't consider giving it five stars. The main characters themselves were fine at least; voice acting (starring Andy Serkis!), animation/motion capture (starring Andy Serkis!) and the cutscenes (probably with assistance from co-director Andy Serkis!) do a wonderful job of telling the story, regardless of what one might think of it. Also, I really grew to dislike Pigsy.

It achieved my personal trifecta - I don't regret playing it, I enjoyed playing it, and I actually finished it, which is somewhat of a rarity for my games collection. When I replay it, which probably won't be for a while, I think I'll still have fun. But... I'd probably only play the first third.


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