Giant Bomb Review

21 Comments

Warp Review

3
  • XBGS

Warp offers an endearing premise and unique puzzle-solving, but it's held back by some basic mechanical issues.

Don't be fooled. This lovable little scamp's favorite thing is to possess people and make 'em explode.

The new downloadable stealth-action puzzler Warp starts with a great premise: You're a goofy little orange Martian whatsit trapped in an undersea research center, and your only hope of getting out is to teleport yourself through every obstacle that gets in your way. Considering everything about this facility's security system is built around preventing you from warping, that's not as easy as it sounds. Your ability to possess, displace, and disintegrate a wide range of objects and human beings gives the designers ample opportunity--which they mostly use wisely--to set up unique and mindbending puzzle scenarios, but clunky controls and some basic game flow issues undermine what's otherwise a pretty neat little game.

At the outset, you can only warp yourself forward into space and inside specific objects, mainly people and various kinds of barrels. But over the course of the game you'll pick up other new powers, like projecting a spectral version of yourself through walls, swapping places with distant objects, and flinging whatever thing you're inside forcefully in a specific direction. There's also a diverse set of upgrades you can buy that give you advanced versions of those basic abilities. The upgrades give you some interesting new tactical possibilities when stealthily dealing with the patrolling guards--at which times Warp, with its overhead perspective, feels a bit like the first Metal Gear Solid--but they aren't required for the puzzle-solving. Many of those puzzles incorporate all the tools of the alien-research trade--laser barricades, conveyor belts, exploding barrels, and switches placed inconveniently on the other side of large gaps--to make you stop and think hard about how to use all the mechanics at your disposal to move on.

If you aren't well upgraded, you aren't likely to get out of this situation.

Everything about Warp looks great on paper, but in practice I consistently found the act of playing it to be pretty frustrating. You can't move very fast by default, and there's a lag after every warp before you can move or warp again. It's understandable that your ability to warp is limited for balancing reasons, but by contrast, just about everything in the environment kills you instantly. Things like laser beams and explosions are one-hit kills, and if a guard spots you while you're out in the open, you're dead, period (and they'll sometimes shoot you from offscreen). The sluggish feel of your own movement and the ubiquitous lethality of the environment aren't a good mix, leading to a lot of deaths early on that you feel like you can't really avoid. If the game had load-free instant respawns a la Super Meat Boy, this really wouldn't be a problem. Instead you see a load screen every time you die, then you're returned to the last checkpoint you ran past in the game world, leaving you to repeat everything you did since you were there the last time. To be fair, the checkpoints are distributed liberally, but I was still discouraged from poking around in the environment much, since the constant risk of an unexpected death meant the tedium of reloading and playing back up to that part again.

Given all this, it's freeing to purchase the upgrades that increase your movement and warp speed, and the game gets a good bit more satisfying and pleasant once you do, but that fact makes you wonder if those should have just been the default speeds to begin with. I recommend saving all your grubs (the game's upgrade currency) for those two bonuses before you go for any other abilities. There are some other clumsy aspects to the gameplay that don't improve with upgrades, though. The aiming control for flinging objects and delicately warping around in tight spots feels squirrely and imprecise at times; it's downright maddening when you're trying to warp through a grid of laser beams and end up frying yourself because the margin for error seems to be only a few pixels in size. I also ran into a couple of instances of object physics going awry and keeping me from solving puzzles properly. And while the rest of the game feels pretty well put-together, the last 30 minutes doubles down on all of the game's problems and makes for a pretty miserable final sequence. The ambitions of the game's core gameplay are good ones, so it's a shame that it falters a bit on the execution.

There's a sizable chunk of good puzzlin' in here if you can overlook some basic issues.

Warp isn't just a linear series of discrete puzzle rooms like, say, Portal. Instead the undersea base is set up as a group of sprawling, interconnected facilities joined together by elevators, not at all unlike Shadow Complex or your favorite Metroidvania. And like those games, there are some areas you can't reach until later in the game when you've gotten the right powers. There are 66 upgrade-powering grubs scattered around the base, and there's also a smaller number of film canisters that are just there to be collectibles. You can get cheap upgrades to reveal the grubs and canisters on the map (and there are achievements attached to getting them all), so completionists will naturally be tempted to roam around and pick up all the items they missed. But I found the game to discourage backtracking, exploring, or really breaking from the critical path in any way. The maps of the different facilities don't line up when you flip between them, and the elevator icons don't indicate where you'll end up if you hop on them, so you don't have a good way of figuring out how to get where you want to go on different levels of the base.

More damningly, some of the puzzles depend on items being in specific places, but when I decided to head back and explore the map later in the game and then tried to return to my objective, I found the state of the rooms I'd already completed hadn't been reset, meaning I initially had no way to get through them again. In those two specific cases I eventually figured out a way to skirt the edges of the game mechanics and return things to an arrangement where I could progress, but it just feels sloppy that you would run into cases like this in a game that ostensibly wants you to go back and forth at random times. There's only one kind of puzzle--where you have to swap places with objects on the other side of barriers--that I had this issue with, so it's entirely possible that if you were to head back and explore at other points in the game, you'd have no such problems. But that doesn't make it any less annoying if you do run into this sort of thing. Lastly, the game is practically begging for a new-game-plus sort of option, letting you go through again with all your upgrades and getting the items you missed. But there is none, with is all the more unfortunate given the existing issues with moving around in the game world.

Despite its mechanical foibles, Warp has a lot of charm in its visual design, animations, and infrequent dialogue, and if you can tolerate some frustration, there's a good quantity of unique puzzle-solving to be had. With a lengthy main mode and a few external challenge levels, it's also a decent value at $10. The game is rougher around the edges than its excellent core premise deserves, but it's still a promising first effort from Trapdoor.

21 Comments
Edited by Gimpy

Was never sure about this, the guy on the quicklook EX seemed so awkward

Posted by Animasta

so would you say the game is a little... warped?

Posted by beard_of_zeus

I'm not completely finished with this game just yet, but I mostly agree with this assessment. I'm still having a good time with it though (more than it sounds like you did, Brad).  Like you said, it's a little rough, but charming, with some good puzzlin'. Didn't realize it was Trapdoor's first game, hopefully they'll make more games down the line with equally cool core ideas.
 
Luckily, I haven't run into the issue of the swapping halting your progress after backtracking, but I could totally see that being a problem if it doesn't reset the rooms properly. Seems like a big thing for them to overlook. I find your complaint about the moving/warping controls odd, though, I didn't have an issue (and I didn't even get the upgrades, either), but maybe that's just me.

Edited by Zacagawea

Brad..I think you might have a Warped opinion on this game.

HAHAHAHAHA.

Posted by nickux

Aw wow I am really bummed to see this get 3 out of 5. It seemed so promising! It's not a horrible score but I expected much better from the previews I saw. 

Posted by Rmack

@nickux said:

Aw wow I am really bummed to see this get 3 out of 5. It seemed so promising! It's not a horrible score but I expected much better from the previews I saw.

The game is fantastic, it just looks like Brad died a bunch or...something? I never had any of the "frustration" issues he's dealing with, it was just a fairly challenging game.

Posted by locolukah

Control issues? Joystiq review said the same thing, but I haven't had any issues myself...odd.

Posted by sixpin

@Rmack said:

@nickux said:

Aw wow I am really bummed to see this get 3 out of 5. It seemed so promising! It's not a horrible score but I expected much better from the previews I saw.

The game is fantastic, it just looks like Brad died a bunch or...something? I never had any of the "frustration" issues he's dealing with, it was just a fairly challenging game.

Remember to take the reviewer and their typical interests/tastes into account when reading any review. Like Rmack said I never felt frustrated by the controls. Maybe Brad did die a lot. Honestly, the guards aren't that hard to deal with. The movement speed and brief cool down on warping felt very intentional and well paced. It is a good game, even if I wouldn't call it a great one. Score seems a little low, but that's Brad's opinion. I'd say give the demo a try if you are interested at all. It is pretty long and gives you a good sample of what Warped is all about.

Posted by Humanity

Chiming in that I'm having a lot of fun with the game and a three is definitely a little harsh. Especially how theres often talk on GiantBomb of games being judged on a whole rather than the sum of their individual parts. There were some puzzles I didn't care for but that will happen in all games of this variety. The controls are fine and the cooldown is obviously there to balance the gameplay. The biggest offender here is the slight load screen during each death and the strange stutter during checkpoints. The load time is tiny and that weird stutter while "ugly" in a way does not impact gameplay at all. Skyrim had worse issues with control, load times and oft times poor pacing but Brad loved it so much he didn't think that game was at all hampered down by it.

Posted by Rmack

@sixpin said:

@Rmack said:

@nickux said:

Aw wow I am really bummed to see this get 3 out of 5. It seemed so promising! It's not a horrible score but I expected much better from the previews I saw.

The game is fantastic, it just looks like Brad died a bunch or...something? I never had any of the "frustration" issues he's dealing with, it was just a fairly challenging game.

Remember to take the reviewer and their typical interests/tastes into account when reading any review. Like Rmack said I never felt frustrated by the controls. Maybe Brad did die a lot. Honestly, the guards aren't that hard to deal with. The movement speed and brief cool down on warping felt very intentional and well paced. It is a good game, even if I wouldn't call it a great one. Score seems a little low, but that's Brad's opinion. I'd say give the demo a try if you are interested at all. It is pretty long and gives you a good sample of what Warped is all about.

Yeah, if you like the demo you'll like the full game. It made me buy it right away. I'd say the only downside of the game is that the levels look a little bland after awhile, but it's only a minor thing. Instant respawn would have been nice but I'm playing it right now and the average loading time is 5-7 seconds.

Posted by drew

That's a real shame. The game looked way better than this in the Quick Look. I might grab the demo and give it a go before buying.

Posted by JacDG

@Rmack said:

@sixpin said:

@Rmack said:

@nickux said:

Aw wow I am really bummed to see this get 3 out of 5. It seemed so promising! It's not a horrible score but I expected much better from the previews I saw.

The game is fantastic, it just looks like Brad died a bunch or...something? I never had any of the "frustration" issues he's dealing with, it was just a fairly challenging game.

Remember to take the reviewer and their typical interests/tastes into account when reading any review. Like Rmack said I never felt frustrated by the controls. Maybe Brad did die a lot. Honestly, the guards aren't that hard to deal with. The movement speed and brief cool down on warping felt very intentional and well paced. It is a good game, even if I wouldn't call it a great one. Score seems a little low, but that's Brad's opinion. I'd say give the demo a try if you are interested at all. It is pretty long and gives you a good sample of what Warped is all about.

Yeah, if you like the demo you'll like the full game. It made me buy it right away. I'd say the only downside of the game is that the levels look a little bland after awhile, but it's only a minor thing. Instant respawn would have been nice but I'm playing it right now and the average loading time is 5-7 seconds.

The last 25% of the game is horrible when it comes to controls and randomness, the last level in particular, I totally agree with Brad on this one, first 75% is pretty good, but it just gets too cumbersome towards the end.

Posted by Sander

Loved the demo, would have bought it instantly if not for the fear xbox security and all that. 
I like a challenge and am encouraged by the comments here!

Posted by Infini7yx

Looks alright at first glance, might try the trial version later.

Posted by Humanity

@JacDG: I kept playing expecting this awful last part of the game people were talking about but I never experienced it. Not sure how much of a spoiler it is, I mean you're in an underwater base and trying to escape but let's just say if people mean the "final escape section that shakes a lot" then I had no problem with that. I think it added some cool tension. The final boss fight now THAT I have an issue with as it wasn't super clear if you're really damaging him and then theres a party where you don't necessarily have to initiate anything to trigger the next cutscene. While the game as a whole was fun and challenging, that final boss I must have attempted a good 20+ times.

Posted by Drebin_893

Nice review, I'm inclined to agree.

Posted by Elazul

Huh, I guess that explains why that dude in the quick look was so defensive.

Posted by djenson

I'm really digging this game so far. I've only had about 30 minutes with it so far though.

Posted by bchampnd

I was really enjoying the demo- interesting concept, cool art design (I could, however, see it wearing thin after a couple hours) - but then I got to the boss chase and found that I didn't really like the way the game controlled when trying to move quickly. That part made me want Super Meat Boy instant respawn but instead it went out to the same loading screen and I had to sit through the same mini-cut scene to queue the chase (if there was a skip button, I couldn't find it). I only had to repeat the section a few times but I could see that getting real old real quick when the difficulty ramps up later so I decided not to purchase.

Posted by beard_of_zeus
@Humanity said:

@JacDG: I kept playing expecting this awful last part of the game people were talking about but I never experienced it. Not sure how much of a spoiler it is, I mean you're in an underwater base and trying to escape but let's just say if people mean the "final escape section that shakes a lot" then I had no problem with that. I think it added some cool tension. The final boss fight now THAT I have an issue with as it wasn't super clear if you're really damaging him and then theres a party where you don't necessarily have to initiate anything to trigger the next cutscene. While the game as a whole was fun and challenging, that final boss I must have attempted a good 20+ times.

I just finished the game and feel the same way. The last puzzle section wasn't too bad, I only died once or twice, but that last boss is a pain in the ass.
 
I will say I definitely ran into the issues (in the back half of the game) Brad talked about with exploring the game world, especially with regards to backtracking. The design seems to discourage (or even make impossible) re-exploration of old areas to collect the grubs and film canisters. I've seen a couple instances online of people getting trapped by a combination of the checkpoint system and issues with not being able to swap into the next room because there's no object there, and having to start the whole damn game over. I'd say this is by far the most damning issue, luckily I dodged that bullet.
 
I still enjoyed it enough that I'm contemplating playing through again to try and get the achievement for speed running the game (<=75 minutes).
Posted by Humanity

@beard_of_zeus: A big issue I have is the lack of a hard save ability. I would have liked to go back and collect the remaining grubs and whatnot but when you beat the game it just overwrites your progress with a clean slate. I mean theres big bold letters telling you "YOU CAN'T GO BACK AFTER THIS" so I don't know why I expected the game to start from before the final segment after the credits. The problem is you can't divide your gameplay in two, where you go back to a previous save to finish things. If I want to do a speed run now I have to run the game quick, then start over and do the run where I collect everything starting from scratch again.