A cute alien, that makes people explode!
+ Adorably murderous protagonist
+ Interesting and exciting gameplay
+ Many possible play styles
+ 'Bloody' and extremely satisfying
- Feels like the first game from the studio
- Would benefit from greater scope
- Overly sensitive and jerky controls
Warp, the first game from Trapdoor Inc and EA Partners, comes to Xbox Live Arcade as part of House Party. In many ways, Warp is a brilliantly bloody and cathartic start to the month-long collection. It oozes fun; from your character, with his quirky movement and explosive kills, to enemy chatter and comic fear that the facility's scientists show as you pass by. Even the platforming and puzzle gameplay - which in many ways feels like a blend of old and new - stays fun and fresh till the end.
Your protagonist is an alien, two or so feet tall, covered in yellow fuzz with cute antennae, that skips down the halls.
Now imagine if your cute, little alien could 'warp' inside people and make them explode in a flurry of blood and body parts, and you’ve just envisaged Warp and the adorable little alien, Zero.
Zero awakes after being captured and tested upon in an underwater research facility. Similarly to Metroid or Shadow Complex, as you progress you’ll gather new abilities, which allow you to access new, previously locked areas. By the game's end you'll be using projection, 'echo', switching places with objects, 'swap' and flinging objects across the room, 'launch', to navigate puzzles and obliterate anything that stands in your way.
Warp suffers from a condition similar to Mirror's Edge, a unique concept, with unwieldy controls, and not quite long enough to give a feeling of mastery. Except unlike Mirror’s Edge the control problems become more clearly pronounced the further you dive into the adventure mode, though similarly are painfully noticeable in the challenge maps (which distil and demonstrate the use of a single ability).
Movement is far too sensitive, presumedly designed to make your little alien feel light and nibble, but instead just make pinpoint navigation - especially in tight platforming sections or in a room flooded by enemies - difficult. Zero’s abilities are controlled with the same stick as movement; meaning you can only aim your warp or echo in the direction which you're facing, this becomes a massive problem when your echo is destroyed, causing you to barrel forward in that direction. It’s a struggle to understand why controls for your abilities couldn't be mapped to the other stick, preventing Zero from diving into lasers, force-fields, or other hazards.
Zero may be equipped to the teeth, but is extremely vulnerable; one bullet or hit, is enough to send you back to one of the game’s very liberally spaced checkpoints.
In addition to the control scheme there are other questionable design decisions in Warp. The main map is small - and apart from a section in the latter stages - lacks any variety, featuring only four areas, which force you to backtrack without providing anything new.
If you’re a fan of collectables, there are grub and film canisters. Grubs, are a completely optional way to upgrade your abilities, though doing so makes a sizeable difference to the experience, such as making Zero stealthier or more explosive. Grubs and canisters offer an additional level of difficulty, ignoring which, the main game and challenge rooms can be ran through in under 5 hours.
Throughout Warp you’re guided by a fellow alien that’s also been captured, it’s your only company, and you spend eighty percent of the game traversing the map to reach it, other than escape it’s the game’s sole objective. Which’s perfectly acceptable, many great games have dropped the protagonist out of their comfort zone and given you the goal of dragging them back to normality, except in Warp, there’s no motivation. You’re only communication with the other alien are lines of text (in a stupidly small font), and worst still, once you set it free, it just hovers overhead, doing nothing other than casually distracting you every once in a while, like a silent Navi.
In addition, enemies also lack variety and depth, there’s three main archetypes; the defenceless scientists, shotgun wielding soldiers(some with shields) and turrets which are bound to their path. The whole game feels as though it was developed with painfully tight budget, with assets, both visual and graphical, seen unapologetically repeated throughout.
It’s very clear that Warp is the first game from the fledging Trapdoor Inc. There are many little quibbles to be had, in addition to more than a couple of bugs, (at least on my play-throughs) one of which could only be navigated around by glitching through a force-field.
Though, you have to give Warp it’s due, it’s a brilliant concept, from a small independent studio, though even though the game’s been in development for 18 months it still feels somehow rushed and lacking in scope.
It’s just a shame that Warp dilutes a solid core of gameplay with glitches, overly sensitive and jerky controls and a lack of breadth to writing, world and character design. Warp has many elements which are great, explosive gameplay, exciting powers, an upgrade system that though optional, allows you to refine your play style for the game’s one of a kind protagonist.
Throughout Warp you’ll left be left thinking; that with a bit of polish and refinement, Warp could have jumped the gap between a couple of hours of fun and became a truly memorable and gripping start Xbox Live’s House Party.