Largely overlooked yet very unique puzzle platformer
With an increasing number of puzzle games making their way to the forefront of gaming it's easy for fatigue to set in. After having experienced titles like Portal or Braid you might think that nothing will awe you in terms of puzzles anymore. Warp manages to be just unique and approachable enough to show you theres plenty more room left for surprises.
Coming out as part of the Block Party lineup, Warp is priced modestly at 800 microsoft points. Sharing the stage with the more well known Alan Wake's American Nightmare, this small puzzler is easy to overlook. You take control of a small alien found by the military and imprisoned in an underwater research station. It is up to the player the guide our small yellow friend through the mazelike facility in order to escape a gruesome fate of experiments and torture. Among others, you utilize the power of "Warping" to break free - which is the fundemental power and crux of the gameplay. Warping is a sort of short range teleport available to you from the start of the game. Since you can only warp several body lengths forward, you soon start running into various obstacles such as double thick walls, warp resistant force fields, laser fields, mines, the whole nine yards. Movement is limited to basic running in all directions and your warp abilities. There is no jump or climb button so you will soon be put to the test trying to figure out how to navigate various obstacles to make your escape.
Although many people tend to complain about the controls in this title I've found no real issues with them. The left stick controls the direction of movement while the right spins a tiny dot around your body indicating where you will warp to. Other powers such as echo, a way to make a ghostly double of yourself, are mapped to the remaining face buttons. Throughout this journey a mysterious alien trapped within the facility guides you via telepathic link, warning of impending dangers and steering you to the exit. You make your way through the research facility gaining new abilities that allow you to access areas that seemed impossible to get to before, all the while evading guards and sentry turrets. Although some label it as a stealth game - there are no harsh penalties for triggering an alarm. Along with transport, the warp ability bestows upon you the unique power to warp inside objects and human beings, and explode them from the inside in a gorey mess. In fact the amount of people you decide to kill along the way, and it's possible to go through the game without killing anyone, with lead to one of three possible endings.
The puzzles are satisfying and clever enough to stop you in your tracks but never keep you still for too long. There are collectibles that serve a form of currency for upgrades that you can scour the station for. The entire layout of the research facility is open to traversal much like the Metroid series is. There is a defining moment in the game where it is spelled out, literally that you've reached the point of no return. In addition to the main game there are also challenge rooms that are very challenging to score even silver medals in.
Not all is without fault. Small technical hiccups ruin the smoothness of the game. There are no multiple saves for starters. Once you beat the game there is no game-plus mode and your previous run gets overwritten. Each time you cross one of the numerous checkpoints the game stutters for a second or two. Dying in some areas will happen often and each death kicks you back to a loading screen for 3-5 seconds. The game features a handful of "Boss Fights" which are all varying degrees of bad. There are physics that are present here which make some puzzles a test of trial and error before a barrel bounces of a wall just right.
Despite these slight blemishes the game is great fun. Developed by a small studio the concepts here are very novel and interesting. Some of the more complicated puzzles are truly very clever when you unlock all of your powers. Graphically the game looks like an arcade title but there are various special effects that dress up the presentation. Bottomline: if you like puzzles and arcade titles and have $10 lying around give this game a shot, or at least try the trial!