Enslaved: Odyssey to the West takes place 150 years in the future, global war has ravaged Earth and killed off most of the human race. What is left is derelict buildings, small human settlements, and robots bent on killing everything that moves. These robots, or “mechs”, are all that’s left over from the war and they still run on the same old program which causes them to react and defend as if the war was still going on. The game opens with the main character, Monkey, in some sort of prison cell-like pod on a flying ship. Monkey is trying to escape from this pod and as we see a girl escape from her pod, Monkey get’s increasingly frustrated. There is an explosion which causes his pod to fall and break open, letting him roam free. This is where the player gains control of Monkey, going through a tutorial as you play, filling you in on the gameplay basics. The ship you are on is run by a group of people called “slavers” who enslave other humans that they come across for a reason the player is not sure of yet, but knows is not good, as the people taken by the slavers are never seen nor heard from again. Monkey knows he must escape, and an overhead announcement tells him there are escape pods that are launching from the other side of the ship. We get a countdown, as every escape pod is launched we are told how many are left. Monkey makes his way to the other side of the ship where he sees the girl from earlier. As you follow her around the ship you finally see her in the last escape pod, about to launch it. Monkey jumps on the escape pod, in an attempt to get her to let him in, and while he is still holding on – she launches it. The escape pod crash lands with Monkey still on top, the fall causes him to lose consciousness. Upon waking up he is introduced to the girl from before, Tripitaka, aka Trip. She has fitted him with a headband worn by the slavers and has connected it to her personal computer system, allowing her to control him to an extent. She explains that if she dies, so will he and that she will keep him enslaved until he gets her to her home village. He has no choice but to accept, and the journey west begins.
Throughout the game you will have a goal, this goal changes as you get to certain checkpoints and other main points in the game. It is liner to an extent, though it doesn’t feel very closed in. You are given a general direction and final point to get to, but getting there may be a challenge. This game gives you a surprisingly wide variety of enemies, seeing as they are all mechs. The player will come across enemies ranging from simple combat mechs and turrets to giant dog-like creatures and heavily armored mechs. The game plays like a standard action/adventure with platforming elements and you climb around to overcome obstacles. Trip is mainly a side character and will be there to help you out, but you must mainly rely on Monkey’s abilities to get the job done. She is a computer/tech geek, she can hack open doors, paralyze mechs for a short period of time, and create distractions but that is about it. Monkey has to even go as far as to carry her on his back at times, or lift her and throw her onto platforms. While playing through the game you will constantly come across red orbs on the groud, and you will want to collect as many of these as you can since they are what will be used to unlock upgrades for Monkey. The upgrade system in this game is rather effective and easy to use. As you collect red orbs you will be notified when you have enough to upgrade an ability. These abilities range from causing Monkey to do more damage and allowing him to take more damage to holding more ammo for your your staff’s projectile system. There aren’t really any upgrades that you will never use, all of them are useful in their own ways, making them a more effective aspect of the gameplay.
The combat in Enslaved is well put together. Monkey’s weapon of choice is a staff which expands and contracts, connecting to his wrist when not in use. This staff does almost everything for Monkey, it is used for melee attacks, stun attacks, blocking, and projectiles. The melee attack controls are basic, one button will do a heavy attack, another will do a light attack. The light attacks will go faster but do less damage, while the heavy attacks are slower but more powerful. One button, when held down, will cause Monkey will preform a stun attack. This will cause mechs with shields to drop their shields and take damage as well as stay stunned for a short period of time. The staff can be used to block as well, as in most games you just hold a button down and Monkey will block the attack. The projectiles are a neat feature, basically Monkey’s staff can shoot out power orbs which do blunt damage to an enemy, much like a gun. His staff can also shoot out stun orbs which will stun the enemy, causing them to drop their shields and stop moving for a period of time. Both projectile attacks can be upgraded to be more effective and/or do more damage. Keep in mind these attacks, like a gun, need ammo. You will find this ammo around as you play, but will need to conserve as it is uncommon to find it most of the time. Monkey is also equipped with a shield/barrier. This is an active feature that you will never need to activate. It can take damage for a small amount of time before Monkey actually gets hurt, and can be upgraded to last longer thus making it more effective. Throughout the game you will find items such as health packs (to be used upon collection), health vials (to be used by Trip when prompted), and ammo. Later on in the game you will gain the use of Monkey’s cloud. This is a small disc Monkey can stand on alone and glide with. The cloud can only be used in certain areas, but you will be prompted when you are in these areas and can use the cloud freely. It can glide over water or on land, and while on it you will go a lot faster than than you would walking.
At first, Trip may seem like dead weight. Someone who is just there to annoy you since she has no combat skills or training in combat situations. But I can assure you that she will grow on you. Throughout Enslaved you will start to notice a bond being established between Monkey and Trip, evolving from being forced to stick together to them actually wanting to stick together. As you progress through the story this bond seems to become more and more romantic, adding a lot of depth to both characters and to the story itself. You begin to realize that it’s not just about the journey for them, it’s about helping one another in the ways they can. Monkey helps trip get to where she need to go, providing protection and stability. He is someone who can watch out for her and keep her safe. Trip helps Monkey by being there to understand and care for him, which is something he has obviously never had, or at least hasn’t had for a long time. There aren’t many characters in the game, but aside from Monkey and Trip, there is Pigsy. Pigsy is a delightfully tacky friend of Trip’s father, and he has known Trip since she was a little girl. Trip goes to him for help in the game, and he offers his mechanic and technological know-how skills to aid Monkey and Trip. Now that Trip is grown up, Pigsy develops a little crush on her, and sees Monkey as a threat. This makes for some light sided comedy, as Monkey becomes irritated with his backhanded compliments and witty banter. This rivalry also serves as a means to the realization that Monkey and Trip really do have a strong bond, and that they are meant to be together. Eventually the three of them must make life changing decisions together and Pigsy realizes that maybe Monkey is not so bad after all.
This game is beautiful on a lot of levels, and whereas the graphics may not be stunning or perfect by any means, I think the player can look past that to see the story and gameplay as good reasons to play this game and enjoy it. I give Enslaved: Odyssey to the West an 8.5. This game grabbed me by the arm and took me into it, I felt connected to the story and the characters, and I also had a great time with the combat and gameplay in general. I felt like this game did not get the praise it deserves, which is mainly why I chose to review it. I hope that whoever is reading this and hasn’t played it yet will be interested enough to give it a shot, and I’m sure if you do give it a shot you will be happy that you did.