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A few years after the release of the Playstation 3 exclusive Heavenly Sword, Ninja Theory return with a brand new multi-platform adventure title based in a post-apocalyptic setting.

Enslaved is an adventure based loosely on the famous Chinese legend Journey to the West and follows a story co-written by English novelist and screenplay writer, Alex Garland (The Beach novel, 28 days later).

Have Ninja Theory delivered with an epic adventure or should they go back to making games about hot ladies with dangerous weapons? Read our full review after the jump.

The story of Enslaved begins when a slaver airship comes crashing down to a now-overgrown and empty New York city in world where humanity has been all but wiped out by machines.

You play the role of Monkey, a nomad who wakes up from the crash only to realise that out of desperation, a teenage girl named Trip has enslaved him with a headband from the ship in order to help her make it back home alive. She promises him that once he has returned her home safely, she will remove the headband and he will be free to go. Monkey is forced to comply not only because of Trip’s control over the headband, but because it has been programmed to deliver a lethal dose to him if her heart stops beating for any reason.

So begins a partnership where both characters rely on each other for survival as they make their way out of New York City and find themselves in situations that range from intense and stressful, to downright humorous and light-hearted.

Enslaved is a third person adventure title that focuses on platforming and combat for the most part. As Monkey, you will spend a good majority of the game making use of his athletic agility to make your way around the landscape. The style of gameplay will feel instantly familiar to anyone who has played games like Prince of Persia or Uncharted and will have you leaping, climbing and swinging all over the place.

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Monkey and Trip work together to make progress in various ways and benefit from each others’ abilities. Trip can be issued basic orders to perform task such as moving forwards while you distract enemies by shouting, or even by creating a visual distraction herself while you sneak off to flank enemy mechs. Other situations will require Monkey to throw Trip across big gaps or carry her through mine fields, while she brings technical wizardry to hack security doors, or scan areas for enemies. The duo also need to work together to solve certain puzzles throughout the game, and while some can be fun, they are usually fairly simple and without any major challenge.

While I am not usually a fan of dependent A.I characters, the system and structure of the game allows the player to feel like they are working together with other characters, rather than just dragging their butts through the whole game like some sort of extended escort mission. Rather than feeling like you are carrying the weight of the game on your own shoulders, you really do feel like you are apart of a story where all of the characters have their place, and you are merely one of them.

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From a difficulty perspective, the platforming is by no means any major challenge as Monkey is incapable of walking off of ledges or leaping for a handhold that isn’t actually there. This more casual approach easily breaks a lot of the challenge and fun that should come with platforming, but is saved to a certain degree by the co-operative effort with Trip.

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With regards to the combat, Enslaved incorporates both melee and ranged combat, although the focus is more of the hand-to-hand sort, with the ranged combat only really implemented as an additional way to assist Monkey, or work on enemies weak points.

In the long run, the combat suffers from a lack of variety, which means that from the beginning of the game right through to the end, you will pretty much be looking at the same handful of attack combos over and over again. Even with the ability to upgrade your skills (by collecting orbs that act as currency), there is no real sense of skills progression but rather only enhancements of existing abilities, with a few exceptions.

You will encounter a few boss fights over the course of the game, with most of them relying on the age old technique of discovering a weakness and then exploiting it, with some of them feeling like they are dragging on a little longer than necessary.

The adventure itself spans over many varied locations ranging from city buildings, bridges, scrap yards, villages and more, each with their own visual style and atmosphere. In some cases the levels will come with an extra gameplay element that will have you using mounted guns, riding vehicles or playing around with one of Monkey or Trips cooler toys.

Enslaved is absolutely breathtaking to look at and utilizes the Unreal Engine 3 to deliver a bright and color saturated world where nature is entwined with derelict structures that have long since been populated. You will often be presented with large open areas and detailed structures that feel like they have fallen straight out of a concept art book and landed on your television screen. Be sure to expect a few cases of frames dropping here and there, but the game will move along at a relatively stable 30 frames per second most of the time.

Last Updated: October 11, 2010

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Enslaved: Odyssey To The West
Summary
8.5

Nick De Bruyne

Video games writer, editor and critic since '08. Living and breathing video games, movies and cars since the 80s. Follow me on Twitter if you love tons of gaming talk, and @pennyworthrevs for fun stuff and links.

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