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04th, October
SG Review: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Love throwing women around like they’re sacks of wheat?  Want to let out your frustration on technology before it kills humanity (because you know it’s only a matter of time)?

Like monkeys?

Want just an overall great story?

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is not only your game, but it’s the sleeper hit of 2010.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
is the next game from Ninja Theory, the same team that made Heavenly Sword, and wow, does it really show. If you loved Heavenly Sword, you’ll definitely love Enslaved. If you never played Heavenly Sword or didn’t even like it, you’ll still love Enslaved.

The premise of the game is set in a post-apocalyptic world 150 years in the future. There are a scarce amount of survivors left due to a catastrophic event that is never explained in the game. All you have are clues from war propaganda and mechs that litter the planet. It’s loosely based off the Chinese novel “Journey to the West,” which I knew nothing about. But thanks to the game perking my interest and Wikipedia, I am now an expert (you can see why we’re eventually annihilated; vast knowledge comes from a reliable source).

The game begins with your character Monkey trapped on a slave ship waiting to be transferred to an unknown heading. You are inadvertently set free when another prisoner manages to break out and you have to make your way to an escape pod, before the ship crashes. Explosions go off, pieces of metal nearly miss your head, and you eventually “land” on the ground.

When Monkey wakes up, there’s a new accessory on his head that doesn’t quite fit with the rugged look he’s going for. The same prisoner from before, Trip, has placed a contraption on Monkey to make him obey her every command. Your orders are to guide Trip back home safely. If you ignore her commands, pain is inflected. If she dies, you die.

This is the same level of the game the demo features (available on PSN and Xbox Live), which does not do the game justice.

The first thing that catches your attention in the game is the environment. The graphics look stunning with its bright colors. The characters themselves are marvelously designed. Trips’ look does resemble Nariko in a number of ways, but their personalities differ on a grand scale. Monkey is a macho man who fits his name down to his movement and his clothing – he even has a scarf clipped on his pants that looks like a tail.

Trip: Always scared vs. Nariko: Always angry

The general gameplay is platforming and beating up mechs that attack you and Trip. The entire game is an escort mission; your job is to protect Trip at all times, while not getting yourself killed in the process. This scenario doesn’t become much of an annoyance. Trip can get into danger a lot, but that just prompts great nerve-wrecking gameplay and epic chases.

If you try to leave Trip, the headband reacts

Trip can hold her own every now and then. She has a nifty dragonfly that maps out your objectives. She can release an EMP charge that temporarily stuns enemies around her when she’s in trouble. She also provides a decoy to help you sneak your way into kicking some ass… If mechs had any.

The combat itself isn’t very diverse; you eventually form a fighting pattern that works for most of the enemies. There’s no room for extravagant combos like God of War either, but there are ways to improve on what you do have at your disposal, as the game progresses.

Even when you do form a pattern, you can still be overwhelmed and be forced to think on your feet; this isn’t a simple hack and slash. I went in with that mindset and got my butt handed to me by scrap sheets of metal. It would be very embarrassing for the human race if I was one of the survivors, which I wouldn’t mind being if Monkey was my partner.

I want one of these for Christmas now

Speaking of that shirtless man, Monkey also has an interesting device called “the cloud,” an electronic hoverboard skate-thing (this was the best I could come up with). Although it’s only available in certain parts of the game, it’s a lot of fun and quite handy, especially during boss battles. These boss fights are over the top too, and it challenges your brain rather your button smashing skills.

Platforming is a big deal in the game, and it’s very cinematic (Uncharted inspired?). Unlike Uncharted, at no point can you ever fall to your death if you miscalculate. If you’re not exactly where the game needs you to be to jump, Monkey just stumbles over the edge until you get it right – some men are used to hearing these exact words.

Despite the fixed path, this game has been one of the more challenging ones I’ve played. There was quite a few times I got stuck, and I’m not the only one this happened too (I have proof!). For these puzzles you make use of levers, you give instructions to Trip on when to perform certain actions, and sometimes you have to fling Trip to a far-away platform because she likes being thrown around by a strong man.


While the gameplay may not be setting new standards, the story and its characters is where Enslaved truly holds its own. Monkey’s and Trip’s relationship, which isn’t exactly romantic, keeps you glued to the screen.

At first, Trip can be whiny and Monkey is cold (for obvious reasons), but as the game progresses you see their personalities evolve. Trip is just trying to get home, but was smart enough to rope someone into helping her get there because she knew she couldn’t make it on her own. Monkey is a man with no dwelling or destination. They both help each other grow and find new meaning in their lives.

You’ll genuinely feel for these characters, and want to see where their paths end. Later on in the story you are introduced to another character named Pigsy, a fat tattooed man with an obsession with pigs. He’s truly funny and entertaining (and dirty), so of course I liked him a lot.

He’s so sexy… that belt seals the deal, with a kiss (har, har)

When you finally make it to the end, the final scenes do a hell of a trip (haha, get it?) on your mind. You’re left wondering what the hell just happened. It actually leaves you wanting more. It stays in your mind even after it’s all over, and you question everything you just experienced in the game.

This is what puts this game on another level; this is what games need to be doing!

Words are not always needed to convey emotions

Of course, this was achieved because the story was the most important element of the game. Ninja Theory hired Alex Garland to help with the story; he’s the mind behind the movies 28 Days Later and Sunshine. Andy Serkis assisted with Monkey’s character, whom people may recognize as Gollum from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The dialogue is remarkable and the motion-capture used to help the characters emote exactly what they were feeling was the icing on the development cake.

Yet despite all my praise, the game does have quite a significant drawback that may annoy some people. There are technical issues that plague the game and at points slowed me down.

The game does have frame rate issues, making the transitions from cutscene to gameplay rough. There are a few camera hiccups. At one point in the game I had to restart a checkpoint because the camera stayed fixed very far away from the boss battle I was in, rendering me useless to fight. Thus, the polishing of Enslaved isn’t as great as Heavenly Sword’s was, but it never stopped me from enjoying the journey.

The game will take ten to fifteen hours to complete, and doesn’t have much of a replay value except for those who want to collect some goodies and trophies. Even so, it’s worth it for everyone to play it at least once. I urge a buy though, considering there is DLC to look forward to. The DLC will involve a side-story for Pigsy.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West was a great adventure. Even when I was frustrated in certain levels of the game, the story kept me moving. It was a refreshing change to have the plot and characters matter as much (or even more) than the gameplay. I hope this game pushes other developers to think outside the box and work on every aspect of their games, because it can make a difference between an average game and a hit title.

I will now end my review in the same way I began it: Love playing with characters that spark you to think and feel? Want to experience a fantastic narrative that will leave you wanting more? Like innovation? Do you love great video games? This game is for you.

Author’s Note: I received an early copy of the game for review from Promethium Marketing, on behalf of Ninja Theory. Played the game to completion.

October 4th, 2010 at 10:15 by SilverPR


Good work miss. I’m still debating if this or Castlevania will be purchased by me. That at least which one first.

October 4th, 2010 at 10:31 by karbaasi92


Nicely written review.

It’s been awhile since I read a review, so this may have been done before, but I really liked how you included pictures w/ captions in your review.
It makes the review look so much nicer than just a wall of text 🙂

As for the game. It looks great, the platforming seems to be good and the story might be interesting to me, but it just doesn’t make me buy it. That “something” is missing.
Might pick it up when it comes down prize :/

October 4th, 2010 at 22:16 by Esmeralda


Nope, I’m an original. Only one to ever do this 😉 Well I just write most of my long articles this way now. I hate having big blocks of text go on for too long, my eyes strain. You can always rent or buy it later, but believe me you’ll like it if you appreciate story.

October 4th, 2010 at 11:33 by The Jack Of Hearts SG


Great Review Esme!

From other reviews I have read the PS3 version of Enslaved suffers from some technical issues that you already covered in your review such as getting stuck in the environment, camera not panning out, slow down, etc.

I personally tried the demo on my PS3 last week and thought it was fairly interesting. I might give this a rent along with Castlevania and see if I want to play through them or not.

October 4th, 2010 at 22:17 by Esmeralda


Thanks! I read that too, and it really sucks the PS3 version suffers more. Multiplatform isn’t always the best way to go about things. Rental is best to check it out, I encourage everyone to at least try some of it (besides just the demo)!

October 4th, 2010 at 15:25 by locodice


Great ost

October 4th, 2010 at 22:18 by Esmeralda


It does have a great score

October 4th, 2010 at 18:59 by Someone Else


I thought the demo was a little underwhelming, even though I really did want to like it as Heavenly Sword was brilliant and underappreciated. It’s good to see that the full game is better. Too bad there’s a bunch of other games I want more…

October 5th, 2010 at 02:36 by MightyMutt


“Trips’ look does resemble Nariko in a number of ways, but their personalities differ on a grand scale.”

I chatted to the game’s Art Director and he told me that he designed both the characters and accepted that they did look similar. They did start with a very different look but ended up as it is as someone on the team has a “thing for redheads!” They were confident enough that the personality would help separate the two female characters as they were confident that the performance of the actors would come through into the game.

We also interviewed the game’s creative director at Eurogamer Expo 2010 and will have a video of that interview out soon.

Nice review Esme, I too will definitely be buying this game.

October 5th, 2010 at 13:03 by Esmeralda


Haha, I read somewhere that in the studio someone did have a “thing for redheads!” so I guess it’s true. But yes, they accomplished separating them personality-wise so it worked out. Looking forward to the interview, and thanks for comments!

October 5th, 2010 at 09:58 by bluemanrule


Very good review. I’ve been shouting about this game for some time now and I am glad you saw the good in it. I’ve had this game pre-ordered for some time so I can’t wait to get home. Again, very good review.

October 5th, 2010 at 12:48 by Walter


I was on the fence for this game but after reading about the focus on character and stories I’ll gladly add it to my collection.

October 5th, 2010 at 18:48 by Bruce


Sorry but your intro is all wrong. Everything Monkey related needs to start with the sentence:

“In the world before Monkey, primal chaos reined.”

October 11th, 2010 at 02:18 by pOOpInFlames


Great review Esme.
I beat this game yesterday and i had a blast the whole way thru. I’m definitely going back for trophys and more fun.