The game feels confused. It splits in multiple directions, and never really locks down one particular thing properly. It feels a little like, during the development, someone changed their mind on what the title should be; or that there were two teams working together and they ran out of time and just tossed everything in.
+The mechanics behind the teleportation are solid, and fun to use.
+There’s nothing quite as satisfying as making a pleading scientist beg for his life before exploding him from the inside.
+The challenge rooms offer a great diversion to the main-story, and going back to beat your times will help stretch out the play-time with the came when the story is done.
-Everything feels like a contradiction of itself. Mechanics, AI, art and story all seem to go in two different directions at once.
-For a puzzle/platformer title, the challenge in the game is minimal.
Before I get rolling with this review, I have a couple of confessions to make:
Firstly, I’m a big fan of the puzzle genre. I’ve, for a long time, held that if you were going to try and give one game the honor of being called “the best ever” (or could have only one video game on a deserted island, each situation equally as ridiculous) it would be Tetris.
Secondly, in any debate for “which superpower would win” conversations I will always interject Teleportation.
Knowing those two things about me, you would think that WARP would be the perfect game for me. It is a puzzle-based third-person action adventure title, revolving around the player trying to help an abducted alien escape the clutches of its capture by consuming the other captives of the facility in order to increase its own powers. The first power, which you have from the jump, being short-range teleportation. Brilliant, right? I would have to agree on all fronts, but unfortunately in the long-run (relatively speaking of course, this is a downloadable game that runs about 2-3 hours plus the challenge levels) the game seems rather confused with itself.
Generally speaking I don’t like to read other reviews before I write my own, I like a clean approach when I jump in so that my thought process is untainted by the opinions of others (which is why some of my review scores don’t jive with others in the industry on occasion). In the case of WARP though, I have to admit I did peek my head out from my hole to see what others thought, and was rather surprised to see a whole lot of love for the ‘adult’ nature of the game… which I was continually perplexed by. And to be clear, no I don’t mean the game is dripping with sex.
You see, from an outside perspective, WARP looks like a cute, family-friendly arcade title that anyone could enjoy. The game has an adorable little alien creature with a fairly (at its surface layer) passive ability: teleportation. Which, it turns out, is not at all what the game is about. The game actually offers plenty of blood effects and profanity. It’s a stark contrast that took a bit of getting used to; though once I did I would eventually come to appreciate the humor behind it. It kind of flips convention over on its head, melding cute characters and a standard “awe, he just wants to get home” story-line with potty-mouthed scientists and guards, and the ability to warp into your enemies in order to explode them from the inside.
Don’t get me wrong, all of that is pretty awesome for me… but it seems unnecessary. The game doesn’t feel like it is benefited in any real way by the inclusion of gore and profanity (though I love both) and probably could have been marketed to a large number of interested parties if it didn’t take that random fork in the road at the top of the game. If it weren’t for those features, which kind of feel tacked-on, it would be a fantastic puzzle game for all ages, and being short and downloadable, all the easier for anyone to pick up.
Enough about that though, I get that it’s a small quibble to make about the game. Clearly the development team wanted something a little bit more adult-themed, and like I said, I did come around to the idea after the shock-factor wore off.
The focus, as with most short, downloadable adventures, is on the game play; and furthermore, considering it is a puzzle game, on its challenges.
While the game does offer some small divergences, like collecting ‘grubs’ (the game’s currency, which are hidden all over the base you’re attempting to escape) and short challenge rooms (that resemble the VR missions from Metal Gear) the majority of your time will be getting from point A to B. To that end, and in parallel to the puzzle/platformer genre, it’s in how you get there that counts. There will be plenty of blocked paths, accessible only at later points of the game when you’ve ‘upgraded’ your character and obtained new methods of navigation. You’ll also be moving back and forth through the facility to pick up the tools you need to plan your break out, with the assistance of another alien being held captive in the basement, who is providing telekinetic guidance throughout the game. All of this is pretty standard fair, so it comes down to one thing: are the puzzles/challenges that you face along the way unique?
Unfortunately, no. The sequences that require stealth feel about on part with those forced segments in virtually every movie game that’s released. The game tries to take advantage of a hiding mechanic (you can teleport inside of objects) and options to distract guards (later in the game you can project an image of either yourself or whatever you are currently phased inside of) but it all feels a little clumsy. A prime example would be in the fact that guards can be alerted to sound. Warping or warping quickly creates noise that the guards can pick up on, and be alerted to your presence… in theory. However, for the majority of the game (I’m talking like 97%) you can run up and possess a person before they catch on to the sound of footsteps behind them. The game seems to have a tendency to introduce concepts, like stealth and hiding, without actually implementing them.
With that said, the game does offer two methods of play, which are made evident through the character modification screen. With each skill you have the ability to purchase one of two upgrades: either a stealth option (generally muting the noise of the action) or a damage option. So if the stealth doesn’t suit you (like it wasn’t doing for me) then you can go the other route and just spend your points on creating bigger explosions when you rip your way out of a scientist from the inside.
Once again, in the grand scheme, these abilities are rendered moot. For the majority of the game (about 90%) I horded all of my grubs, not spending a single one on upgrading any of my abilities; I found quite quickly that it didn’t hamper my progress in the slightest. I’m sure the concept is one of making advancement easier, but honestly the upgrades that I did eventually get didn’t seem to make any real difference at all for the gameplay, and were just different buckets for me to dump the grubs I was earning into.
The concept and mechanics (assuming you don’t care for stealth rules actively being applied to the AI) are solid. The game is one that I rather enjoyed playing through, and even spent a bit of time with after the story wrapped to try and set some times in the game’s challenge rooms, but there seems to be a lot of confusion about it. It is has a children’s game look to it, but curses like a sailor. It has a cute main character that just wants to be free, but tears through every living thing in its pass, painting the rooms in red. It is a stealth game, where you need to be quite and sneaky, though the guards are so inept that they’ll likely never notice you regardless of you running/teleporting around loudly. It feels as though the people that made the game just couldn’t make up their minds, or maybe that two teams split into warring factions during the development cycle and the only way the game could eventually get out the door was by throwing everything in together anyways.
But it is fun, and I do need to give them that much at least.
This review is based on a download for the Xbox 360 supplied by the Publisher.