The House Party kicks off in 2012 with the release of Warp from Trapdoor on the XBLA. Warp mixes elements of classic Metal Gear Solid top-down stealth action and the puzzle solving, lab escaping sci-fi of Portal.
In Warp you will play as the sickeningly cute zero, an alien who has been captured for experimentation in an underwater science lab by the evil faceless humans. After making good his escape from the cell that has kept him contained, Zero is asked to help a fellow alien in the facility and then make good on his escape from the laboratory facility by using his unique warping abilities.
Riddle Me This - The main element of Warp is the puzzle solving and Trapdoor have hit it out of the park with that regard. In time-honoured fashion Zero will start with hamstrung abilities which limit him to being able to warp to about 5 feet away. This will be expanded upon throughout the game by either reaching certain parts of the laboratory or by collecting hidden ‘grubs’ around the facility. By the end of the game Zero will be able to manipulate barrels and objects, travel out of his body and shoot himself around the screen. Although Warp sticks to the old hat trick of introducing the player to a new ability then spending the next section of the game throwing puzzles at you that need to be solved by that ability the puzzles manage to remain varied and stay fresh right through the game. There are a few moments of head scratching frustration but in the main the solution is always logical with a few clever tricks that will have you thinking outside the box.
Killing Me Softly - The puzzles themselves are wrapped around a stealth game where Warp has to traverse the underwater lab without being noticed by the facility security or scientists. If you are spotted, the alarm will sound and Warp will have to cut the power to the alarm and deal with the reinforcements. I found the best way to move around the world was to plat stealthy but kill off any resistance in the way. Warp, at first glance, is a very cutesy game but after you warp inside your first victim a quick spin of the left stick will inflate him until his seams can take no more and he will explode all over the screen in a bloody pulp of arms, legs, and guts. It’s a real juxtaposition that will have you gleefully warping in and out of enemies leaving levels strewn with body parts and bloody moosh.
IT REALLY DRIVES YOU INSANE
I’m Down to the Wrist - OK. It’s admission time. I am yet to complete Warp. I’ve been round the entire map, solved every puzzle and killed off the obligatory boss at the end of the game. My final objective is to escape the facility. I have made my way to the escape pod on 4 or 5 different occasions but every time I’ve made it the game has dropped me back to the level below requiring a 30 minute run back to the lift and watching as the same thing happens. I’m unsure if I’m doing anything wrong or if the game has glitched out on me but this experience is not isolated to the end of the game. Throughout the campaign I have found myself hitting barriers of fist biting frustration not because the puzzles are poorly presented or the enemies have got too tough but merely because there is very little explanation of where you are required to be going and what you are required to be doing. The random moments where a critical item does not spawn leaves the player second guessing if he’s doing the right thing or if he needs to die to allow the items on the level to respawn.
Insert Placeholder - The graphics and sound in Warp do not quite meet the level of creation and ingenuity of the gameplay. The lack of a 1st person view leaves you stuck in the pseudo top-down perspective and much like the early Metal Gear games it is entirely possible to walk right past an object or exit that just isn’t telegraphed appropriately. Aside from Zero, the lab is almost entirely populated by clones of 1 scientist and 1 guard. Each and every one of them looks exactly the same and sounds exactly the same, repeating the same 4 or 5 lines of dialogue. By the end of the game my murder count was in the 3 digits so that’s a lot of occasions to be seeing and hearing the same thing. The underwater setting is a nice touch with the glass connecting corridors showing off sharks, fish and barnacles that all add to the feeling that you are trapped beneath the sea.
Today. I Achieved Nothing - I’m not an achievement whore in general but once I start a game I like to finish it and expect that to get me around fifty percent of the achievements. As I’ve mentioned I haven’t quite escaped the facility but I’d say I have experienced 99% of what the game has to offer. At time of writing I have unlocked one achievement which I received after about 5 minutes of play. Since then? Nothing, Nada, Diddly-squat.
Warp is a strange little title that really seems to revel in the juxtaposition of the cute and the deadly. Unfortunately, Trapdoor have created just that: the game’s excellently crafted puzzles and clever stealth elements are somewhat tarnished by the lazy NPCs and lack of explanation and direction. It’s a title that will delight and frustrate you in almost equal measures. There is some fun to be had in Warp and it’s full of creative ideas but it’s soured by dropping the ball on some of the basic things we have come to expect in modern gaming.
*This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*