Trapdoor’s quirky puzzle-based stealth game is a passing success. Warp kicks off Microsoft’s XBL House Party on a good note
Warp is a strategic, stealth-action, puzzle-game developed by Canadian-based Trapdoor and published by EA and the launch title for XBL’s House Party. Players assume control of Zero, a little orange alien who has been abducted by horrible, human scientists for experimentation and research. The player’s objective is to escape the underwater research facility where Zero is held captive.
Not only is Zero cute but he (it?) is absolutely deadly. The first and most basic ability available to you is warp, which enables you to teleport short distances, be that through or into something. Once inside an object, you can jig or rotate the analog stick back and forth to make the object explode. This includes scientists and soldiers. Morbidly hilarious, nothing is more satisfying than warping into a person and making them explode from the inside out. This results in a blood-coated Zero, well, blood-coated until he warps again and leaves the blood splatter behind! This action (as well as the profanity belted from enemy soldiers) earns the game it’s Mature rating.
With progress comes more abilities and the opportunity to upgrade stats like your speed and stealth. The currency used to upgrade are grubs, small, purple-glowing snacks that you can find in off-the-trail areas of the map. Easy as it sounds, I didn’t find all that many.
The first hour of gameplay seemed fairly casual, however as I advanced further I found the difficulty level increased, with areas becoming more complex and challenging to get through. In some cases there was only a single method to complete an area but in other cases different strategies could be applied. For example, speed and stealth could be used to sneak through a room full of enemies, or you could kill every living thing in your path. There is even the occasional boss battle that takes some extra-special strategy to overcome.
The only issue that I had with the actual gameplay was a control issue. When you want to destroy a person you have warped into, you need to madly jerk the analog stick back and forth which seems kind of excessive (and would probably vary when playing on PC). The AI of enemy soldiers was a little weak in that they’d run into each other and get stuck on objects. Also, there were times when you’d go completely unnoticed even when trying to grab an enemy’s attention.
Challenge levels can also be found throughout the world, often entailing a rather difficult timed trial. At least, difficult for me in that my records never achieved more than a bronze standing, no matter how many times I attempted a single challenge. At the end of the trial your time is shown in comparison to your friends’ times. If you’re competitive, you’ll find yourself repeating the challenge levels just to beat them by a fraction of a second.
Don’t underestimate the difficulty of Warp. It’s a hard game. A few times I became frustrated with a particular area and repeated death to the point that I had to take a break and come back later.
The sound in Warp wasn’t overly impressive. I don’t know if I was just too busy playing the game to notice the background music but I actually had to turn the game on again just to recall what it was. Not that the score detracts from the game, but it doesn’t really add to it either. I also found some of the catch phrases by the scientists and soldiers to be overused after a few hours of gameplay, such as “here kitty kitty kitty” and “it’s here!” but it is a puzzle game and the fact that enemies have voice is surprising. I even snickered after being destroyed by a soldier and he rejoiced by dropping an f-bomb. Cutscenes are also voiced which definitely adds some depth to the game.
Graphics are fun and colorful, slightly isometric, and achieve an overall Pixar-esque animated feel, especially during cutscenes. The fact that this game actually has cutscenes, which are well done, blows me away. Thankfully, you can skip them – which you will want to do after dying in a boss battle, repeatedly.
Overall, Warp is an entertaining, slightly-twisted take on the action-puzzle genre that I would highly recommend, even to those who don’t frequently play these types of games. Zero, the game’s mascot, is a ridiculously cute and memorable character that will surely inspire some awesome merchandise and fanart (I hope). Warp definitely shapes up to be a a contender for one of the best downloadable titles of this year.
Tested on 360
Review copy supplied