I purchased this game after flutiebear recommended it, and then completely forgot I had it (or I was distracted by Mass Effect—one or the other). So when I was looking through my games over the weekend and noticed it, I decided to give it a go.
I regret not playing this game sooner.
This game is a mixture of Prince of Persia (the 2008 version), with puzzles and hopping around, mixed with a combat system that reminds me of Batman: Arkham Asylum. But Enslaved is more than that: I’ve played plenty of post-apocalyptic world games filled with robots, but none have quite captured my imagination like this. The world, post-humanity as it is, is beautiful. Everywhere there’s life—plants and trees and birds and animals—that makes all the dangerous aspects (killer robots mostly) seem almost inconsequential. It’s a reminder that the planet doesn’t need us—the world doesn’t really end when we end. There’s something beautiful in that.
What makes this game so brilliant however is that it is a literary treat. As you can tell by the name, this is based off the “Journey to the West,” with characters named after their folk-tale counterparts. There’s Monkey and Trip (short for Tripitaka), journeying west and battling “demons” all along the way. (The demons in this case being mechs.) In the original text, the heroes are on a journey to bring Buddha sutras back to the east to provide enlightenment, which is “an extended allegory in which the group of pilgrims journeys towards enlightenment which each of them can achieve only with the help of all of the others.” (Wikipedia)
Of course, our heroes, Monkey and Trip aren’t necessarily on a journey to enlightenment. (What is enlightenment anyway? the game will ask as our heroes journey further and further west.) Mostly, they’re just trying to survive long enough for Trip to get home. But one of the strongest aspects of the game is the story it doesn’t tell, only shows—the remains of New York City, the wastelands, the graveyards of mechs, the stories of the shadowy organization known only as Pyramid.
And that, I think, is the core of the game, that story it only shows us. What does survival teach us? How does it enlighten us? Is the world we live in better because we have to struggle to fight, and live, and find our families? (As Trip asks of Monkey?) And if isn’t, is the alternative any better?
With great voice acting, beautiful graphics and characters that you’ll love to death, Enslaved is a great game to add to your video game library. And for only $10 (the price I got it at), you can’t beat it!