Thoughts on Enslaved

If you’re reading this and are planning on finishing this game, you might want to stop now.  Significant spoiler-age may occur.

Anyway, I finished off Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.  As one might be able to guess from the title, it’s very (very) loosely based on Journey to the West, the same Chinese story that inspired the likes of Dragon Ball.

Your main character is Monkey, an agile protagonist that just happens to ride from time to time on a hoverpad-thing called a ‘Cloud’.  Yep.  And he uses a staff in combat.  Didn’t see that coming, right?  Controls are a bit tricky, as Monkey goes from slow to blazing-fast very, very quickly.  Most of the game plays a bit like the recent Prince of Persia games, except this one won’t let you go plummeting to your doom.  Exploring the areas for masks and tech orbs is a lot of fun, at least in my opinion, and I like that they don’t make you collect any more than that.

Still, the main draw is the story.  It’s a bit simple, but the characterization is top-notch.  Monkey and partner / enslaver Trip’s interactions are absolutely phenomenal.  They feel like real people, which is a far cry from most games.  Monkey’s attitude about things is done well, and changes throughout the game to reflect his journeys with Trip.

Speaking of Trip, she pulls the load, too.  She throws an interesting moral conundrum into the mix.  She knows she won’t survive without Monkey, so she uses a slaver headband to make Monkey help her get home.  It’s interesting because from a simply pragmatic point of view, she did the “right” thing, at least for her situation.  It also becomes clear throughout the game that Monkey might not do all that well without her, either.  It’s especially interesting in that while Trip enslaves Monkey, it’s Monkey who ends up calling most of the shots after Trip doesn’t handle a situation well.  And Monkey shows a real propensity to protect Trip beyond the whole “I’ll die if she dies” shtick.

Pigsy may annoy people, but even he is a source of comedy in a game that needs it to balance out some of the hopelessness.

The end, of course, is where things get all Matrix-like.  The slavers that have been abducting people (and killing the ones that are trouble) are really operating under the control of one “man”, although calling him that at this point is a stretch.  He’s the only one left who remembers the world before the apocalypse, and he is bringing everyone together to experience the joy of his memories of the world that once was.  Even Monkey almost succumbs to this vision of the world, before Trip kills the guy.  It proves to be an interesting statement on escapism, and holding on to what was.  A little escapism is fine, but at what point are you ignoring the entire world around you?  It’s also got a bit of “ends justify the means”, as the villain has killed countless people in this misguided quest.

Anyway, the game didn’t exactly light up the charts.  It’s pretty cheap now.  And I’d say it’s well worth picking up at this point.  Not much for numerical ratings, but 8/10 seems pretty reasonable.  Play it for the story.

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