Xbox 360
Games for Lunch: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Posted by Kyle Orland (October 04, 2010)

Games for Lunch chronicles the first hour of a different game every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Each hour ends with the answer to the only question that matters at that point: Do I want to keep playing? For more information, check out the Frequently Asked Questions.

Developer: Ninja Theory
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Release Date: Oct. 5, 2010
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Boy meets girl, boy and girl escapes from slave ship, girl controls boy through telepathic headband...

0:00 I've been excited about this one ever since I heard the creators talk about crafting the story at the Develop conference. Early buzz from some journalist pals didn't hurt either.

0:01 An extremely basic title screen features some scrolling barcodes in the background. I press start and it zooms out to show a woman staring at that screen, her face reflected on the blank left side. Her eyes dart back and forth realistically. I like how she flicks the screen to change between options screens too.

0:04 I start a New Journey on Normal difficulty and wait through a decently long loading screen. Chapter 1: The Escape. "Welcome to slave ship 90 en route to Pyramid," says a computerized voice. The camera focuses on a muscle-bound, tribal-tattooed guy trapped inside a large metal egg. He doesn't look happy about it, either. He watches as the girl from the Title Screen breaks out of her own egg and taps some nearby computer screens, triggering large explosions on the other end of the hallway. The guy in the egg screams for help, but only receives a jarring explosion that knocks his egg to the ground and lets him carefully climb out.

0:05 In control, I run towards the open end of the grate-floored hallway. A guy fires at me, then an egg explodes off wall and takes him out. Convenient!

0:07 Nearby explosions send me reeling a bit as I continue running. At one point I take a flying leap that causes my arms and legs to flail wildly. Great character animation here.

0:08 The game makes it incredibly easy to run along narrow beams and jump onto the same with an easy precision. Reminds me quite a bit of the PS2 Prince of Persia games.

0:09 "Hey where are you going? How do you get off this thing?" says the guy as he finally catches up to the girl. She runs off and the walkway explodes before he can follow. Then the entire backside of the ship blows off and I'm forced to grab an exposed beam and hang on for my life. Reminds me of the beginning of Uncharted 2 and the beginning of the Lost TV show at the same time.

0:10 I'm jumping effortlessly between shiny handholds on the side of the deteriorating ship, now. More shades of Prince of Persia in the sheer ease of movement.

0:11 A wandering mech takes out some soldiers and II dive away in a cut scene. "I can't fight this thing. I've gotta get my weapons back."

0:12 I push a masked soldier against the wall and demand to know where my stuff is. He finally gives in, only to trigger a computerized voice discussing a detected "infraction." His helmet/mask sizzles with a bright light and he slumps over dead. Yikes.

0:13 I find my boxing gloves "Shields active, cloud inactive" says the integrated computer voice. A extendable bo staff made of pure energy seems to work, too.

0:14 The glove's light blue energy shield blocks a few bullets as I run towards a guard. The game pauses to teach me how to unleash some incredibly balletic attacks with the energy bo.

0:15 I automatically slow to a walk as I go through a hallway of shelved combat mechs. "Combat mechs... at least they're not active," I say. Right on cue, the computer voice pipes in: "Activating: Combat mech." Heh.

0:16 The game teaches me how to block and dodge. As I take out the mech, the camera cuts to show a close up of my bo shattering it to pieces, revealing my snarling face on the other side. Dramatic!

0:17 Learning about stun charge attacks (to break mech blocs) and a "wide attack" that knocks mechs back without damaging them. The smooth combat animation reminds me of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Man, this game just keeps reminding me of stuff.

0:18 The girl ducks through a door just ahead of me. I pound on the thick window, demanding she open up, but she just runs off. A wide shot shows the ship continuing to explode.

0:20 I take a detour along the wings, encountering three more mechs as I do. Everything feels a bit too directed so far... as if there's only one way to go and the game is automatically pushing me in that way. Not that it hasn't been an enjoyable ride, so far.

0:21 In a cut scene, the shell of a ship clips the torch of the Statue of Liberty. So we're in America, then. "We're gonna crash. I gotta get to one of those pods," my guy says to no one in particular.

0:23 I peel back a metal grate with a simple press of the B button. I didn't even have to tap it repeatedly! The door flies into a wing, though, causing a chain reaction explosion that makes the ship leans violently to one side. I grab a side of the now-vertical wing as the ship heads straight for the ruins of a New York skyscraper. I try to jump up and out of the way, but I don't get high enough in time, and die in huge explosion. Loading...

0:25 This time I escape the explosion and dodge debris as I run for the final escape pod. I jump atop it, but of course the girl is already in it. They exchange worried looks through the window. She moves for the eject button. "No, no don't do that!" She does that.

0:26 My guy falls off at some point and lands hard on a verdant floor. I get 10 Gamerscore points for "Free!" "Chapter 2: The Old City" loads.

0:27 Antelopes graze under a tattered American flag in the ruins of what might be Grand Central Station? My guy rolls over and groans as the girl watches, looking scared and concerned. I complain of a headache and she explains the slave headband she put on me is causing it. "Get this thing off or I'm gonna rip your head off." She says no. He lunges for her. "Command stop!" she cries with genuine fear, as I writhe in pain. "Oh my god, it works!” The screen goes all blurry as she explains that she hacked the headband to control me because she needs my help getting to her home, 300 miles away. Also, if she dies, I'll die. "Looks like I don't have a choice," he grudgingly admits. "Neither of us do. I'm sorry." She really looks it, too. He give a half shrug. "OK, let's go."

0:29 As we walk the ruined, jungle-like world she explains how the headband lets me see information about my health and how I'll be able to hear her in my mind because of the headband. Sure, OK.

0:30 We come to a wall of photos labeled "Missing." She wonders who the people were. He makes like he doesn't care, but I bet he does.

0:31 As we work to lower a drawbridge, he hears mechs, and urges her to stay quiet. "What are we gonna do?" she asks loudly "Not make too much noise!" comes the snappy reply.

0:32 I love the way the camera angle goes a bit lower for the battle scenes. Gives everything a bit more immediacy.

0:34 A sign on the wall indicates this actually was Grand Central Station. Except there are tattered American flags everywhere. They head towards the far-off smoke plume from the slave ship because it has "the only way he knows to cover 300 miles ... Two wheels and an engine."

0:35 "Look at this place, there must have been thousands of people living here," she says. "More," he suggests. "Tens of thousands?" "Maybe." Remember, this is New York City they're talking about...

0:36 In a clearing, in a cut scene, she freezes as a mech fires on us. She's too scared to come out when I signal, leaving me to dodge between cement barriers to take it out in yet another cookie cutter battle. "If we are gonna get through this, then when I ask you to do something, you have to do it, immediately!" he says angrily, afterward. "OK, I understand," she says, demure, chastised, ashamed. I can now bring up a command wheel to tell her what to do. Woman, amirite?

0:40 We stumble on another mech, but she uses an EMP pulse her father gave her to stun them, allowing me to take them out. Nice.

0:46 A few far off mech pin us down with cover fire. I create a distraction, then command her to run to a door. Then she creates a distraction so I can make my way down and take them out while she actually hacks the door. Not sure why my distraction can't just give her the cover she needs to hack the door, but oh well.

0:48 We come to massive tree that "must be hundreds of years old." He senses mines in the area ahead "I think I might be able to do something," she says, leading me back to the tree. She asks me to catch dragonfly hovering near the top branches. "I'm not commanding you, I'm asking you." Why aren't you commanding me? It’s not like I can refuse either way...

0:51 "Hey, where are you going? You're supposed to be catching a dragonfly." Keep your pants on, honey, I'm just collecting these glowing orange orbs that are all over the place for some reason. I don't know what they do, all I know is they’re collectible so I MUST HAVE THEM!

0:52 Of course the dragonfly darts away as soon as I get close. "It right over there it's... it's just... *sigh*" she calls. "Yeah, I know, I can see it. I'm not blind." They're like an old married couple already.

0:53 When she tells him to be careful she gets back the most sarcastic "Thank you!" I have ever heard. Some great vocal performances here.

0:54 I finally corner the dragonfly after a long chase through what feels like the entire tree. I fling it at her unceremoniously on my return. Apparently it's a part-robot dragonfly that somehow managed to "evolve" the ability to sniff out energy sources. She hacks it so it can detect the mines and transmit the data to my headband, where I see them as orange circles on the ground. She's grinning like an idiot. "Whaddya think, it's pretty cool, huh?" He shows just a hint of a smile and grudgingly agrees, "Yeah, it's pretty cool."

0:57 She has to carry her around because she can't see the mines. The game slows us to a walk as I weave between the orange circles. No slight tilting of the control stick necessary.

0:59 I just knocked a mech into a mine's explosion radius, leading to a very satisfying, mech-destroying explosion.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? The gameplay has been a tad too simple so far, but the excellently told story and lifelike animation have me hooked into this vibrant world.

This review was based on a retail version provided by the publisher.

Check out hundreds of archived Games for Lunch reviews on the official Games for Lunch blog.

I've been writing about video games for 17 years now and for some reason they're still paying me


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