February 22, 2012 12 Comments
I so want to tell you to drop what you’re doing and go pick up Warp on Xbox Live Arcade. Even if it means dropping your newborn infant into an industrial-sized blender that will re-purpose its flesh as Soylent Green. But I can’t. Among other reasons, I’m pretty sure doing so violates my probation. I swear, you mistake one hobo for a skateboard ramp and you pay for the rest of your life. But that’s not the topic. The topic is Warp, and why I strongly recommend you don’t buy this game that I got a lot of enjoyment out of.
Hear me out on this one. Warp is sort of what Portal would be if it was a character vehicle by Pixar as directed by Quentin Tarantino. You play as Zero, an alien captured by some science guys. While in captivity, he gains the ability to teleport a small distance. You can also teleport inside objects. You know, when the game started and I saw that it was actually rated M, I was kind of perplexed. I mean, the character is cute and chirpy. It reminded me a lot of Stitch, of Lilo & Stitch fame.
And then I teleported into my first human.
And then I spun the control stick.
And then the human got fat.
And then he exploded in a huge cloud of blood and gore.
And it was fucking awesome.
It never gets old either. I blew up hundreds of humans throughout the game. Alternatively, I would teleport into humans, get them shot by other humans, then teleport into the shooter, blow them up, and then teleport back into the corpse and finish the job. Maybe I’m easily amused, but I was able to sadistically giggle every single time. It helps if you pretend the guys you’re blowing up are your colleagues. “Yea, take that AJ! That’s what you get for getting me a Snuggie when you were my Secret Santa, you rat bastard!”
At its heart, Warp is a stealthy-puzzle title. The delightfully gushy murders are just window dressing. In fact, you don’t even need to kill anyone, and you get rewarded with an achievement if you decide to play the game like you’re a member of Greenpeace and humans are slightly malnourished whales. It’s an achievement I could never hope to get even if forced to at gunpoint. The real point of the game is to acquire more powers, save a companion alien being held in the same facility as you, and escape. Along the way, you’ll gain the ability to teleport items inside other items (or people inside other people, another juicy fatality that will make the Mortal Kombat people hang their heads in shame), switch places with objects, or launch the objects you’re inside of at high speeds. All these abilities are incorporated cleverly into various puzzles scattered throughout the four to five-hour playtime. Well, give or take. I never actually finished Warp, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Warp is broken. I’ll just come out and say it. This is a game that is full of awesome ideas, but something went wrong along the way. I’ll start with the camera. The game plays from a top-down perspective, but the camera is angled in a way that prevents you from seeing objects pinned up against a wall. You can almost move it to the point where you can make stuff out, but not quite enough to help. What the game really needed was a better form of ghosting so that you can more clearly see what objects are available for you to beam into.
The game also suffers from what I like to call Blair Witch Syndrome. No, this doesn’t mean it’s going to gross 500 times it’s budget and that it’s talentless star will go on to be an advocate for legalized marijuana. For one thing, I think Zero actually has talent, although I can see him shilling Excedrin, for obvious reasons. No, Blair Witch Syndrome means you’re given little or no direction on what to do, leaving you to wander around aimlessly. Boringly. Possibly for hours. Hell, in the Simpsons Arcade Game, the only thing you have to do is walk to the right. If you’ve recently suffered some kind of head trauma and are unable to remember which way that is within five seconds of clearing a room, a giant arrow appears telling you “HEY STUPID, THIS WAY!” Well, maybe not so rudely, but you get my point. In Warp, you get no such arrow. There is a map, but it’s hardly helpful. Midway through the game, I went backtracking from room to room, trying to figure out what I missed. As it turns out, it was a teeny tiny little escape pipe on the other side of a wall that doesn’t stand out at all.
I guess the argument is that a puzzle game shouldn’t give you any direction. But when you throw a free-roaming environment into the mix and then intentionally distort that environment, that’s not creating a puzzle. I’m not exactly sure what you would call it, so I’ll settle for “colossal dick move.”
When you’re actually in a new room, with new puzzles and more meat sacks on legs to blow up, the game is fun. Like, really fun. And the sense of satisfaction you get when you clear a puzzle without resorting to GameFAQs is hugely rewarding. Unfortunately, all the “what next?” wandering kind of negates that. If it doesn’t, what if I told you that you can get inches away from the final room of the entire game only to find out that somewhere along the line you did something to render Warp unbeatable?
It’s apparently true, and it happened to me. Near the end, you rescue a little sparkly alien thingie that’s trapped in a containment field. You’re then told to go South. I checked the map for my path of escape. A spot is clearly marked that tells you “this is the place to go.” So I try to get there, only to find that the final room, the one next to the FUCKING END OF THE GAME, was inaccessible. Period. There was no way to get past it. I did everything to try to figure out a way through it, including pretty much backtracking through every previous room I had access too. But I couldn’t. It was completely off-limits. I put over two hours into just trying to get through this one door, or find some other way to it, and couldn’t. Game over.
I haven’t looked up stuff on GameFAQs or used anything resembling strategy guides since I was sixteen years old. I’m not a big fan of having someone beat a game for me. But I did relent on Warp and looked to see what I was missing. All I discovered was others had pinned themselves in too. The only option left for me is to replay the entire game from the start and hope I don’t fuck up this time. In theory, I shouldn’t have been able to, since the power needed for me to fuck it up with I wouldn’t have acquired by that point. I’m really not sure what happened. I just know that the game wasn’t beatable the way I played it. Even though the game encourages you to destroy everything you see. It keeps a running score of your kills, and compares it to what your friends have done. So what the fuck, Trapdoor? Who did you get to playtest this for you? Did you only test it internally, using guys who know exactly what to do and where to go? Here’s a thought: rent a conference room at a hotel. Set up a bunch of stations that have your game. Put an ad on Craig’s List asking for people with five or six free hours to kill to come in for free games and pizza. Then just watch. Don’t offer help. See if they can beat it. If just one person renders the game unbeatable, your work is not done.
The sad thing is, the game is beatable. I know this because while bitching all weekend about all the directionless wandering in Warp, I had people telling me “just wait until you see the last boss. It’s annoying, not fun, and damn near impossible.” I can’t really comment on that, because I only got within sniffing distance of the fucking thing. What a tease. It especially stings for me because I really, really hate replaying games. And no matter how satisfying it is to trick the enemies into shooting each other (and it is! I’m wet just thinking about it), I’m not now, nor have I ever been, interested in playing a game I already played through once. So basically, Warp can go fuck itself and the guys at Trapdoor can feel free to warp themselves into a jet turbine.
800 Microsoft Points said “oh yea, that Blair Witch chick totally looks like she has Glaucoma” in the making of this review.