WARP Review

by on February 20, 2012

WARP ReviewGame: WARP

Developer: Trapdoor

Publisher: EA Partners

Available on: Xbox LIVE Arcade only (Coming soon to PC and PlayStation Network)

When the Big Two have special promotions for their downloadable titles, it is normally fair to say that said games festivals celebrate in pretty awesome style, with some cracking platform exclusives to be had. Last year we had the likes of Payday: The Heist for PSN, which was a refreshing slice of cops and robbers FPS action. Over in Microsoft land we had the stunning Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet to enjoy. Of course, past promo assaults of a similar ilk have borne the likes of Splosion Man, Trials HD and of course that sublimely dark treat, Limbo.

House Party is Xbox Live Arcade’s latest salvo of original downloadable titles, and whilst I was hoping for closure on Kid ‘n Play’s House Party franchise after the god awful straight to video shocker that was Down To The Last Minute, what we actually get to party with are four highly interesting IP’s, kicking off with WARP.

WARP - Puzzle

Put together by developer Trapdoor and published by industry godheads EA, WARP is a deceptively cute, ostensibly simple stealth puzzler, priced at an appealing 800 Microsoft Points. It places you in control of a small, translucent, glowing alien known as Zero, who could have easily strolled in off the set of Pixar’s Wall-E. He is a loveable little fella, with adorable little floppy antennae, who communicates via a series of sweet grunts and squeaks. It turns out that our protagonist has been captured by nasty humans and is being held, and experimented upon, in a gloomy, foreboding underwater research facility. It is your job to help him escape, which you can begin in earnest once you start searching the maze-like environments to recover his special alien-y abilities.

As the title suggests, warping is Zero’s main party trick, and the game is crafted around this mechanic. Zero has a marker placed a few steps in front of him, which indicates where you can warp to. Place him next to a thin enough wall or obstacle, and click the appropriate button, and he will warp to that spot. He can also warp into certain objects, such as conveniently placed drums, to hide. To begin with it appears that your job is to simply negotiate the facility, using your warp ability to hide from humans and other obstacles like sentry guns that seek you out with their red laser beam sights. There are glowing collectables called Grubs, hidden around the map, which, when collected, allow Zero to power up and purchase new abilities at checkpoints along the way. It is after you have collected your first handful of these strange objects that WARP takes a decidedly dark turn.

Deceptively cute was the term I used, because after ten minutes or so in the WARP-iverse, Zero gains the ability to warp into his human captors. Rather than gaining control of his new host body, the cutesy extra-terrestrial is then able, via a waggle of the left analogue stick, to brutally explode his enemies from within, in a satisfying cloud of viscera and gore. Scientist types in white lab coats flee in terror from the little fella, hilariously dropping a barrage of swearing that would make a docker blush. Indeed, it doesn’t take long for the game to become something of a bloodbath, as you warp from body to body, creating carnage, or indeed running into traps yourself that result in your avatar having a cap popped in his ass, and the resultant rivulets of claret that come with it.

WARP - Zero Inspecting

Puzzles and tricky situations come thick and fast. Some sections require genuine use of stealth as opposed to all-out body exploding. Enemies can track your whereabouts based upon the noise you make, so a bit of finesse is called for. There are sections where clever warping between objects will get you out of trouble, and boss encounters to contend with, such as an early encounter where you have to make a fast getaway down a series of claustrophobic corridors from a portly gentleman with a mechanised arm looking to crush you.

Collecting Grubs isn’t particularly difficult, seeing as they glow bright purple, and you can purchase a relatively cheap ability early on that reveals their locations on the map. The power ups you can access with these glistening, slug like objects certainly makes things more interesting, giving you the ability to warp greater distances, or launch the barrels as projectiles, for example.

There are challenge stages hidden in the facility, which recall the VR Missions in Metal Gear Solid, and allow you to win more Grubs by satisfying certain conditions, such as “warp to the goal in under 14 seconds”. Your best times and scores from these missions are posted onto Leaderboards.

WARP - Crossfire

Gameplay is not taxing from a puzzle point of view, and pretty old school in that there are one-hit kills, and a lot of scenes are conquered more via trial and error than considered use of Zero’s abilities. I found the controls to be a bit imprecise, too. You can only warp in the exact direction you are facing. Sometimes, particularly under pressure, you will find yourself warping to entirely the wrong place, and this was most apparent in sections where there are several objects bunched closely together. There are a few sections where the camera angles are a little dodgy, making it tricky to see your next exit. But there is enough here to make this worthy of your time.

VERDICT: At 5-6 hours, this is a short but fun blast. The small issues with controls and camera are not a deal breaker, and there are plenty of twists and turns that will keep you hooked. The challenge stages are brilliant fun and arguably the best part of the package. You will want to practice them, and get your times down to earn more precious Grubs. The game also looks great, considering the action takes place is such an anodyne setting. Simple yet functional, with lots of blood, is probably the best way of describing it. This is a decent way to kick off the House Party, and bodes well for what treats we have in store for the rest of the promotion.

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