Enslaved: Odyssey To The West review
In most cases it’s possible to direct her to safety while Monkey plays reverse-Meccano with his extendable staff, but you can also sneak past dormant enemies with Trip on your back, avoiding fighting altogether. Enemies with ranged weapons require more subtlety; Monkey can absorb some shots with his shield, but even his chiselled pecs are no match for hollow points.
Luckily Trip can distract their attention with her robotic dragonfly, allowing Monkey to sneak up and perform one of his impressive takedowns. Many scenarios force you to work together, without making you feel trapped or constrained by your partner. Apart from the murder-hat, obviously.
Initially the combat appears fairly basic (light and heavy attacks, with a charge manoeuvre that can break your enemies’ guard) but despite the simplicity, there’s something irresistible about seeing a man-gorilla shatter robots in slo-mo.
Ammo for the staff is littered throughout the levels, enabling Monkey to stun or shoot enemies from a distance – key when taking on the bigger bots. The ranged combat isn’t as intuitive as the destructive melee, but it’s solid enough that it doesn’t feel tagged on.
It’s not all acrobatics and bojutsu, though. Monkey’s ‘cloud’ becomes available in later levels, a disc of energy that enables him to scoot freely around the levels and access previously unreachable areas.
As he explains to a disgruntled Trip, it can’t be used everywhere, but when it can it’s a well-executed and enjoyable change. It can be frustrating when trying to navigate at speed through a minefield, but it slots neatly into the gameplay and mythos.
Level design is fairly linear, but the openness of the environment and choice of approach usually means that you don’t feel confined. As you progress, you move from leafy cityscapes into more metallic surroundings, and it turns out that rust can be beautiful too when it’s not causing your Vauxhall Cavalier to disintegrate. In particular, the Titan Graveyard is just as visually exciting as the earlier levels, despite being all brown and orange – a bit like the ’70s, but with more giant robots.
Enslaved at first appears to be all muscle and moody silence, but underneath it’s a classic adventure driven by antagonistic characters in a hostile environment.
Maybe it doesn’t scale the pant-wetting heights of Uncharted, and Trip may not be as precious to us as Yorda was in Ico, but the setting and direction nevertheless make this essential stuff.