Before being tasked with rebooting the Devil May Cry series in the upcoming DmC, English developer Ninja Theory worked on the thoroughly enjoyable, character-driven adventure known as Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. Criminally under-appreciated by the gaming public, Enslaved put Ninja Theory's signature strengths on display - storytelling, strong characters, beautiful cutscenes and excellent pacing. If anybody ever decides to pull out this dusty file and return to Monkey and Trip's universe, I'll be the first in line.
As mentioned above, Ninja Theory's body of work has consistently placed presentation, storytelling and inventive mechanics above all else. Whether it's the PlayStation 3 exclusive, Heavenly Sword, Enslaved or what we've seen so far from DmC, Ninja Theory's signature style has certainly been noticed amongst the studio's peers. Why else would Capcom go out on a limb by reaching out to a Western developer for one of their most-treasured franchises?
But enough praise for these guys already, right? What does Enslaved have to offer? Well, Odyssey to the West places players in the shoes of Monkey, a fearless adventurer who finds himself in the unenviable position of being enslaved twice. The first time is by a mysterious group of extraterrestrial thugs, who have gained considerable power amidst the chaos of a world devastated by wars of an apocalyptic degree. The second follows shortly after a harrowing escape from his first imprisonment. Monkey immediately has to submit to a young girl named Trip, who requires his unique skill-set to survive in this unforgiving setting.
The relationship between Monkey and Trip is Enslaved's true narrative achievement. The two begin as unlikely and reluctant companions, but soon grow to appreciate each other's company over the course of their perilous journey. The subtle banter in between death-defying moments is reminiscent of Naughty Dog's work with the Uncharted series, which is high praise to say the least. Unfortunately, the game is capped off with a pretty unsatisfying ending, but nevertheless, the journey is still more than worthwhile.
Enslaved's other strength lies in its expertly-crafted pacing, which constantly presents new things for you do along the way. Ninja Theory managed to combine combat, platforming, puzzle-solving and set-piece moments in a way that nothing ever overstays its welcome. Whether it's surviving an arena brawl, covertly navigating unsuspecting foes, chasing a gigantic mech, or traversing crumpling ruins, you'll be pleasantly surprised with what's around the corner. This constant variation comes at the expense of depth - the platforming is incredibly directed and the combat is fairly easy, but it's all in service to the adventure.
As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed my time with Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. It's a game with an entertaining story to tell and plenty of gameplay variety thrown in for good measure. If you can find a copy on PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, you won't be disappointed.
Also, feel free to check out our review that was published way back in 2010. I awarded the game an 8/10 back then and don't regret it at all.