Warp – I Wanna Be In You

By Seán O'Sullivan - February 23rd, 2012


If you’re going to name your game after its central mechanic, it had better be a damned good one. Happily, Warp’s teleporting system is strong enough to make this action-puzzler worthwhile despite the occasional frustrations it heaps on the player.

The premise is straightforward enough: you assume the role of a captured alien as he tries to escape the underground lair of diabolical scientists, capitalizing on his powers to warp himself into objects both inanimate and fleshy. Once inside an aggressor’s body, players have the choice of stunning them and sparing their lives, or wriggling the analogue stick to burst out of them in a gooey splatter of blood and a shower of limbs, smearing the pristine surroundings with gloppy goodness.

The entire game is played in a top-down perspective reminiscent of classic Metal Gear Solid, using stealth to evade enemies or set up ambushes. In the opening minutes of the game, however, you’ll be forced to rethink basic navigation throughout the world, as doors are regularly too thick to be warped past; however, you’ll notice that walls that are thin enough to phase through. The core mechanic is upgraded three times over the course of the adventure, with the evolutions introduced just as the puzzles are getting stale. The onset of these new abilities forces some more brain-rewiring – as the ways to navigate through the environment are materially altered.

Who will get to the last doughnut first? Only time will tell!

It is a good thing that the game is paced in such a way, because the minute-to-minute experience can be quite aggravating. Controls are often fiddly, particularly the last quarter of the game in which the player needs to hurl physical objects through the environment. The control-related deaths are particularly rancorous due to the frequent load screens that take place while the game resets itself. Certain sections require some trial and error, which can be acceptable (see: Limbo), but only when the player isn’t punished with ten seconds of inactivity.

Furthermore, the artificial intelligence of the guards is inconsistent. Without any visible vision-cone, the player has to guess how much peripheral vision a guard has – and that can vary from myopic to omniscient on various reloads. I used it as encouragement to continue my murderous ways, since that alleviated the frustration somewhat. The frequent check-pointing helps, but the game has an affinity for placing them just before difficult sections with cut-scenes that take a few seconds to skip. During the boss fights, I generally spent more time waiting than playing.

The puzzles themselves aren’t overly perplexing; but on too many occasions I felt as though I was cheating the game: clumsily arranging objects and walking between laser beams with nary a pixel between success and failure. It is fun to feel like you’re outsmarting the game, but sometimes it results in getting permanently stuck, which is less than ideal.

Great steps have been taken to protect the Caramilk secret.

There are collectible doohickeys deviously hidden throughout the arenas, which is where the most rewarding puzzling occurs. They are fun to collect for their own sake, but they can be redeemed for character upgrades that supplement lethal or non-lethal play styles, giving a veneer of depth to proceedings.

For 800MSP ($10), Warp is good value. My first play-through took me five hours, with plenty of goofing around (with the mechanics and exploring for collectibles). Getting gold medals on the eight challenge rooms included could be a major time sink – particularly if you have some competitive friends on the leaderboards; and since the game is stingy with achievements, trying to get the full two hundred points is going to take some effort and multiple play-throughs.

None of the grievances mentioned in this review are enough to detract from Warp’s central appeal. Tele-fragging enemies is one of the most fun game mechanics I have encountered on the XBLA service, particularly since the thumb stick wriggling mirrors the subcutaneous writhing onscreen (you have control over a slow agonizing death, or a quick pop). This hook enamored me with the game enough to overlook its shortcomings. This is a fun action-puzzler that will sometimes require twitch responses, so make sure you’re in a patient mood before attempting some of the more grueling sections; if you are, you’re bound to have a good time.

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