Now that Christmas is over, there is only one thing on my mind: the XBLA House Party. No, this isn’t some weak attempt to advertise it. This is just a gamer geeking out at the prospect of four weeks straight of fantastic game releases. And now that it’s finally here, I feel like a little kid who just opened his stocking, because if Warp is any indication of what to expect, then this month is going to be epic.
Developed by newcomers Trapdoor, Warp is a truly unique game that blends together many different genres that work well together. However, sometimes the game can feel like it has too much on its plate and lets its ambition get ahead of its execution. One of its many successes, however, is the visual presentation of the story. Players take control of Zero, a cute little orange alien who is captured by scientists and experimented on against his will. While running through a series of tests, he finds his power core and regains the ability to warp around the environment at his will.
From there, players are tasked with escaping the underwater facility Zero is being held at. To do this, Zero has to absorb the power of other aliens that are being held throughout the labs and use them to get through various puzzles and scenarios. None of this would matter if we didn’t care about Zero, but Trapdoor has made one of the most adorably violent critters to appear in a game. While running around soaked in the blood of the soldiers and scientists he has killed, he utters cute little Mogwai sounds that make him totally endearing.
As simple as the premise is (you warp and you escape), the amount of actions you can carry out with this power is surprising. Zero can warp into a barrel and hide, or he can warp into a body and blow it up. Although the presentation and first hours of the game keep players in awe of what they can do, the mechanics can wear on gamers after a while. To blow up whatever you’re hiding inside, you have to wiggle the joystick quickly. This wouldn’t be a problem if some puzzles didn’t require you to do this extremely fast. The puzzles themselves are well-designed, but the controls hamper them to the point of frustration.
Warping is also easy enough, as a small reticule rests in front of Zero at all times. At the press of a button, he will warp to the indicated spot. For a majority of the time, this works fine. But too many times, you’ll either warp too slowly and get shot or warp too quickly through a body and get shot again. It becomes annoying when you can’t control where you’re warping to without moving Zero as well, leading to many deaths that might break a controller or two.
The new powers you gain are clever and put to use in an intelligent way. I won’t spoil what any of them are, but I will say that they will all have you smiling at how creative they are. At certain points you can upgrade them, but the upgrade system isn’t very expansive, keeping things to a bare minimum. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as Warp clocks in at about seven or eight hours, so you won’t be wasting time managing menus of upgrades. Although this is a pretty good length for a puzzle game, a lot of the ending feels dragged out, sending Zero back through areas he’s already explored just to kill some time.
The puzzles in Warp are difficult, but they are never beyond solving. Most will make you feel like a genius when you do, but there are still a few that depend on dumb luck to get through. One particular room involving a myriad of lasers almost gave me a stroke. As infuriating as some parts are, Warp always keeps a hilarious sense of humor around it, providing some of the funniest one-liners I’ve ever heard in a game. Hide in a barrel and listen to the AI as they walk around and you will be bound to hear something hysterical.
Although the AI is funny, they are also dumb as rocks, which doesn’t help the stealth aspect of the game. Pretty much anything will kill our precious protagonist, meaning you have to move quickly through rooms if you hope to survive. As with the puzzles, these situations are mostly hit or miss, but more often than not you’ll love sneaking past the ignorant staff of the facility.
Scattered throughout the game are various collectibles, challenge rooms and film canisters to destroy, in order to get rid of alien evidence. Some of the collectibles seem impossible to get, but really just require an extra level of cunning. The challenge rooms are truly challenging, and if you miss any, beating the game automatically unlocks them all so that you can access them from the main menu.
Overall, Warp is a strong start for the House Party promotion and for Trapdoor itself. Even if the execution is flawed at times, the ambition of the game shows that Trapdoor has some clever ideas and a creative energy that is refreshing in this time of sequels and spin-offs. For only ten bucks, Xbox players are getting a great deal for a game that is full to bursting with originality, charm and humor. If you can get past some of the more frustrating aspects of Warp, then there is a highly enjoyable game that is begging to be experienced by puzzle lovers everywhere.
Warp is charming, unique, and full of humor and original ideas.