Developer: Trapdoor Games / Publisher: EA / Played on: PC / Price: $14.99 / ESRB: Mature [Blood and Gore, Strong Language, Violence]
Everyone once in a while, a game comes along that challenges the concept of puzzle solving in a video game. Titles like Portal 2 and Qubed come to mind.
Warp is very much like these titles, not only in theme (more on that later), but in its effort to take puzzle solving and platforming in a more innovative direction, implementing cool mechanics that haven’t been tried or perfected in their respective genres. While Warp is simple at its core, the cute, bloody fun to be had in this fantastically paced adventure is in full supply.
Oh, and if you like a challenge, it’s got that too.
When I said that Warp’s theme lined up similarly with titles like Portal 2 and Qubed, I meant it. As a captured alien imprisoned in an underwater research facility, you’re introduced to the game’s main offering of gameplay very quickly – navigating your way through different laboratories and maze-like puzzles to escape the clutches of your scientist captors.
The reason for your being researched isn’t clarified, but you’re an unhappy Martian prisoner nonetheless and you want out.
It’s a cutesy, albeit minimalistic story that couples well with the game’s design, sharing enough information to provide a reason to follow through to the end, but suspends enough disbelief so that you won’t care to inquire about every minor plot detail.
As the game is very much like an interactive maze, you’ll spend the entirety of your puzzling experience with Warp from an isometric, top down perspective. Guards are patrolling many hallways and scientists will panic and set off alarms upon sight of you – so knowhow of lethal stealth is required.
Thankfully, you have a slew of secret weapons to assist you that the guards and scientists don’t have – magical alien powers. Warp, Frag, Echo, Swap and Launch are the names of the five primary powers you have at your disposal – particularly for either sneaking by or killing humans in your way.
Warp, unlocked from the start, is your innate ability to warp through objects like walls, doorways, and across chasms. Using this power, you’re able to either avoid situations you’d rather not touch, or gain the upper hand over wandering NPCs.
Frag is the ability to warp inside of an object or human and explode them from the inside. As you have no other lethal powers, Frag becomes the ultimate power for “handling” any scientists or guards that stand between you and escape. After spending several minutes finding routes around and through guard patrols, it’s a messy, satisfying experience to simply nuke them from within.
Much like Warp, you can use Echo to send out a visible clone of yourself (or the object you’re currently warped inside of) to distract other characters in the game. You can send out an echo, have it stand between two guards, and watch them freak out and blast each other in the noggin’. As you might be able to imagine, there are multiple game-bending ways to use an echo to gain an advantage.
Swap, in tandem with Echo, allows you to send out your echo clone and swap places with whatever warp-able object it’s touching. If you’re stuck on one side of a pit and the warping distance to the other side is simply too far, you can send out an echo to the barrel on the other side and swap places with it instantaneously.
Finally, there’s Launch. Simply warp into an object, press the launch button, and send the item rocketing in the direction of your choice. This can be used to mash far away buttons, knock out annoying enemies, and set off traps you’d like to avoid yourself.
Over time, the puzzles become more and more diverse, with each new puzzle involving not only old and new mechanics, but new sub-mechanics of previously learned ones. You’ll find yourself using combinations of your five powers to accomplish feats you wouldn’t think possible early on in the game. Using Warp to hop into a box being lifted by a crane, only to launch it across a chasm and use echo to swap yourself safely to the other side is merely one example of these mind-bending instances.
While the mechanics are innovative in their simplicity, the same could be said about the puzzles. While many were considerably simple to navigate, there were handfuls that even challenge the difficulty of some of Super Meat Boy’s levels – which, if you’re unaware, is a platformer renowned for its incredible difficulty.
Put simply, the puzzles are fun and enjoyable. It’s by no means a hard game, but once in a while you’ll come across one that some might consider worthy of controller throwing. Though, you should be able to beat the game with controllers left unscathed.
Visuals and Sound
Built upon the popular and reliable Unreal Engine, Warp embraces a cartoony, colorful aesthetic – much in the realm of a child’s television show. The environments and characters have an almost inflated look, like the laboratories you’re navigating through were manufactured in a bounce house.
The animations of your character are smooth and translate well with your actions in the world – while the opposite could be argued for the enemies in-game. Emphasizing their silly nature, the humorous and often stiff animations of the scientists and guards is certainly an odd choice, given that the alien you play is so well animated.
The humorous portrayal of these enemies does act as a contrast to the sometimes dark elements of your character – an alien who happily leaps into human bodies and explodes them from within, leaving nothing but a blood soaked wall and limbs cast about the floor.
Oddly, I’d considered this a family-friendly title until the blood and language crept in. While blood is somewhat of a norm in games today, I felt like the language could have been left out and made Warp more approachable as a children’s puzzle game as well, not just for adults. But when you’re throwing around phrases like “little fuck”, “get that little bastard” and “awww shit”, you’re certainly eliminating much of a younger audience I’d think could enjoy Warp.
Worth mentioning is the sound in the game, which is considerably exceptional. From the foreign, quirky noises your short alien utters, to the convincing machine-centric ambience of the laboratories, all the sounds match the slick, cartoony visuals. Voice acting though, is cheesy – very cheesy.
Given the context of the game and the quirky, dark humor it boasts, I actually enjoyed the cheesiness of the voicing. If this were a large-scale, story rich RPG with a huge roster of characters, the expectation would be different – but Warp is a puzzler-platformer with a cute and simple narrative.
Warp implements fun new mechanics that haven’t been fully embraced in a genre that just doesn’t see much innovation. It’s a brief, well-paced adventure that makes you actively use your brain along the way.
Gameplay does unfortunately get a tad repetitive at times – something that happens when you only have a few mechanics. Nonetheless, the fun in each of those mechanics is in full enough supply to keep the bore level minimal.
Warp is a solid game that’s fun if you enjoy using your head. If you’d like a quirky and fun puzzler to fill a weekend, Warp is sure to be right up your alley.