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19 Reviews

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Almost beyond good and evil

Blues, oranges, greens, purples, yellows, reds, pinks... Pinks! We bet you didn't even know your Xbox 360 could do pinks. Granted, Enslaved isn't as colourful as, say, Fairytale Fights, but it gives even the brightest of 'kiddy' games a reason to be jealous. You've explored the desolate grey wastelands of post-apocalyptic worlds a dozen times over, but you've never had the pleasure of exploring a post-post-apocalyptic world like this.

Based on the ancient Chinese writings Journey to the West (and the fantastic 70's show Monkey!), Enslaved is the tale of Monkey and Trip and their pilgrimage west. In this post-war reimagination, Trip and Monkey - both humans, before you ask - escape a doomed slave ship just before it crashes into the overgrown jumble once known as New York. Fearing for her life, petite red-headed teenager Trip 'enslaves' the ripped Monkey with a slave headband, coercing him to help her escape Old New York's ruins and head inland - hence west - to her village.

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MONKEY SHINES
You control fighter-not-a-lover Monkey, a man capable of effortlessly bounding up the knobbly sides of half-collapsed towers and skilled enough with his pole weapon to down an army of robot grunts with a flurry of flowing combos. He's Persia's Prince combined with Soul Calibur's Kilik, given the body of Stallone circa Rambo years and the face and voice of Andy 'Not Just Gollum' Serkis. If we were slender Trip we'd have slapped an obedience headband on his skull too. Somewhat understan-dably he's not too chuffed about being forced into a role of muscle but as he's killed if Trip dies or if he strays too far there's nothing much he can do but play nice until freed from his head-prison.

Enslavement isn't usually the best way to kick off a relationship and here's no exception. At first the partnership between Trip and Monkey is best described as fractious, though as the hours whiz by and the chapters roll on things slowly begin to change. Through a series of touching cut-scenes, Monkey and Trip become to depend on one another. But with one key difference... You're shown the relationship through Acting. Not acting, but Acting. The Ninja Theory way of hiring real actors to participate in performance capture has paid dividends. Character interactions are as convincing and as impressive as those seen in Avatar.

Trip and Monkey, and later Pigsy too, have been painstakingly rendered to the point where they are just as realistic as any character in Valve's recent games. They Act with their expressions and with their eyes, with their motions and with their emotions. From poignant moments of shared defeat to laugh-out-loud jokes about pig cock, Enslaved's story comes to life through the Acting.

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Enslaved itself doesn't, because by the time the Acting has squeezed you and given you a sloppy kiss on the cheek like a distant auntie on a biennial visit, the rest of the game has already donned the lipstick and given you the kiss of life. As a blend of action, action and more action, Enslaved may not be the greatest adventure around but it's not too far short of the top of the pile.

MONKEY MAGIC
The two main ingredients are combat and outlandish 'platforming', both exceedingly simple and both brilliant as a result. Monkey's armed with a staff and a handful of moves to begin with, though power and abilities can later be upgraded by collecting and spending the glowing red orbs found lying on the floor. x performs a weak attack, y a strong attack, a evades and r blocks and combinations of the inputs unleash twirling whirlwinds of strikes.

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