Since Portal and Portal 2 graced consoles and computers around the world, the ‘alternative’ puzzle game has hit the gaming world full force. Instead of your rudimentary puzzles of slotting A into B to make C happen, or making shape Z fit into slot X, these games brought spacial awareness to the forefront and then covered up all the devious puzzles with buckets of narrative and charm. Instead of it being about solving the puzzles it was about uncovering the secrets and finding out the plot. It was about enjoying the games charms and wit, and ultimately about having fun, it’s a shame then that WARP fails to hit these now common gaming points.
First off, WARPs little adventure starts with the capture of a cutesy luminous alien known as Zero. He’s promptly taken to an underwater research facility for testing, and so the game opens with you performing in a series of test chambers. If that all sounds Portal-esque to you, you wouldn’t be wrong as this game takes a fair few cues from Valves runaway hit. The bleak aesthetics of your environments, the structuring of puzzles on a room by room/grid by grid basis, as well as the more macabre humour that peppers the rather ropey storyline.
For some rather unexplained reason, you (or Zero) decide that to break out you must first absorb other aliens who are being tested on and then break out a little floating entity who has been telepathically annoying you with rather useless information. It’s clear that the story is just here to provide some context for your actions, and not here to win awards for stellar scriptwriting. It’s a shame once more that even when given context the promises that WARP looked to offer players rarely occurs. Seeing as Zero has the power to warp into objects, through walls and into people, that opened up the possibilities for play immensely. You could have played stealthily sneaking through the shadows, or gone full force and killed everything in your path; the fact of the matter is, you rarely get that choice, with most rooms leading to zero interaction with ‘enemies’ unless you actually decide to go an engage them, and then other rooms providing you with only one outright solution to a puzzle via slaughtering the people inside.
It does have its moments where gameplay does shine though. Gaining a new ability through either defeating a boss or surmounting one of the bigger puzzles, makes the next set of puzzles feel fresh after they had begun to stagnate. It’s also amusing to use your echo ability to lead robots to kill patrolling guards, or indeed make two guards shoot each other. But just like everything else about this game, the novelty of seeing a human’s limbs and guts fly around in a bloody mess gets old rather quickly. It is nice to see the marrying of gore with otherwise child friendly aesthetics and the curious nature of Zero, but it isn’t enough to hold your attention.
Gameplay itself is also incredibly frustrating. It’s safe to say that you will die – an awful lot. These deaths aren’t really down to the hazards themselves, as many are easily navigable, it’s due to the controls for Zero. The reticule that shows you where you’ll be warping is rather small, and so in situations requiring deft control, it falls flat on it’s face. This is worsened by how twitchy the little fella is, and that when later hazards come in – in the form of water pools that drain your power or barriers – you’ll inadvertently walk into them when you want to be sending an echo out or warping away. As mentioned before, you can possess people and objects, and with some stick waggling action you can destroy them too. This can be done to cause a distraction, remove a threat or further forward a puzzle, but again it’s let down by the obscene amount of thumb waggling needed; if you decided to kill every enemy this way we wouldn’t be surprised if you needed to fork out for a new controller and a new thumb.
Out of all the games issues though it’s the loading times that really cripple the enjoyment factor. The puzzles themselves are relatively easy and straightforward, there are difficulty spikes here and there, but largely they require whatever power you just acquired + inventive use of your previous ones. What will really cause annoyance and elongate the period of play is the amount of time it takes to load up once you die, and as we said before, you’ll die a lot. This is made all the worse in the incredibly frustrating last moments of the game. As you die in one hit, the last boss is all kinds of words we can’t publish, and so the enjoyment factor is completely ruined. This is then coupled with an engine that clearly can’t hack the visions the team had for it as so many objects clip into others, the screen judders when entering warp or echo abilities and you’ll find yourself glitching off to your death.
All in all, WARP has its problems, some of which are serious, and others that just come down to personal preference. If you are looking for a game to just kick back with and have fun with then you are better off looking somewhere else. If you want a game that suits small bite-sized play, and will give you enjoyment in those short bursts, then this is a game worth looking at if you can’t find much else to play. If you’re some sadomasochist and want a game that’ll torture you in all the wrong ways (are there right ways?), then this will also be worth the look in. For a game that showed so much initial promise, it’s a shame that those great moments only pepper an otherwise painfully average game.
Final Score: 2/5