Die! Monkey Die!
It drives me crazy when I read somewhere that a game only takes, for instance, 10 or 12 hours to play, and it takes me two or three times that to beat the game. What is that all about? The person played through without dying and going back to checkpoints? Who do they have reviewing these games, some sort of super or bionic gamers? I once read in an interview with a reviewer where he said that some reviewers don’t always finish every game they review. That might explain it in part; maybe it’s just a guess sometimes.
Sometimes, it’s just me. Sometimes, I just run into a game that gives me a fit. I’m stubborn and I won’t give in, I’ll keep playing until I beat it. At times, it can take days to get by some sections, not to mention the final Boss Fight. I know that sounds extreme, some might not find the same game as challenging. But it happens.
I recently played a game that falls into that category. It’s called Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. Enslaved is loosely based on a 16th century Chinese novel called Journey to the West. The English title is Monkey: Journey to the West. Sometimes it’s just called Monkey. It tells the story of a Monk and his four companions and their journey from China to India. Two of his companions are the Monkey king, called Monkey; and Pigsy. Two of the characters in Enslaved are called Monkey and Pigsy. The other main character in the game is a young woman called Trip.
Enslaved takes place in a post-apocalyptic future. It begins on a slave ship transporting humans to a place called Pyramid. The first character we see is Monkey. He has been captured and is imprisoned in a large egg shaped pod hanging on a wall. The pod has a portal that Monkey can see out of. He sees a young woman, Trip, doing something at a computer. Alarms start going off; apparently the woman has done something to sabotage the ship. There is a hull breach and the ship starts to fall apart from the rear of the ship. The ship lists and Monkey’s pod falls to the floor and is damaged enough so that Monkey can get out.
Monkey sees Trip go through a doorway up ahead and follows thinking she acted like she knew where she was going. The ship is coming down around them. Sections of the metal flooring fall to the next level. Monkey has to leap across the gaps to keep going. It soon becomes evident why he is called Monkey. He is very agile and can leap long distances. He can also climb very fast and jump lithely from one handhold to the next. He eventually falls to the level below. When he does fall to the lower level, there are explosions and he finds himself outside the ship and must leap handhold to handhold to get back inside the ship.
Once back inside the ship Monkey recovers his gear, gloves that act as shields and a retracting staff which he attaches to one of his forearms. Monkey soon encounters his first Mech, robotic machines that walk on two feet like humans. Mechs have almost completely annihilated the human race. The planet is essentially in ruins.
Let the button mashing commence. Monkey has a basic attack and an extreme attack with his staff. There is also a sweeping attack you can use to knock back opponents when you have more than one attacking at one time. The staff can also be used as a ranged weapon, utilizing two types of ammo, stun and plasma. Shielded enemies, for example, can be stunned to get rid of the shield, and then hit them with a plasma shell to destroy them. The system is quickly learned and easy to manipulate. One problem though, the camera is at times too close and makes it difficult to react appropriately at times; especially when you are battling more than one enemy at a time.
There are Mechs literally hanging from the ceiling. They are inactive, but they are activated when needed. The ship recognizes Monkey as an escaped slave and activates Mechs to apprehend him. Monkey overhears an order to abandon the ship and get to escape pods. Monkey battles his way through the ship to try and get to an escape pod. He gets to the final pod only to find it already occupied by Trip. The pod is launched with Monkey holding onto the outside.
Amazingly Monkey survives. Well not real amazing, he is the protagonist of the game. It’d be a pretty short game without him because Trip is an electronic whiz, but she could hardly survive on her own. That’s why Monkey finds himself wearing a slave headband when he gains consciousness. He finds Trip staring at him waiting for him to wake up. She lives in a wind farm community about three hundred miles away and she knows she’ll never make it on her own. She has hacked one to the slavers headbands and has placed it on Monkey’s head. She tells him that it will give him a painful electronic jolt on her command. Such as if he tries to harm her or tries to leave her. If he goes too far away, it’ll kill him. If she dies, he dies. She promises to take off the headband if he gets her home. That comprises the primary premise of the game, Monkey trying to get Trip to her home village.
Trip isn’t totally useless. She has an EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse) which enables her to briefly stun all nearby Mechs. This gives Monkey time to get to her and keep the Mechs from killing her. Also, when Monkey needs her to, she can deploy a decoy which diverts the attention of all nearby Mechs so Monkey can get past them when he has to get by a certain area so he can outflank the Mechs. It doesn’t last long, and it takes time to recharge, so Monkey has to wait in cover while it recharges. She can also use vials of energy serum, which can be found throughout the game, to replenish Monkey’s health. As far as regaining health goes, there are also health packs throughout the game which can also replenish Monkey’s health. Trip can also use Tech Orbs, which are collected throughout the game to upgrade Monkey’s abilities.
The environments the game takes place in are beautifully rendered. It’s a great looking game. The characters are very believable, mostly because of the range of emotions that are portrayed as a result of the lifelike expressions that are achieved. The game shifts from battling to plat forming to puzzle solving and mixes them in a way that keeps it all from getting monotonous or boring. My only complaint about the plat forming elements is that they were limiting. There was one set path to take and, for me, it took the spontaneity from it. The cut scenes in between the action really fleshed out the story and moved it along at a good pace.
The pace however was not always sustained due to a couple of places involving chases that were hard to get through; and had to be repeated over and over again to try to get through them. In both of them Monkey uses a device called a Cloud, which floats on electrostatic energy and works like a kind of hover board. It allows Monkey to travel at speeds he couldn’t otherwise achieve.
In the first chase, Trip is in a boat and is being pursued by a giant Mech Dog. The water is mined. There are speed boosts along his path which propel him ahead faster for a few seconds. A little ways ahead there is a metal ramp to the left, Monkey speeds up it to avoid falling debris. The ramp ends abruptly and there is another ramp that must be jumped to. Hitting speed boosts propels him fast enough so he reaches the ramp. After the ramp dumps him back onto ground level Monkey hurries after the dog watching out for mines. He heads over another small ramp to the left and uses the speed boosts to jump over a longer ramp up ahead. Once Monkey catches the Dog he does a takedown (pressing O or B depending on your system) and saves Trip from becoming Dog food.
Monkey moves at a pretty good clip on that hover board which makes it hard to negotiate curves; plus when you try to slow down there is a delay. The controls make it very difficult to time the jumps and stay on the route that takes you through the speed boosts. This section drove me nuts. I started to act nuts. When Monkey came to a place he had to jump, I would stand up as I pushed the button to jump. I didn’t think about it, I would just get excited and start doing it. I would jump up and then sit back down. My wife caught me doing it.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m playing a game.” I answered.
“Why do you keep bouncing in your chair?”
I didn’t want to be interrupted. “Bouncing? I’m not bouncing.”
“Sure you are. You keep jumping out of your seat.”
“Why are you jumping out of your chair?”
“It’s a special gaming technique. It’s called Goosing. The higher I jump the further Monkey jumps.”
“Goosing! Monkey? Is this a child’s game?”
“No. He’s called Monkey after a character in a 16th Century Chinese novel.”
She just stared at me. “I’ll leave you to it.” She turned around and left the room.
I continued playing, and Monkey kept getting blown up by mines. I started getting frustrated. I decided to quit and pick it up later. I play 2 to 3 hours a day, and after 2 days I still hadn’t caught up to the Dog. Monkey kept dying. Over and over again, Monkey would either be blown up, or he would be too slow and Trip would become Dog food. I started running into the mines on purpose. Die Monkey.
That out of my system I started trying again, but still ticked at Monkey for dying so much. Actually by expecting to die, I started to get further along. Die Monkey. I got further. Die Monkey. I did it I finally caught up to the Dog. I went to do the takedown….. And I hit the wrong button. $#!*%*
I did finally do it, but it had taken days. I wouldn’t give in.
Then came the Rhino. I finished the Boss fight and was feeling pretty good about it. Then Trip started fooling around with it and then the thing came to and went running away with Trip hanging on to it. Monkey has to catch up to the Rhino and get Trip before the Rhino runs into the wall at the end of the canyon. This is worse than the first chase. This chase is in like four phases. The gaps are longer and there’s more of them.
Here we go again. “Die! Monkey Die!”