Saw II sets its stall out with an opening sequence where a cancer-riddled drug dealer has to slice open a wound under his eye in order to extricate a key that will unlock the bear trap attached to his head. And you’re doing the slicing, raising the scalpel by tapping Y and slowly moving the analogue stick left to right as blood pours from the open wound. Despite effective squelchy sound effects, it’s not quite as gruesome as it sounds, the brightly-coloured button prompts and slightly lacklustre visuals detracting from the grisly spectacle. It’s Flesh & Blood in microcosm, a game whose limited budget and intrusive QTEs sour a carefully- cultivated atmosphere.
That’s a pity, as during several tense puzzle sequences – particularly those with a constantly ticking timer, where the stakes are raised several notches – it captures the intensity of the films, if never matching them on the gore quotient. With plenty of lore to be found in recorded messages, case files and other collectibles, there’s some decent fan service here, but then you’d probably have to be a fan to get any enjoyment out of it.
It’s relentlessly bleak and sadistic, mostly set in a grim, dilapidated hotel where practically every room has something to either kill or injure.
Following an extended prologue (after escaping the trap, you control said dealer for another half- hour, solving a few puzzles before being given a choice whether or not to sacrifice yourself for another) you take control of Michael Tapp, son wrong word given their prior crimes detailed in Jigsaw’s taped messages (he’s all about the sadistic vigilante justice) – will attack Tapp on sight, having been instructed to do so by Jigsaw. The clunky combat of the first game has been replaced by something just as awkward: quick- time event sequences where you need to jab buttons to block before pressing others at the right time to deliver deadly blows. Just the one is required if you’ve picked up a rare nail-studded bat, so it pays to explore while remaining mindful of the broken glass that litters the floor. Did we forget to mention you’re barefoot?
It inevitably results in a slow, careful trudge from room to room, as you search every highlighted cabinet and drawer for weapons, lockpicks and hypodermic needles to boost your health. These tedious sequences are broken up by the odd decent puzzle and an occasional surprise: one grimly amusing moment tasks Tapp with looking through a series of peepholes to obtain door codes, the final one seeing him peer straight down the barrel of a gun. Sure, it’s another QTE to survive, but it’s a creative touch the game often lacks elsewhere.
As the game progresses, it starts reusing ideas of the detective from the first film and game. He’s chasing evil mastermind Jigsaw while trying to uncover the truth about his father’s death. Naturally, he also falls prey to a number of the devious traps on his labyrinthine route to the exit – and he’s not the only one. You’ll occasionally get the opportunity to rescue others in peril, some of whom offer clues to additional optional puzzles, while one particularly tense section sees you working alongside a man whose wrists get sliced with more knives the closer you get to the solution. Other victims – though that’s probably the (king a shotgun blast from
Some puzzles are intricate affairs, such as this multi-room trap where you need to navigate a treacherous environment to find the object that will save this woman. from the original game and eventually settles for variations on earlier puzzles to pad things out. Again, dotted among the dross are some genuinely interesting riddles, and those that introduce a time limit add a welcome dose of excitement to the mix. It’s a game that’s clearly been produced on a shoestring, and it’s easy to have some sympathy for Zombie, which has captured the bleak atmosphere of the films pretty well, but whose engine isn’t quite up to snuff (pun intended).