As more and more games are being released, you can’t help but notice common trends and ideas being borrowed across the market. However, for years games on such places as the Xbox Live Arcade have been exempt from this growing trend. Until now, that is.
As soon as I played five minutes of ‘WARP’, Trapdoor’s new puzzle game, I could see that it might not be so original. The arcade game draws from great games including Portal, Bioshock, Halo and Splosion Man, creating an underwater world for the player to explore and think their way through.
In WARP you play as a Zero, a captured alien with the power to, well, warp. Once completing the training area you are able to make contact with another trapped creature that resembles a soul gem from Skryrim. This creature becomes your guide to everything and tells you the locations of other trapped creatures that you need to save or absorb before escaping the underwater laboratory. Your new friend also teaches you how to use newly acquired powers to the best of your abilities as well as introducing you to new puzzle elements. WARP’s campaign has a linear structure, hence you rarely feel lost or left without any clear objective.
Now don’t get me wrong, linear campaigns can be great fun, but in this instance it doesn’t work. Whilst playing WARP, I felt at times that I wasn’t solving a range of problems to reach my objective, but more walking from one point to the next. This also turns you off from exploring the laboratory to its fullest extent and finding collectables, adding roughly an extra two hours of gameplay.
WARP, also suffers from puzzle progression. As you continue through WARP’s campaign, new puzzle aspects are introduced, from a liquid that steals your abilities, to more heavily armoured guards. These new obstacles however, do not add much in the away of difficulty and you’ll still find yourself wandering from room to room without a problem. You are also given the opportunity to upgrade Zero’s powers by spending grubs, which are found through exploration. Zero’s customisable options are very limited and many upgrades I found to be not needed to complete the game comfortably. You are also able to find film canisters spread throughout the laboratory which, when broken, unlock game. Both of these incentives for exploration unfortunately didn’t make me feel as if I was missing out on much if I failed to find them all.
Throughout WARP, you create an arch nemesis, leading to three main boss battles. These confrontations require you think on the spot to make it out alive. As you progress, the battles become increasingly difficult and frustrating, to the point where you simply just don’t want to play the game anymore. The final boss battle in particular filled me with quiet a lot of rage, as you are placed in a small room with minimal cover against Mr. Evil Scientist/War Veteran with a great big laser spinning around in circles. This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that he’ll shoot at anything and everything, eventually destroying all forms of cover and leaving with you nowhere to go as well as being without your powers.
What ‘WARP’ exceeds in is the stealth integration. WARP allows you to hide Zero in numerous objects, from barrels to humans, in an effort to go undetected by surrounding guards and turrets. I found a greater challenge in trying to keep myself hidden then by the actual puzzles themselves, which for a puzzle game, isn’t the best. On the other hand, it did create some fairly entertaining moments between a laser, some guards, and a few barrels. I was pleasantly surprised to find that WARP also included gore, which is also quite rare for a puzzle game. Upon entering a foe, barrel, or other object, you are given the option to move Zero around, causing the object to expand, exploding it across the screen. This mechanic, similar to that of Splosion Man but with added effect of blood, kept ‘WARP’ enjoyable and satisfying for me, even as I a grinded through what felt like the same levels over and over again.
After completing WARP, it feels as if the game was made to be played alongside bigger titles such as Call of Duty, Battlefield, or Skyrim due to repetition of level design, linear structure and difficulty level. You’ll rarely find yourself stuck in WARP but once you finish, it’s more than likely the challenge areas, campaign, or collectables will bring you back for more.