I just finished Enslaved and I have to say that I have a love/hate relationship with it. The talented developers at Ninja Theory had a lot of great ideas going in to this game but failed to capitalize on them with the final product.

The story and characters in Enslaved are two of its biggest strengths. You play Monkey, which is probably the most ridiculous name of any video game protagonist to date. A fun fact about Monkey is that Andy Serkis, famous for his portrayal of Gollum in New Line Cinema's Lord of the Rings movies, does both the motion capture and voice work for him. You start the game imprisoned on a merc ship. One thing leads to another and you are eventually freed and manage to escape the crashing vessel. When you awaken from the crash you find another escape prisoner beside you. This is Trip (another really dumb name but another character that I ended up really liking). Before I move on, I just want to say that Trip looks extremely similar to Nariko from Heavenly Sword, another game developed by Ninja Theory. A coincidence? I think not. Anyway, you awaken to find that Trip has implanted a headband into your skull and you are now under her control. You must do as she commands or suffer a great deal of pain. Turning on her is not an option for Monkey either because if her heart stops, he dies as well. Monkey soon comes to terms that he has no option but to help her in returning home. Another cool anecdote is that this is actually a re-telling of an ancient Chinese tale.

Monkey acts as Trip's bodyguard and guide but despite this it never felt like one giant escort mission to me and I commend Ninja Theory on this. The relationship between Monkey and Trip that builds as the game progresses is one that I enjoyed seeing play out. The two even meet a friend along the way who kept me laughing. The voice acting of these three main characters was very strong and I even enjoyed some of the musical score.

Enslaved does a lot of things right and one thing that is extremely apparent right away is the art style. Even though the game technically takes place in a post apocalyptic setting, the world looks absolutely gorgeous Colors are bright and rich and the game is very pleasant to look at. That's the big picture though. When you examine things more closely you'll find that they don't really look all that great. I noticed a fair amount of texture popping as well but the overall look of the game is quite beautiful.

Moving past the visuals, the gameplay itself is where I found things that Enslaved gets wrong. Simply put, the game is way too easy and never stops holding your hand. Many games hold your hand at the beginning to allow you to get familiar with how to play and then let you have more freedom with the tools available afterward. Enslaved doesn't do this and anyone who is even somewhat familiar with how to play a video game will feel insulted by the lack of challenge.

Platforming and combat are the two main gameplay types and both have problems. To begin with the platforming, the game always highlights where you need to go. This immediately takes any additional thinking from the player and really makes you feel like you are just following shiny bread crumbs all the time. Sure, most of the environments that you are platforming in are wonderfully designed and are a sight to behold. Many sequences feel really epic with set piece moments that are grand in scale. You can tell the team did a great job crafting these cinematic sequences but the fact that you always know where to jump next takes some of that wonder and excitement out of the experience. The fact is gamers don't need glowing objects to know where to go. We aren't stupid and some examples of games that get this right are Uncharted and Assassin's Creed.

Another drawback to the platforming is the fact that most of the time it is impossible to fall and die. Mistakes and consequences are just a part of what makes a video game and removing that risk is unnecessary. I literally should have fallen so many times during my adventure but even if I tried to I just physically couldn't. Besides these two major issues the platforming is overall pretty fun and fluid. I did occasionally have trouble with it and I can attribute some of this to the camera but when the platforming works as intended it makes you feel pretty awesome.

Now we get to combat. The combat sequences were honestly where I got the most frustrated with Enslaved. While it felt pretty brutal as a whole the combat really lacks depth. I always found myself button mashing. Even with upgrades I never enjoyed myself as much as I wanted to. Much of this may be attributed to recently playing the excellent Bayonetta but I will try not to compare the two too much here. Most of the time the combat sections just felt super repetitive and I felt as if the game was just sending wave after wave of enemies at me. Besides some cool boss fights, I found the basic mech enemies to be extremely dull and uninteresting in design. I do highly recommend upgrading as much as possible because it does help make combat more bearable but looking back I probably was enjoying myself the least when I was fighting the standard mechs. I also found the AI to be really dumb and cheap. Some have extremely long combos that are just impossible to avoid. Even when I dodged the combo it still managed to hit me because I just couldn't get far enough away. The camera also became problematic during combat. One thing I did like about the combat was the takedowns. Sure they were simple but they were satisfying nonetheless.

Another unnecessary aid with almost any new area was the fact that Trip scans ahead almost every time with her dragonfly and you consequently always know what you are up against. Enemies are highlighted for you and your objective is always clearly illustrated. Aside from the melee combat Monkey also gets to shoot projectiles from his staff. This was fun and helped keep things fresh but I didn't appreciate the poor hit detection.

Besides the platforming and standard combat sequences the game does do a nice job of injecting some much needed variety. Puzzles are pretty simple but they do break things up. You also get to ride this thing called a cloud that resembles a surf board. I found these parts to be very fun and entertaining and there were a few cool boss fights that implemented the cloud. I just wish it was used more.

All in all, Enslaved has a lot of good ideas and does much right but I felt it did a lot wrong too. Combat can feel like a chore and platforming is just too streamlined and restricted. I enjoyed the world Ninja Theory crafted here and I would have liked it to be a little more open for me to explore. Sure there were a few hidden collectibles but nothing that truly tempted me to go out of my way. As much fun as I did have with it I also felt that the game could have really benefited from playtesting because there are some rough parts and various design decisions that detract from the overall experience. It really needed some more polish. I did enjoy the story and characters and some of the set piece moments were memorable and will stick with me. The game is pretty short but I really appreciated the ending. Frustrations aside, I'm really glad I played Enslaved and I do recommend it if you are looking for something a little different and are able to put up with some oversimplified gameplay.