Being captured from the burning wreckage of a crashed space ship, transported to an underwater research facility, and then forced to endure torturous experiments sounds like the beginning of a pretty bad day. Fortunately, the protagonist of Trapdoor Inc’s Warp, an orange alien named Zero, soon regains his ability to — get this — warp. Then it’s off to finding a way back to the surface.
Essentially a third-person puzzle adventure, Warp will force you to use your brain as you navigate the various traps and defenses of the facility, many of which can kill you in a single hit. Granted, you are able to pass through walls and even into people, turrets, and a variety of barrel-shaped objects, but even that skill has its limitations. For one, being able to warp a few feet in any direction loses its usefulness when many of the surrounding doors and walls are several feet thick (PSA: several > a few). Oh and some stuff is made of or covered in water, which causes you to lose your abilities when you touch it. Did I mention that you’re stuck in an underwater research facility? So, the odds are against you from the start. Thankfully, on your journey you’ll unlock an array of additional powers (by absorbing them from other alien captives) and upgrades (in exchange for some precious, collectible grubulons) to aid in your escape. But, while you become more powerful, the puzzles and obstacles you must surpass become more complex, forcing you to use everything you’ve learned up to that point to succeed.
And this is where Warp shines.
The introduction of each new ability (for you or your enemies) includes an explanation and training wheels phase, quickly followed by a more dire situation that forces you to apply what you’ve just learned – and do it quickly, or you will die. Thankfully, checkpoints are pretty frequent and load times fairly short, even though it might not seem like it when you’re retrying a challenge room for the 15th time in 2 minutes (more on that later).
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Warp is its visuals. Aquatic fauna occasionally floating by in the waters surrounding the submerged corridors is pretty, but good luck noticing that while you explode out from inside the body of a soldier, painting the walls with his insides. The deceptively cute protagonist will even leave little bloody footprints as he walks away from the remaining bits of leg and torso. Of course, you don’t have to kill any humans, should you choose not to. There’s even an achievement and alternate ending if you manage to control your homicidal urge.
Smart puzzles, brutal murders, and an adorable main character – all of it sounds pretty stellar so far. Right? Well, for the most part, it is. Until you’re asked to be more precise than the controls allow. More than once (ie – dozens of times), I was forced to retry a section or challenge room simply because Zero wouldn’t continue to face in the direction I had pointed him. You’re technically able to warp in any direction around you (a full 360 degrees), but the little placeholder light that indicates where you’ll end up after pressing the A button just LOVES to snap back to a cardinal direction right when you need it to stay put. This isn’t so much of an issue when progressing through the main campaign, but when 0.002 seconds means the difference between success and failure in a particularly difficult section of a challenge room, this minor gripe becomes maddening.
Luckily this issue only really comes up in the (completely optional) challenge rooms. The remainder, a 5(ish) hour campaign, full of collectibles and secrets (some of which require you to return after you’ve earned a necessary ability) is a delight. Though not perfect, Trapdoor’s very first(!) title is absolutely worth a look, especially considering the very reasonable 800 MS point ($10) price. Hopefully, Warp is just a glimpse of what we can expect to see from them in the future.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game purchased by the reviewer.
Warp is currently available for download on the Xbox 360 only, but will soon release on PS3 and PC.