The Xbox Live Arcade House Party is back with a collection of top Xbox Live Arcade titles being released over four weeks with the incentive of getting 800msp for the purchase of all titles before 14th March 2012. Kick-starting it this year is EA’s cute, but deadly Warp, developed by Trapdoor Inc.
Described as a puzzle-based stealth action game, the player takes control of a little alien Zero, who seems to have crash landed on Earth then captured by scientists and imprisoned in an underwater military research facility for testing. Zero must use its abilities to try and escape the area while avoiding guards, manoeuvring around various obstacles, and with the facility’s General hot on it’s tail.
Zero’s main ability is the warp, which can be used to pass through certain walls and into objects such as canisters and people. Armed guards in the game will shoot on sight and it will only take a single hit to kill you, so stealth and creating distractions is key to getting around. Scientists however are vulnerable and will cower away if you are spotted or will trigger alarms calling forth guards or automatic turrets. Zero is also able destroy the objects it warps into with a little movement of the analogue stick, and although Zero bares an innocent and cuddly exterior, it’s actually a lethal killing machine as doing this whilst warped inside the body of a guard or scientist, will cause them explode leaving a bloody mess.
Some areas in the game can be quite tricky to determine the best way to approach them and a slight error in timing can cost you. Luckily the checkpoint system is quite forgiving, meaning you will never have to travel too far to get back to where you made a mistake.
Zero’s weakness in the game is water, and upon touching it all abilities will be lost for a brief time. This makes it all the more tricky to escape from a situation or move into another room. Water barriers will prevent entry to certain areas, so the player must navigate Zero through the rooms avoiding these hazards.
Throughout the game there are little grubs to collect which can be spent at an upgrade shop to improve Zero’s abilities with upgrades such as silent movement and silent warps to avoid detection or speed upgrades to get around faster. There are also pieces taken from Zero to collect which grant access to new abilities such as “echo” which creates a duplicate used to distract guards to assist in making its escape.
There are a few boss battles in the game which require particular techniques to take them down utilising the new abilities gained as you progress through the game. Some of these I found to be quite challenging due to death on a single hit.
Other collectibles in the game involve blowing up film canisters hidden away in hard to reach rooms which unlock concept artwork in the extras section of the main menu, and challenge rooms scattered throughout the game which unlocks access in the challenges section of the main menu.
The challenges are split into two categories, race and extermination. Race requires reaching a checkpoint as quickly as possible using the abilities available for the particular room. Extermination involves killing all of the enemies on the map as fast as possible. There are target times for each room granting gold, silver and bronze prizes as well as extra grubs to spend at the upgrade station during the main game. These challenges are quite tough to score the top medals in, but they add a little extra to come back to after finishing the main game.
Visually Warp is well presented in a 3D cell shaded style with simple, yet comical cutscenes which are triggered at key points in the game such as before a boss battle. The environments throughout the game do not vary a lot and there are areas that you can revisit once you have obtained new abilities granting access to rooms and collectibles previously inaccessible. You play from a top down perspective and can use the right analogue stick to see the areas around you, which will assist when planning how to tackle an area by looking for enemies and places to hide. There are some points in the game when trying to rush to avoid an enemy that you may find yourself warping into an object you don’t want to or in the wrong direction as you will warp only in the direction you have Zero facing, which can lead to a costly mistake.
After completing the game, the only options left available are the challenges which you can use to try and improve on your scores, or starting a new game which is not a new game plus, so all abilities and collectibles will need to be obtained again. This can be used to polish up those remaining achievements from the main game, but does not offer anything new. Those who seek to play again with new perks or all abilities already unlocked will not find any replay value here. That said the game is enjoyable to play and quite challenging in places, but it’s not something you are likely to come straight back to. Completing the challenges within the target times can be very frustrating, but those determined should achieve the times after some practice and familiarity with the stages.
With a playthrough time of about 6 hours (excluding challenges), it may seem a little short, but it’s great fun to play. The cutscenes, animations and voiceovers are humorous, and the story and puzzles will keep you hooked to play and see what will come next. The addition of the intricate yet enjoyable challenge mode adds to the life of the game and provides enough content to justify the cost of 800msp.
Warp will also be available on PC and Playstation 3 on March 13th at around £7.99.