As soon as I got past the first cut scene of Warp, the ghost of Chell and ‘Splosion Man reached out of my TV, shot across the room, and promptly slapped me. For the rest of my playthrough, I just couldn’t shake the Portal and ‘Splosion Man vibes that screamed out at me as I watched little Zero, a cute little orange thingamajig, wiggle and warp his way to escape through the large underwater laboratory in which he was being experimented upon. The keywords ‘lab’ and ‘warp’ are perhaps enough to warrant the Portal comparisons, but how does ‘Splosion Man tie in?
Zero might be all wobble and chubby-innocence at first blush, but I had to swallow my own words after discovering that Zero’s teleporting abilities weren’t limited to just warping into barrels after coming across a corpse. Out of morbid curiosity (and because the lab technician’s corpse lit up when I highlighted him with the cursor that indicated where Zero would warp), I warped into the body. To my sickened delight, it worked.
Zero’s abilities in warping aren’t just limited to propelling himself forward in the air or hiding in a corpse/barrel via teleportation. Whatever he’s managed to teleport himself into, he can also explode. I’m not a huge fan of how Trapdoor went about mapping explosions on the joystick, since it involves grinding the left joystick around until your left with a nub. I’m not sure why the developer is promoting destroying your Xbox controller, but make sure you use the shoddy controller you don’t mind grinding apart to play Warp. (For those of you who think I’m exaggerating, I looked down at my controller after about an hour of Warp… it took me a while to figure out what all those gray, used-pencil-eraser bits on my controller were.) Barrels can be exploded without much of a hurrah, but bodies, as you can imagine, squelch apart in a frenzy of blood. We’re left with a smear of the scientists that Zero just murdered and Zero himself, still cooing as adorably and innocently as he did before in a pool of human insides. Let the ‘Splosion Man comparisons begin.
Warp, as you’ve probably guessed from my Portal and ‘Splosion Man comparisons, is one part strategy, one part stealth, and one part guts-‘n-blood-‘n-‘splosions fun. Initially, the game’s laughably easy, requiring little more thought than to warp around a few barrels to confuse trigger-happy scientists before you turn them into a mist of red. However, the game’s difficulty gets ramped up significantly after the first hour. Sure, the AI never gets any smarter and you can usually warp behind a barrel or two and the gun-toting scientists will leave you alone, but sometimes you’re thrown into a room with two or three of the gun-wielding fellows who aren’t hesitant to shoot each other in order to kill Zero, and the experience become a tad more frustrating.
Trapdoor’s also scattered challenge modes across different rooms. They’re indicated by giant glowing orbs that you really can’t miss. These diversions really bring out the twitch aspects of Warp, as they really require physical skill in order to do well. They’re broken down in between the “frag” and “warp” elements of the game and are timed. The “warp” challenges require you to warp across gaps and obstacles, trying to beat times where the bar is set a little too high. I think Trapdoor might think a little too highly of its players’ reflexes. The “frag” challenges require you to kill a certain amount of scientists within a given time range, without getting shot yourself. This sounds more difficult than you think. I don’t exactly have the reflexes required to have a field day in a twitch shooter, but I’m decent enough and I’ve yet to do better than bronze on any of these challenges. Then again, I could be missing the obvious trick to them.
Warp’s also got an upgrade system that really is treated like little more than an afterthought. You can collect purplish amoeba things dubbed “grub”, which Zero ingests. As most upgrade systems tend to work, you collect and redeem grub for upgrades. They are few and far between, and unless you’re a really gung-ho collector, they’re usually placed around in areas you wouldn’t bother warping to. Even a few hours into the game, I’d only grabbed a few upgrades and they made so little difference that I hardly bothered afterwards.
Eventually, Zero begins to gain more abilities that help you through puzzles. For instance, one gained a few hours in allows you to cast an illusion of Zero, or whatever container he’s in. It comes in handy for solving a few puzzles and for a boss battle. Still, these abilities do little more than enhance the base warping ability he has.
Overall, Warp is a fun little experience. It’s frustrating at times, since it occasionally requires more twitch reflexes than strategy. Warping into things and blowing them up really holds the game together, but once that novelty wears off, violently moving your left stick around as a main game mechanic really starts to get on your nerves. I’d say it’s definitely worth a play through if you’re looking for something fun for an afternoon or so.
Here’s the rundown:
+ Zero is cute and explodes things
+ There’s nothing more satisfying than watching a scientist scramble away in fear from an orange blob
+ More excessive gore than a B movie
– My left joystick has been ground down into a nub
– Novelty wears off after an hour or so
7 and 7.5 represent a game that overall manages to be worth a playthrough, just not worth the full price at launch. These scores are for games that are relatively good or even really good, but generally worth waiting for a sale or picking up as a rental when possible.
Warp was played to completion in about ten hours, mostly because the reviewer really sucks at these type of games, so expect to finish the game much faster. Warp was developed by Trapdoor and published by Electronic Arts, who graciously provided a review code to RipTen.