Warp Hands-On (Xbox Live Arcade)
Roaming the floor for video game action at the Consumer Electronics Show is sort of like hunting for Easter eggs – tiresome to a certain degree, but worth it once you find something. And we did find something in Microsoft’s booth – all four of its upcoming House Party games, which begin releasing on February 15. Included in that bunch is EA’s upcoming action/puzzle game Warp, and though we didn’t really hear much about it beforehand, it’s definitely found its way onto our “must play” list after spending a few minutes with it on the show floor.
The game has that kind of independent spark, almost like a combination of Splosion Man and the original Portal, though it plays in a completely different way. You control the actions of a cute, little, orange alien, captured and put into containment at a lab. It’s not long before you’re subjected to a series of tests that introduce you to the basic concepts of gameplay, and you soon regain the alien’s key ability – warping. Using a little dot on the ground for guidance, you’ll need to warp your way out of the lab, shooting through walls and across chasms in order to reach the next safe point.
Warping isn’t just a defensive tactic. You can also use it when it comes to attacking. You can hop into barrels for hiding and make them explode at the right decisive moment; you can jump into machine gun turrets and destroy them from the inside out (as long as you avoid their targeting range, obviously); and, probably the best use of all, you can jump inside a human and make them explode into a gushy mess. That makes all the difference in this game, and it’s just the beginning of the kind of torment you can unleash.
Later on in Warp, you’ll discover new challenges that need to be overcome, including soldiers who aren’t afraid to go crazy with their weapons. Here, the alien can either warp into a nearby object and make it explode, killing them in the process, or the alien can gain access to a cool Echo ability, available a bit later in the game. This projects an image of the alien that temporarily distracts the human, giving you either the option to warp into them for instant explosion or kill them with an environmental hazard, in which there are quite a few.
However, taking out enemies is merely half the battle. You’ll also need to contend with dangers in the stages themselves. Along with turrets, the little guy has to keep an eye open for water, which is fatal to the touch. And wouldn’t you know, the lab has puddles of it all over the place. You’ll need to use creative warping to work your way around these dangers and make it out alive – and good luck with that.
This is the first effort from the indie team at Trapdoor, and it’s really a charming little one at that. Played from a top-down perspective, you can see the delicate work that’s gone into the game’s level design and effects, especially when you splatter some poor sap and watch his blood dry up in a hurry. The animation is quite effective, and mapping out challenges in a stage is really quite cool. What’s more, the checkpoints are sparingly provided, so it never gets to the point of frustration. (Keep an eye open for bonus challenge rooms as well!)
If you like games that go off the deep end and make you think of how you’re going to get out of each level, then Warp is clearly for you. But even if you’re a casual player, this may definitely be of some entertainment. Especially the first time you blow up someone.
Look for a review of Warp shortly following its release next month.