Monday, 31 October 2011

Halloween Reviewfest Conclusion:

Dear Jimmy Reviews...

Up until last year’s allegedly final film the ‘Saw’ franchise was something of a Halloween tradition, and is something that seems to have divided cinema goers. Some see it as a lumbering dinosaur of a series that had long since worn out it’s welcome, whereas others see it as nothing but shock whoring ‘torture porn’. But there must have been some sort of a demand for it, since the series ran for a total of seven films with many fans still hoping for an eighth. Then again, this game got a sequel, too, so that’s probably less an indicator of quality than it is an indicator of how many people are dumb enough to spend money on something.

I’ll put my hands up to personally being a fan of the films, though, mainly due it having some fairly intelligent writing under all that gore and it’s sticking to analogue special effects in a digital age, for the first seven movies at least. Plus Tobin Bell’s performances each year were always the films’ saving grace. One thing that EVERYBODY agrees on unanimously, though, is that the game freakin’ sucks and couldn’t be salvaged by a million Tobin Bells!

Personally, I’m not put off by the broken ass, clumsy combat system, which sees your character move with all the grace and fluidity of the old school action man figures that used to have a total of seven points of articulation. These sections are painfully easy, and over far too quickly…Unless you end up trapped in a corner. In which case you may as well quit and cut out the middle man, since this usually results in an infinite hit combo that is basically impossible to do anything about, thanks to the poor combat engine.

No. What puts me off is the fact that a Saw game even has a combat system to begin with! Remember all those epic fist fights in the Saw series? No? Well how about the time Jigsaw managed to kidnap the population of a medium sized town and manipulate every single one of them into being pawns in his latest game? Me either.

But that’s the problem, what works in the Saw movies wouldn’t translate very well into a game, and so Konami had to find something that would work, until they got what is basically a completely original shitty game with the Saw name plastered on it, and a few characters imported for good measure.

After all, the average Saw movie lasts 1 ½-2 hours, but how pissed off would you be if you paid fifty quid for a game only to finish it in two hours? Almost as pissed off as when I paid fifty quid for this piece of shit, I imagine! Instead you just get something you wish was over that quickly!

How meta...They're recreating exactly what Konami did to anybody who paid money for this shit.
What they pad it out with is mindless drivel, which mainly consists of wandering around aimlessly trying to find keys/fuses/cranks to progress to the next section of the game. It doesn’t help that most of the corridors in the asylum where this game is set all look exactly the same, or that the floor plan, at times, feels like it was designed by one of the inmates using a spirography during a particularly LSD fuelled art session.

If your sense of direction wasn’t thrown off enough by the generic environment and poor layout, add to this the fact that you occasionally get knocked out by the film’s ‘Pighead’ and dumped in a random room with no idea where the hell you are and navigation is a real bitch. To compound this frustration the darkness mechanic gives you a very limited view of the rooms. Based on the light source you have equipped you end up seeing somewhere on a scale of ‘Jack Shit’ to Fuck All’.

Hey! I remember this. It's generic dark corridor 2E. Dammit! I wanted generic dark corridor 2D!

This sets up one of the games more annoying gimmicks, as the floor is peppered with glass. Because y’know, Jigsaw did that once. Remember? That thirty second scene in the first movie?

See? That’s cannon and everything. Yep, this is totally a ‘Saw’ game now! This is just one of many ham fisted attempts at justifying the tie in, forcing references to the films down your throat with the grace and subtlety of a meth addict giving you a colonoscopy as he goes through the shakes of withdrawal.

Said glass chips away at your health bar, so basically if you stand in the wrong place too often you could die just by wandering around. And believe you me… this game involves a lot of wondering around.

This wandering is sometimes broken up by the poorly considered fights I mentioned earlier, with prisoners who spout two inane comments on a constant loop, much like most flame wars on YouTube. You have a variety of weapons to fight them off with, but unless you’re a sad, soulless trophy junkie there’s no reason to use anything other than a baseball bat or pipe. Unless of course it gets damaged, that is.

That’s right. All of your weapons degrade over time. Things like the lamp, and the gun I get. I may not be an expert in the finer arts of self defence, but I’m fairly certain that a lead pipe can bash more than three skulls in before it snaps in half. Even then, I’m also fairly certain that half a lead pipe would make just as good of a weapon.

Shit! My pipe broke and now all I have to defend myself is this jagged piece of metal. Guess I better pick up a mannequin arm instead...

Luckily you’ll have plenty of chance to replace it during your endless wandering around, since weapons are pretty liberally scattered all over the place. Unlike the fights themselves which tend to only last a few seconds, but are about twenty minutes apart. If you get really desperate, later in the game you can build your own traps and deploy them, but this whole mechanic is so clumsy and unreliable that even if you don’t accidentally gas/detonate/electrocute yourself it ends up being far more trouble than it’s worth. And the gathering of the materials just adds another layer of monotony to the game. “Oh look! I found my fiftieth can of turpentine”.

All of this takes away from the immediacy of the threat, and that is what creates the tension in the Saw films. All I cared about was getting to the ‘boss’ stages which involve solving puzzles to rescue ‘your victims’. However you end up running backwards and forwards, playing fetch for Jigsaw, like a greyhound on a piece of elastic, so even just getting through what should be a single corridor becomes an epic quest that took me longer to complete than a Japanese crossword. (And the only Japanese I know is ‘Where’ ‘can’ ‘I’ ‘ladyboys’ and ‘find’)

The only immediate threats are usually cheap ass one hit kills, such as booby trap doors that need disarming with a quick time button press, or shotgun tripwires, that are borderline impossible to see thanks to the lack of lighting. As such more than likely the only way to find them is triggering them the first time around, reducing the game to a ridiculously frustrating, insanely long game of ‘Minesweeper’.

This gets more frustrating the further you get, as the checkpoints begin to get few and far apart, forcing you to repeat the same five minutes of monotony over and over again, kinda like ‘Groundhog Day’ but on a shitload of Valium, and only slightly less funny.

Of course these do greatly extend the life span of the game, as they eventually get to the point where even Ghandi would get pissed, and either turn the game off in frustration, or just hurl the controller through the screen, before vowing that you were done with this shit for the fortieth time. Thus adding month to it’s longevity.

Every time you die your frustrations will be added to be that fucking patronising 'Billy The Puppet' laugh over a screen that says 'You Died'. This isn't frustrating because of the patronising laugh...Although that does very quickly annoy the hell out of you. The annoying bit is 'You dies' ...Seriously game?! 'You Died'?! You're trying to convince me that this is a genuine 'Saw' product and yet you go with 'You Died'? As opposed to... All together now spoiler fans: Game Over!

The puzzle sections attempt to vary things up a little. But it is very little. They aren’t exactly well designed either. The larger set pieces are so poorly put together that you’ll end up falling ass backwards into the solution, and then find the clues that explain why you were meant to do what you just did, or so obscure that they become a matter of trial and error. Not only that but they, too, are bugged up the ass. I once had a timer randomly reactivate on me after I’d completed a puzzle sending me back about five minutes in the game.

The bulk of them are about a billion fuse box puzzles, which are basically the ‘confuse box’ flash game, lock picking puzzles, that require you to rotate tumblers to match up the cabinets, cog puzzles which require you to complete a working set of gears, or the medicine cabinets puzzles in which the only puzzle is ‘why in the hell does it take so long for these symbols to line up?! And why the hell am I not playing something better than this?!’

I assume from your reading this website you have access to the internet, and therefore you would be able to play all of these puzzles for free on the internet, and not have to wait hours between each one either. Even if you were on the 3 network. Plus the internet has boobies on it, which this game is sadly lacking in.
Alternatively you could experience the feeling of playing game for free by staring at this for a couple hours. And then kicking yourself in the nuts afterwards.

As intimidating as they look the ‘boss’ sections where you have to rescue ‘your victims’ are more plain old uninspiring, and uninspired, crap. Maybe there’s nothing technically wrong with them, but they’re hardly innovative, or particularly taxing. In fact the traps may as well just have an hilariously oversized plug on that you just yank out, or trip over a la Naked Gun. The first one, for example, looks like it could actually, possibly, maybe be a challenge. But upon closer inspection is solved by alternating between the two buttons that can be pressed.  Thus cementing my resolve that I could train a seal to complete this game’s puzzles in an afternoon.

The one thing I wish I could credit the game for is having randomized puzzles, making walkthroughs a little redundant, and encouraging you to actually figure them out for yourself. However I said that I wished I could give it credit because even this ends up fucking you over. Twice it generated impossible puzzles. I don’t mean ‘impossible’ as in ‘very difficult’ I mean ‘impossible’ as in ‘there is physically no way to make this happen, you have once again screwed me over, game’. ‘Impossible’ as in ‘now I have to kill myself in hopes that the next time you generate a puzzle it is something that I’m actually able to complete, but your corridors are so bland and empty I’ve first got to wander around for five minutes to try and find a way to kill myself’. That kind of im-fucking-possible! I don’t know, maybe I was just unlucky and got a glitchy copy but this is yet another example of the game having fundamental coding errors that would really take away from the enjoyment if there was any to be had in the first place!

The only Saw regular making a welcome appearance is Torbin Bell’s reprisal of the ‘Jigsaw’ role. His performances being another thing that kept me coming back to Saw at the cinema every Halloween. None of the other franchise characters are voiced by their big screen counterparts. Or competent actors for that matter. If their enthusiasm is anything to go by maybe the developers pulled a Jigsaw and just kidnapped a string of random people and forced them to perform the voice acting for this game. The idea that they have reverse bear traps attached to them would explain the depressing performances they all give.

The plot itself is unengaging. Again, an element of the films that does not translate well to games. Since the films focused on a few victims who we got to know and emphasise with before forcing them to make difficult and often harrowing choices. Even those that were ass holes elected some sympathy from the audience throughout their trials. However this game just throws scores upon scores of nameless, faceless rent a thug at you. A fact that isn’t helped by the fact they all seem to be the exact same character model.

The central characters get a little more screen time and a bit more of their story told, but get no real development from it. Definitely not enough that I actually end up giving a shit about their fates. They are mostly ripped from the film, but are such minor characters in the franchasie's vast cast that if the game expects memories of them from the cinema to change how few shits I give it’s sadly mistaken. Especially since you very quickly cotton on  to the pattern that you rescue them then they instantly die some other way anyway. Whereas I’m glad this spares us any escort mission bullshit, it hardly makes me want to relate to these second stringers, or feel any genuine concern over their fate.

After what felt like a couple years I finally reached the endings. That’s right. Endings. Plural. That old gimmick! Getting to the end once is a chore, but expecting a second play through is just wishful thinking. Especially since, despite being suitably dark and fitting the mood of the films, the endings fall flat… along with the rest of the writing... and the gameplay… and the graphics…

So while it is somewhat interesting to see another slice of the Saw universe and see how Tapp’s obsession has destroyed other people’s lives, it’s nowhere near as well developed as the personal arcs of the film, nor interesting enough to warrant putting up with the effort and frustration that you have to put up with. The only thing that kept me coming back was my journalistic integrity, since I refused to review a game I hadn’t even finished. But those of you that aren’t sadomasochistic, or writing a review for your bitter twisted websites, just stay the hell away. I can’t see many players grinding through the entire game. There’s just not enough to hold the players attention. Even now that the sequel and bad reviews has driven this game to the depths of the bargain basement anybody buying this game with any ammount of anything even close to being considered legal currency is gonna feel cheated.

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