It’s been so busy on the XBLA that you don’t know where to invest your Microsoft points. I have been back and forth with this roulette and I think I’ve found a pretty nice gem in Warp. This interesting platformer from Trapdoor has a great balance of puzzles and some intense action. It shocked me quite a bit honestly. When I started the game, I was watching all the company logos and then a “Rated M” popped up and I was confused. The little ad for the game looked totally harmless. Then I saw “Powered by Unreal Technology” and I got curious. This game is no powder puff push over.
You start the game looking through the eyes of an alien who I assume crash landed on earth. Unfortunately, for this creature, it is captured and experimented on in a facility full of creatures that have been through the same ordeal. You are stripped of your powers and are put through some very basic tests that also serve as a tutorial. While learning the ropes, you are contacted by an alien who is also held captive in the facility. It claims it hasn’t been able to communicate to any other of the alien captives and you’re the first. It telepathically speaks to you starting with small talk but it also gives you tips to help you advance through the game. The game starts to pick up after you find this cog looking object that the scientist took off of you in the opening sequence. It links on to you and you are rewarded with the power to warp short distances. You also have the ability to warp into objects and people using them for hiding or simply make them explode. Now, it’s time to find this other alien and escape this laboratory before they kill you.
As you play through the game you find more powers/abilities that make some of the earlier puzzles easier. However, anyone who plays any platformer or puzzle game knows, more abilities mean a spike in puzzle difficulty. Not to mention the laboratory is underwater and you apparently lose your powers temporarily when you get wet. Luckily, you can upgrade these powers, along with your passive abilities (movement, map upgrades to locate hidden objects, etc.) with grubs you find throughout the game. The scientists were using them to feed the aliens but they have been scattered throughout each area of the laboratory. You aren’t able to sell back your upgrades so you have to choose wisely. However, you don’t necessarily have to buy ALL of them; you can just buy what suits your play style and still make it through the game. There are bonus levels that you can find that will reward you with extra grubs pending how well you complete them. The puzzles get progressively harder during the game, which is to be expected, but there are boss battles and sequences also. You may end up failing a few times before you get the idea but they aren’t discouraging. They are simple to figure out and just take a bit of common sense to get through.
Warp’s graphics are pretty good for an XBLA puzzle platformer also. The character designs aren’t really anything complicated but they are still done well. The human enemies are basically the same with different outfits/abilities. The laboratory has a simple and typical “laboratory scheme” with white floors and grey walls but the view outside is what got my attention. The lab is underwater and you can see various deep sea creatures outside the walls of your scientific prison.
Gamers will enjoy the game’s simplicity and the subtle complexity of the puzzles. Players can progress quickly through some areas, but there are sections that will require you to stare at the environment for a few minutes before the solution hits you. It gets a little annoying when the other alien chooses to speak and you have to read captions at the bottom of the screen. It sometimes chooses to talk at inconvenient times so I have to decide on abandoning what I’m doing to read or ignore it. I also found that the tips given while the game is loading a checkpoint switched way to quick sometimes and I just resorted to figuring things out myself. I think Warp is a fairly decent buy from the marketplace for 800msp. They could’ve easily priced it at 1200msp like most of the newer arcade additions.