Warp, or ‘the game I have up for review this week’, brandishes a big EA logo. I’m a little worried about this. I ostensibly run a column about indie games, and now I’m doing EA games? I’m a little worried this will wipe out all my internet indie cred, backward and forward, forever. Do I take the risk?
But wait! Turns out Warp was actually developed by Trapdoor Inc., who are (and I quote) “small, scrappy, and passionate about crafting games with unique personality and distinctive style”. I guess EA is just the producer, then. I’m totally fine with this arrangement. Indie cred: SAFE.
(Mechanical spoiler level: medium)
Warp opens up by doing something that’s a sure-fire way to get straight into my heart: trying to integrate itself with Origin. Wow, Warp, thanks a bundle. Nevermind that I bought this game on Steam, nor that I downloaded the game on Steam, meaning that I’d have to manually move or re-download it should I even want to use it with Origin. That’s, that’s a real swell thing you’re doing there. Though not as swell as the fact that you’re cocking it up repeatedly, and that you’re making me manually get my CD key from Steam here. This first impression you’re making here could’ve used some more player-side QA, in my only partially professional opinion.
This nonsense behind me, I sit through the requisite battery of LOUD NOISES introduction movies, including that big EA logo again. And just as the menu fades into view, and I start entertaining hopes of hoping to be entertained, Warp blindsides me with the notion that I have to log into my EA account to play.
Oh, sure, you don’t have to be logged in to play. It’s just that if you don’t, ‘your stats will not be tracked, and you cannot compare your progress on leaderboards to your friends’. Independent analysis confirms that, yes, these ‘stats’ include your save games. In fact, let me emphasize this statement: You can only save one game per profile in Warp, and you can never load a game saved while logged in without logging in again. It’s a trap, basically: don’t fall for it, like I did. It’s a mind-bogglingly stupid system, and its inclusion in this title serves only to baffle and annoy me.
Does it have any benefits, you ask? Well, there’s a ‘friends list’ that you can keep, to compare scores and whatnot: even though Warp is a single-player game, the idea of comparing scores to friends in single-player games is one that kept me mildly entertained in such games as Xotic and Orcs Must Die. Except, of course, that those games leveraged your Steam list, making the Friend system painless and automatic. This game, despite being saddled with both Steam and Origin, seems to expect me to manually keep yet a third Friend list, for the benefit of Warp and Warp alone.
So yeah, that’s a first impression: all fucked up. Still, I already bought this game, so I might as well see if it stacks up gameplay-wise.
A first-person opening movie clues me in on the particulars. It appears that I’m an alien of some sort, judging by my gangly pitch-black limbs. From the state of my surroundings and my erratic eye opening-and-closing, I’m guessing I crash-landed somewhere. And those armed human men in lab coats are probably here to take me to a hospital and care for me, and not at all interested in performing cruel, unnecessary experiments on me.
Finally, stumbling to my feet-lines in a somewhat unusual perspective, an arrows-icon appears over my head. Feeling this is my cue slash time to shine, I press the D key to move rightward.
Confusion. I try the right arrow key by rote: now I’m shambling right. Moments later, a helpful tutori-popup informs me that in Warp, the arrow keys are for movement, while the WASD keys are for camera control. Such as it is: I can only nudge the camera a small ways away from my unnamed alien self. What kind of crazy control scheme is this? I open the Options menu to alter this, post-haste. Ah, there’s the Control option.
Aaand there’s strike 2. Warp is an XBox port. Alright, that alone wouldn’t be enough to indict it: Warp is a bad Xbox port. Not to mention a strange one. If Left Stick is movement and Right Stick is camera, as it should be, how does that ever translate to WASD for camera and arrows for movement? Sense, this control scheme makes none. I’m starting to suspect the porting was done by people who don’t play a lot of PC games.
Alright, alright, the game. The evil (I assume) human scientists have me running a battery of insultingly simple tests. Walk this arrow path. Push this ball. Repeat this note pattern. As far as controls tutorials go, it works, though I’m growing bored it it rather fast. Hopefully, whatever’s at the end of this incredibly dull maze will make up for it.
Actually, I don’t even make it to the end. In the center of the maze, the humans have my stolen power source on display. I get near it, almost near enough to touch, and…
What follows is pandemonium. As alarms go off and maze walls rise, the friendly tutori-promt tells me I can now TELEPORT, I mean WARP. Press C to teleport a small linear distance in one of the eight
XBox Analog stick cardinal directions! Haha, this is awesome! I totally understand why they based the game’s title and core mechanic on this idea, and that’s not even a joke!
Newfound power in hand, I easily escape my confinement and… actually, that’s a lie. I can only teleport a relatively short distance, so any wall thicker than (say) two feet stops me flat. The same goes for steep drops, which this facility has a lot of. I can already tell Warp is essentially an isometric 3D linear exploration puzzle game. I have to go from point A to point B, using my teleportation skills to get around. It’s certainly an entertaining concept. It forces me to look at levels in a whole new light: thin walls and crevices are no longer impassable object, but merely line-of-sight blockers, whereas barrels and unguarded humans turn from obstacles into assets.
Wait, assets? Yes, the power of WARP is more than just more teleportation: I can also warp into any large enough solid object I see. There’s a plethora of different barrels, for instance, that I can hide in, and warping into the automated gun turrets I’ve just run into stuns them while inside and for a little while after leaving. The same goes for humans: while I can’t ‘hitch a ride’ on a passing soldier, warping through them dazes them long enough for me to make my daring getaway.
That is to say, whenever I’m content with merely fleeing. As the game informs me, mashing the arrow keys while inside an object will cause it to VIOLENTLY EXPLODE in a certified awesome manner. For barrels and gun turrets, this leads to a mess of scrap and wasted electronics. And for humans?
Of course, being the kind alien that I am, I immediately resolve to keep the murder to a minimum. The game actually references that, pretty early on, which makes me smile. Let’s see if it keeps it up.
About an hour into my escape-attempt-turned-exploration-trip, I run into a weird glowing orb with three floating grubs (the game’s mandatory collectible) in gold, silver and bronze. Warping into it reveals this to be a Challenge Portal, granting me access to the first of many optional challenges. Ah, so that’s what the leaderboards are for.
‘Warp as fast as you can to the exit’, eh, Challenge Room? Let’s see how well I’ve mastered this Warping thing so far.
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