Geek Out: Enslaved

Welcome to the next installment of Geek Out, the biweekly (or weekly, or when I feel like it) feature that details what I'm geeking out about right now. Last time, I talked about Borderlands, an excellent shooter/RPG hybrid that still has me exploring its loot-filled canyons. This week's Geek Out is another video game, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.

GEEK | WHAT

Enslaved is a late 2010 action-adventure game with a story very loosely based on the ancient Chinese story Journey to the West. You play as the nimble Monkey, a bit of a loner that gets roped into helping a girl named Trip find her way home through an evil-robot-filled dystopian America.

GEEK | WHY

Characters: The story has a few holes and a divisive ending, but the characterization is second to none. Developer Ninja Theory has done a phenomenal job animating very emotive characters. You'll feel Trip's pain as she explores the ruins of New York, and understand Monkey's confusion when he starts hallucinating--this is a game that doesn't need subtitles or obvious dialog, the character's faces say it all. Andy Serkis--Gollum from the Lord of the Rings movies--is back for his second Ninja Theory game (he did Heavenly Sword too) voicing Monkey and doing a bunch of the motion capture stuff.

Here's a good example of the great characterization and facial animation (the volume is kind of low on the video so you might want to turn up your speakers).

Colors: Enslaved is the most colorful dystopian game I've ever played. In a generation of games overrun by browns and grays, Enslaved takes a colorful stance with vivid oranges, greens and purples. Those colors, and the emotive characters come together to make a truly beautiful game. Every environment is packed with vibrant detail. I was constantly spinning the camera around to take in the sights.

Pacing: The last time I went through a game so fast I was playing Uncharted 2. Enslaved has a great pace that keeps the challenges and story bits coming. Every time I felt like stopping, something would happen to push me on a little more.

GEEK | WHO

If you like adventure games like Uncharted, Tomb Raider, or Beyond Good & Evil, you'll have a good time with Enslaved. The gameplay isn't remarkable--you've punched robots and mantled ledges in plenty of other games--but it is solid and enjoyable. If you're looking for an interesting story with highly emotive characters, I can't recommend Enslaved enough. There are times that I felt like I was watching a movie; little moments were a character's face conveyed an emotion or worked a punchline that really sold me on the whole experience. I wish every game had movie-quality character animation like this.

GEEK | HOW

Enslaved is available on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. I rented it through GameFly and got about 10 to 12 hours out of it. It's available for purchase for a fairly low price only a few months after its release. The game is best experienced with a big beautiful HD display. Also, if you have 3D TV and you're into hurting your eyes, Enslaved is playable in 3D. A downloadable adventure starring one of the secondary character's in the game was released recently. I didn't play that content, but I've heard good things.