Warp

Warp1

Sneak, snoop, and murder your way out of an underwater science facility.

PC Release: February 15, 2012

By Ian Coppock

Puzzle games are not a great choice when you’re feeling impatient. Warp is an ideal choice for this situation, because it contains enough puzzles and brain teasers to satisfy the thinking man, but enough gore and blood to sate primal instincts piqued by hours of playing Counter-Strike. We find ourselves in a precarious situation with Warp. Charming yet dark, varied yet shallow, indie yet EA. How can a puzzle game take all of these contradictions and pull off an enjoyable experience?

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Warp is a top-down puzzle game that follows a little alien’s escape attempt from human captivity. Our hero, Zero, was incarcerated and experimented upon after his spacecraft crashed on earth, and now you have to guide him to freedom. There are waves of armed guards and about two miles worth of ocean depth separating you from your goal. Along the way you’ll encounter a gaggle of cowardly scientists and a sadistic military commander voiced by J.K. Simmons’ twin brother.

Right off the bat, Warp sounds like a pretty typical indie puzzler, with a simple premise and a cute little creature who could pose in a lineup with the Limbo boy, or perhaps Ilo and Milo. Developer Trapdoor throws this assumption out the window by introducing lots of gore. Zero’s primary power is teleportation, which he can use to get to and from different areas, but also to get inside of objects. Spinning the mouse or joystick will cause whatever he’s hiding in to explode, be that doors, power generators or people. It’s a mechanic that has practical applications for getting around safely, but let’s be honest, it’s also quite entertaining in its own right.

HOLY SHIT

HOLY SHIT!!!

As time goes on, Zero amplifies his warping powers with other abilities. You can shoot the objects you’re hiding in from one place to another, or even swap them out with other objects nearby. Ostensibly, this ability is to be used to solve Warp‘s many puzzles, but they also factor into the game’s added stealth mechanics. Never before have I really played a stealth puzzler, and these mechanics are equally important to both elements. Zero is quite fragile and will go down in a splat of jello if he gets shot, so you really have no choice but to be smart about moving around.

The presence of stealth mechanics also means that most puzzles here revolve around an environmental hazard, rather than logic or physics. Timing is critical for avoiding security guards, laser beams, turrets and other obstacles. Warping into an object will keep you hidden from any danger, but making said object behave suspiciously is sure to draw attention. So yes, Warp is a puzzle game, but it’s not the type of logical labyrinth that most puzzle gamers like to obnoxiously pride themselves upon. The skillset is there but the time-gates, the gore and the hazards deviate away from the indie logician blueprint so common these days. I relished the challenge.

Warp's puzzles rely on clear danger rather than math or logic. Get in, avoid the obstacle, get out.

Warp’s puzzles rely on clear danger rather than math or logic. Get in, avoid the obstacle, get out.

Though outwardly linear, Warp‘s game world involves a lot of backtracking and activating new puzzles that were previously inaccessible. You basically have to travel to different far-flung corners of the facility and gain powers necessary for an ultimate escape. You’ll cross back into the same areas that, despite looking samey for the entire 3-4 hour production, pack enough variety to hold your interest.

Visuals in Warp are pretty-cut and dry, and I found them to be surprisingly rough around the edges for a 2012 indie game. Character model design is shaky at best. No, the real star in this game’s visual gallery is the environments, with lots of object detail and pretty underwater scenery. The voice-acting and sound effects accompanying the visuals are pretty bland, but serviceable. For a small indie game that somehow caught EA’s attention, it could be a lot worse.

Warp's plot isn't much to speak of, but its successful marriage of stealth and puzzles makes it a hit.

Warp’s plot isn’t much to speak of, but its successful marriage of stealth and puzzles makes it a hit.

Developer Trapdoor took some time to develop Zero as a character, giving him cute little sound effects and a nonthreatening aesthetic. It’s a good thing too, because otherwise it might be a bit difficult to become attached to a creature that kills people by warping inside them and causing them to explode. It’s like how Hotline Miami stylized its violence to give it some novelty, and it’s happened with Warp as well. I don’t know exactly how many gallons of blood I spilled all over that lab, but it was a lot.

Then I went home and played Warp!

I just wanna be your fwend!!

I just wanna be your fwend!!

If the challenges in the main game aren’t enough to sate the bloodthirsty puzzle-seeker, there are bonus maps hidden throughout the game. You can also collect little pink slug-looking things to gain more power, giving you greater freedom in how you navigate the world and solve puzzles. It’s possible to finish Warp without being violent, but the game does jack shit to encourage that road. It’s like trying to finish Postal 2 without killing anybody, and at that point you might as well start telling people that you’re the embodiment of Christ.

Warp’s primary contribution to the puzzle genre is its combination of stealth mechanics and puzzles. Zero’s teleportation powers are essential for both, and it was fun to play a game where a central set of mechanics are used for two very different functions. That plus the ridiculous gore and a subtle, acidic humor therein give the game a lot of novelty. It’s not for people who prefer only the physics or logic-based puzzle games out there, but it provides a great challenge for gamers who enjoy timed challenges and navigating increasingly ridiculous mazes of environmental obstacles.

Match made in heaven.

Match made in heaven.

There is one point of bullshit with this game that bears pointing out, though it has nothing to do with the game itself and everything to do with EA, its publisher. Console gamers are good to go with Warp, but Steam users need to agree to third-party DRM with EA Origin, which is a sack of stir-fried baloney if ever I’ve seen it.

My recommendation of the game’s PC version is contingent upon your comfort level with additional layers of DRM, but if you don’t mind taking up an Origin account just to play this, go for it. Whether the game is worth that extra time, based on what you’ve read so far, is up to you. I can say that that Warp is an enjoyable, if imperfect, little game that puzzle fans should try if they’re looking for something different.

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You can buy Warp here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at ianlaynecoppock@gmail.com with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.

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