So there I was, minding my own business and stealthily moving around an underwater research facility when I was asked to do something satisfyingly grotesque. You see, in Warp you assume the role of a dwarf-sized alien visitor who’s captured by scientists. In order to escape, you make use of a Kitty Pryde-esque power that allows you to teleport short distances.
Early in the game you avoid detection by warping into barrels. Soon enough the only way to advance is to teleport into something a little more conspicuous: human bodies. Wiggle the left joystick and the people you infiltrate expand until — splat! — their innards aren’t as “in” as they once were.
Warp is one of those downloadable games that utilizes a fairly simple gameplay mechanic and expands on it in slight ways through a somewhat short campaign. In addition to the titular warping ability, our little alien friend gains the power to create decoys of itself to fool captors or perform body switches.
You begin the game with the basic warping ability. In addition to moving into solid objects and humans, this trait allows our protagonist to move through thin walls. To get around the obvious solution of warping outside of the facility itself, Trapdoor’s cleverly made water this little guy’s kryptonite and stuck him in an underwater research facility.
In fact, our little hero loses his powers for a short time whenever he comes in contact with liquids. Well, not when he’s trudging around in the blood of a scientist he’s just exploded from the inside. There are plenty of puddles to accidentally step in toward the end of the game and pools, though beautifully colored, spell certain death if you try to go for a swim. The setting is oddly pacifying for a game where you can jump into people’s bodies and detonate them from within.
But, killing isn’t a requirement. No, siree. In fact, there’s an achievement/trophy for making it through Warp’s approximately five-hour campaign without hurting a soul. Jumping into people and turrets stuns them temporarily, so it’s a bit easier than it sounds.
What’s not easy about this game are the challenge rooms scattered throughout the facility. These mini-games serve two functions. For one, they allow you to practice using newly attained powers that are about to see heavy use in the immediate future. They offer good testing grounds for some of the trickier scenarios you may encounter.
These challenge rooms also reward you based on how well you do. The quicker you finish each round, the higher the medal you earn — bronze, silver or gold. Reaching gold earns you three grubs while a bronze medal nets you just one. I guess these critters are a delicacy for whatever race this alien captive belongs to because ingesting these things allows you to unlock augments for the guy. Consider them currency for the purpose of upgrades (because that’s what they actually are.)
Most enemy types can be found in these rooms, from turrets to scientists and armed guards. Although the game is fairly short, it hosts a diverse array of people and things that are out to get you. Every human shares the same model with small tweaks. Guards are scientists with guns. Riot guards are scientists with guns and shields made of water (don’t ask).
Each enemy type offers a new challenge for whatever power you just unlocked, so things never get too dull. Listen to some of the dialog terrified scientists shout and it’s reminiscent of those old ‘50s horror movies where you could see the zipper on the monster or the string holding up the spaceship.
The camp value in Warp is high. You’re exploding people from the inside, for god’s sake.
If you try to zip through the underwater research facility, rest assured that you’ll see quite a few loading screens. It’s fortunate, then, that checkpoints where you respawn are plentiful. Patience is often rewarded — stay in one room and watch what’s going on in the adjacent lab in order to plot your strategy.
One of the game’s strengths is that there’s more than one way to skin these cats (I’m not sure why people say this but, trust me, if this alien had the chance, he’d skin every cat on your block.) Chances are you’ll have a totally different way to solve the puzzles in Warp than I did, which is always a welcome feature.
It’s unfortunate that the game suffers so much when it comes to sequences where speed is required. They don’t come up often, but the inherent sluggishness of controlling an alien with stubby legs makes them incredibly frustrating.
As entertaining as it is to jump into barrels, then into bodies followed by turrets and then more barrels, the trick gets stale by the time you reach the end. Sure, it was a blast to detonate those first 80 scientists and trick those guards into shooting each other, but it left me wanting more variety after a bit.
The trick to properly executing a game like this is finding different uses for the gameplay mechanic that’s emphasized throughout. I wasn’t looking for Portal here, but there could have been more to the game than what’s offered. And don’t get me started on that last boss fight. It’s less a clever test of all the powers you’ve accumulated than it is an infuriating trial in patience and spastic warping.
As charming as the game’s one-liners are, you hear them so often that after awhile killing isn’t enough — you almost wish you could erase these people from existence. That might just be the biggest blow to Warp’s fun factor. The monotony of what you’re asked to do spikes significantly after you’ve discovered every enemy type.
Once you get the final objective, it’s hard to remember if what you just did was really all that recent or if you’re recalling one of the first puzzles you solved. In the end, this is what keeps Warp from real greatness. It’s fun for awhile but ultimately forgettable.