So how do you turn Saw into a video game? I still don’t know. The game, formerly in development at the newly closed Brash Entertainment is going to see a release this October for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 thanks to Konami. Saw takes the form of a puzzle/survival-horror hybrid and attempts to put the player in devious situations, while giving the player as little information about how to escape death as possible.
That aspect, while frustrating at first, is actually the best thing about the game… when the developers actually do this. The demo opens in a bathroom with the player in the reverse bear-trap torture from the movie. You are quickly tasked with removing the device before it rips their face off. A circling analog stick is shown on the screen, but it takes a bit to realize that the red light blinking on the device is actually a “B” button, which needs to be pressed when the light illuminates. Unfortunately, the character isn’t animated with any feedback so it took me a while to realize that I was actually doing anything to escape.
Once the face prison is removed, it’s time to escape the room. The exit is locked and needs a key and there’s a bathroom stall secured with a combination lock. There are some lines of paint on a wall opposite the bathroom mirror and looking into the mirror at the correct angle will reveal the correct sequence of numbers. The toilet in the stall is full of hypodermic needles and it’s time to reach in and find the key. The view shifts into an x-ray of the toilet and you must grab the key before the “pain” meter fills up. Yes, this is where the game starts to lose me. If you aren’t bothered by the actual idea of reaching into a toilet full of needles in a video game, this moment won’t be that significant for you. In fact, it’s just a simple mini-game that can be completed in two to three seconds.
I’ll admit that this first room was pretty creative, on the whole. I exited the room with optimism, expecting more puzzles. Instead, I get clichés and quick time events. After seeing another person rush around a corner as I make my way through the twisted hallways of an abandoned insane asylum, it’s a linear walk to the next event. As I open a door, another door opens in front of me and the man walking in gets a brain full of shotgun from a rigged trap. It’s a cool moment, but the gore is lacking. It’s not long before I get to another door and have to avoid another shotgun trap. Casting aside the fact that I just saw this exact same trap a minute ago, it is avoided by pressing X before the trap triggers complete with an on-screen cue.
The demo ends shortly after this, with the only remaining puzzle asking the player to break down some drywall with a blunt object. Now, the asylum is supposedly populated with human traps and people that have volunteered to be tested by Jigsaw. Concept art was shown for some of these characters and hopefully they will provide more of a challenge. Unfortunately, the demo played out like a linear game with trial-and-error “puzzles”. The controls are loose and I can’t even imagine any sort of combat being fulfilling.
If the level of polish shown in this demo could be summarized in one example, it would be this: I was prevented from backtracking through a door that was previously locked, but now open, by an invisible wall. Now, invisible walls are a no-no in open world game, so I never expected to run into one in a cramped building. Beyond that, I never expected to hit one that prevented me from going into a room I was just in and can still enter via another longer pathway.
I’m about as optimistic about this title as I am with every new Saw movie release: not at all. When the presentation for a game starts out with how much money the franchise has made over its lifetime, you get some insight into why this project exists.