Warp is a pleasing blend of brain-teasers and stealth that feels half baked. A dull setting, shallow humor, and overly sensitive controls hold it back from being a classic, but it's still a satisfying slice of malevolent mayhem.
- Smart level design
- Fluid mix of stealth and puzzles
- Forgiving checkpoints
- Humor peters out early on
- Bland aesthetic
- Finicky controls
On the surface Warp bears a lot in common with 'Splosion Man. Both star an adorable critter running amok in a research facility using their unique powers to blow up scientists. They even share a similar animated aesthetic full of rubbery character models. The difference is where 'Splosion Man got a lot of mileage off this premise with hilarious dialogue, a catchy song about donuts, and whimsical visual gags like its victims transmogrifying into delicately cut slabs of meat, a majority of Warp's humor is contained in its first fifteen minutes. This is representative of Warp as a whole: it has some great ideas, but lacks the charisma and polish to follow through on its potential.
Invasion of the Body Snatcher
From a gameplay perspective Warp deviates from 'Splosion Man's palette to create a top-down stealth game similar to the NES Metal Gear titles. The twist is in the title; you can warp -- albeit not very far. Still, it's enough to get through thin walls and shelves, making it useful for evading enemies. This novel form of transportation allows your cute little alien to hide in barrels, bombs, and even people. Waggle the left thumbstick around and he'll burst from their innards like the Kool-Aid Man.
Amusingly, possessed NPCs shuffle around like zombies and the enemy AI is smart enough to interpret this behavior upon closer inspection. Not the sentimental type, foes will turn their guns at their possessed comrades. Time it correctly and you can hop out of someone just before their colleagues gun them down. It's a bit like playing as The Thing, only cuter, and wrecking havoc among freaked out scientist and confused soldiers is devious fun.
The other half of the equation is spacial puzzling. Warp gets off to a slow start with your limited powers hardly functioning as more than a nifty way of opening doors, but eventually you gain the ability to send out a decoy, swap places with certain objects farther away, and fling items that you're inhabiting. Later levels make good use of these powers, and figuring out how to transport containers onto switches while avoiding roaming guards and security sentries requires a healthy dose of mental aptitude and physical dexterity.
Skin deep disguise
Unfortunately, the controls aren't always up to task. The environments are entirely comprised of tight corridors, often cluttered with lab paraphernalia. There's no jump button and scooting around messes can be cumbersome. Worse, it's easy to teleport at a slightly wrong angle and wind up with your elbow grazing a laser beam, leading to an instant death. In fact, all hazards are one-hit kills so expect to die a lot. Checkpoints are generous, but load times are just long enough to feel frustrating given their extreme frequency.
Elsewhere, perhaps the biggest flaw of Warp is that it lacks a distinct personality, despite the twee protagonist that looks like an ilomilo character in a bee costume. Initially an adorable alien eviscerating eggheads is darkly comic, but for the most part the humor begins and ends there. NPC dialogue mostly falls flat and you'll hear the same quips throughout the entire game. The main villain is extraordinarily forgettable, and while the dichotomy between sweet and grizzly works, the profanity feels forced in a way that never quite gels with the cartoony characters. The setting also lacks flavor, with a series of repetitive white and grey corridors. This makes the game feel more monotonous than it should, despite the oft clever design.
Make it so!
For all its innovative ideas about spacial traversal and stealth, Warp plays it safe in along its periphery. It's not as otherworldly as Metroid, innovative as Portal, or funny as 'Splosion Man. Instead it's like a delicious burger served without any fixings. The end result is still pleasant and well worth your time, but stops short of being the ultimate out of this world delight.