Warp PAX Prime 2011 Preview -- Close Encounters of the Potentialy Deadly/Adorable KindBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Aug 29, 2011
One part Splosion Man, one part Alien Hominid, and two parts really hard to describe, Trapdoor’s top-down stealth action puzzle little Warp is the kind of quirky, easy to grasp/exponentially challenging game that has made the downloadable space such a vibrant and rich one over the past few years. Being able to inhabit scientists and blow them up into bloody globs from the inside out is just a happy side effect.
Warp tells the story of Zero, an alien trapped in an underwater research facility where evil men in lab coats are performing all manner of cruel experiments on beings from across the stars who have also been abducted (reverse abduction!) by the menacing Commander. Of course, Zero doesn't want any part of it, so he breaks free, and it’s up to you to get him through the facility to freedom.
Like the aforementioned man o’ splosion, Zero has just one ability at his disposal, but instead of jumping, it’s warping. Tapping the A button lets you warp a short distance away, indicated by a glowing circle on the ground. This ability allows Zero to pass through walls (as long as they are single layered; double layers are too thick) and even inhabit objects (turrets, barrels, etc.) and even people. Once inside something, you can shake the left analog stick back and forth to make said thing explode. In the case of inanimate objects, this can result in an explosion capable of knocking out nearby enemies. In the case of people, it results in turning them into nasty blood and guts bombs.
You don’t have to kill anyone though (except the first guy that they force you to to show you how the mechanic works), and if you jump into people and then jump out, it stuns them, which can make for the perfect diversion to bypass any gun-toting guards in the area. I played the demo without killing a single person, and Trapdoor founder Ken Schachter informed me that I was the first person to do a non-lethal run at the show, which made me proud.
The level ended with a cutscene showing off a chaingun wielding mini-boss, one of several in the game. When asked if I would have to kill these bosses, Schachter gave a wry smile and said, “Cut me some slack. We have to hold something back.” I pressed again, but he wouldn’t budge. Although, he did reassure me that killing the bosses would not count as a “kill” in your game stats, so that inevitable “Don’t kill anyone” achievement will still be attainable even if you finish off the boss (it is self-defense after all!).
Speaking of stats, the game keeps track of everything (kills, stuns, length traveled, etc.), and the final version will include live updates showing your friends’ progress, giving you the perfect motivation to sharpen up your warping skills and jump back in to best their scores.
While the few rooms/scenarios were clearly meant as tutorials, it’s clear that the difficulty will have no problem ramping up significantly over the course of the game, especially when you factor in the stealth/action relationship and Zero’s own physical limitations which will require players to think carefully about every warp they make. It also doesn’t hurt that Warp has a great level of polish and detail, both in the world and the characters, making it one of the true shining stars of PAX Prime 2011. This, of course, bodes quite well for the final product, which is expected to release on PSN, Xbox Live, and PC this winter.