US: 13 Mar 2012
Warp, Trapdoor’s first release, feels like a methodical take on a carefree experience. The joy of Twisted Pixel’s ‘Splosion Man and Ms. ‘Splosion Man is the speed at which the titular characters blasts their way through the quirky laboratory environment. Warp is an adaptation of this same basic premise, reconstructing the science-experiment-gone-wrong story into a mind-bending puzzler that revels in destructive play.
Cast as a trapped alien suffering at the hands of conniving scientists, players warp their way out of the lab and into the bodies of their captors, exploding them into bloody pieces along the way. The adorable extraterrestrial can also warp into crates, turrets, and enemy soldiers, rending them apart along the way or leaving them in place for later use.
While the game starts with a heavy focus on stealthily warping the alien hominid into crates or behind tables to avoid the gaze of gun-wielding baddies, Warp gradually layers on the mechanics to construct an incredibly smart and engaging experience. Players eventually gain the ability to project ghostly apparitions through walls, fire this apparition into objects, and launch possessed objects across the map.
The stealth components feel satisfying, but the game really shines as a pure puzzler. All the levels feel cohesive, flowing into each other smoothly. Similarly, Warp fully explores each ability, building upon each other throughout the game, never growing stale or boring. The moment that players master one ability, a laboratory or new enemy type offers an entirely new challenge that requires some innovative thinking.
By the time all of the alien’s powers are unlocked, Warp becomes quite challenging. The labs and test chambers can feel like ingeniously built arenas. Even from a top-down view, finding a solution can be painfully difficult. Chaining together the right steps and abilities to avoid turrets, open doors, and make an escape route can feel like maneuvering through an electrified maze in the dark—particularly when actually navigating levels in near complete darkness.
While the game can be difficult, liberally placed checkpoints and relatively fast load times make hopping right back into the fray a breeze. Players can also solve most puzzles in a myriad of ways. Feeling as though you outsmarted a section by developing your own solution is immensely satisfying, even if you took a more difficult path than necessary. For those eager to really test their limits, macguffins hidden throughout the map reward multiple playthroughs and clever thinking. Warp also offers an achievement for completing the game without killing a single person, an amazing feat for the resolute. Players may find their second attempt even more satisfying as they upgrade their abilities. Additionally, challenge rooms bring a competitive edge to Warp, which tracks both your high scores and every other metric you can imagine.
For the most part, Warp is an impeccably designed puzzler. The lab environment and the endless clones of scientists can occasionally feel tedious, but this concern fades into the background when happily traversing the levels, warping about with expert precision. The most glaring flaw occurs, sadly, during Warp‘s final boss battle. The painfully frustrating encounter tests some skills never introduced and sours an otherwise consistently enjoyable adventure. This battle aside, Trapdoor mixed just the right amount of ‘Splosion Man and Portal when making Warp, an excellent first title from an independent studio that deserves our attention.
// Moving Pixels
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