Editor’s Note: This review was originally intended for publication late last year, but was misplaced by yours truly. My apologies to Zack – Will
Do I want to play a game? Yeah sure, why not? I’m always down for a good bout of Tetris, but with Fall winds rattling my bones, scary games are definitely on the menu. Saw? The game? A game of Saw? Now I know the high brow savant in me wants to slide this concept away and move on to something… European, I need to honestly admit that Saw, the obnoxiously successful torture porn series of films that have a new entry annually if only to prove how much thought and effort is needed for the next installment, is not nearly as offensive as a video game. In fact I find that most things that tend to make you groan in films are usually the very same things you’ll fist pump for in a video game. So perhaps, conceptually, Saw: The Video Game may have something going for it. Thus begging the question, do you want to play THIS game?
You are Detective Tapp, one of the detectives aggressively hounding Jigsaw, the main antagonist of the franchise. Tapp was apparently shot in the first Saw film, though I’m no expert on the subject. So instead I have come to the conclusion that Detective Tapp was on his way to his buddy’s Bill Cosby dress up party when he was shot and kidnapped by the Jigsaw killer then awoken in a house o’ nightmares. If I have to give the writing team one medal it is for coming up with a great reason for complete strangers to want to tear Tapp a new one. You discover that Jigsaw has surgically implanted a key somewhere in Tapp’s body, and it is this key that so happens to be the path freedom for every other victim in the building. The way the encountered enemies incorporate Jigsaw’s lore is also fairly clever, from blinded brawlers who have steel boxes mounted to their head, to some with their hands bound to a stick of dynamite. Things descend into dumb pretty quickly though. To every victim of Jigsaw’s torture is some kind of justification, though they are really stretching it with this one. Tapp’s moral failing is that he’s just too obsessed with Jigsaw, and so Jigsaw decided to punish him. It just feels like the needle wagging its finger at the junkie. I guess the obvious cure for Tapp would be for Jigsaw to stop, y’know, killing people, but Jigsaw acts above it, and in this game especially rubs off as more hypocritical and smug than interesting. Tapp’s carrot on a string is to use this opportunity to figure out who Jigsaw is once and for all, though since the films have already treaded on that ground, it’s not nearly as tantalizing for the player.
The game is split up into a bundle of levels, each following the same routine. Making your way through the asylum by following clues and solving puzzles to progress, broken up by some combat and environment traps here and there. Each level ends with someone who in some way has been affected by Tapp’s obsession being trapped in some horrible machine. The defusing of aforementioned machine is done by solving puzzles. At first some of the puzzles feel novel, the end “boss” ones more so, but they get repeated, repeated a lot. Halfway through the game you’ll have already seen every kind of puzzle there is and they only become increasingly dense between each other. Even the “boss” puzzles eventually become the same puzzle you’ve been solving throughout the levels, well except for the last one, which is shockingly just a game of memory. Yeah, a guy’s life depends on the sort of game you used to play in a DOS sampler at age seven. The combat feels bogged down too, though not by repetition, just because Tapp seems to fight like he’s dressed in four winter jackets. He’s slow, and the buttons don’t feel responsive, shutting a door on your enemy is surprisingly picky, it isn’t frustrating enough though because your enemies tend to be pretty bad at killing you too. You can skip the process completely by setting up traps around the environment to immediately off them, which is the most efficient way, but the game encourages you to eliminate people using a variety of weapons, which all function the same way more or less, through a generous Thanksgiving of gamer points/trophies.
You probably won’t be killed by aggressors, timed bombs or boss battles. Most booby traps won’t scratch you, and the broken glass on the floor that cut your shoeless feet (though why Tapp doesn’t just take a dead guy’s kicks I simply do not know) won’t really do enough damage to bug you. No, there is only one way most of us will die in this one. Shotgun tripwires. They are everywhere, they are easy to miss, and even when you can visually see the shotgun itself is pointed at your feet, it will regardless blow off your head. It’s not an interesting game element, it’s just really annoying in a game with enough grievances. It doesn’t speak too highly of a game when it seems that the designers want you to keep the camera fixated on the ground all the time.
The game keeps fizzling out as it goes along. Hours into the game everything feels like déjà-vu; Every puzzle, clue and asylum hall feeling long since treaded. Come the end of the game you are given two options that split the endings (though the clever player will just do one and then reload the last checkpoint). I’m not big on spoiling endings, but I assure you to spend the time playing this game just to get to these would probably end up pissing you off more anyways. One ending, Tapp dies. The other, Tapp diiiiieeees? It’s hard to praise this game, even though the foundations are solid enough, the final product is just boring. We have here something not good enough to recommend and not enough of a train wreck for morbid curiosity. And speaking of morbid, it doesn’t even deliver on the bloodbaths the films so graciously provide. It seems to turn your head away when the most despicable portrayals go down, and other horrors are just a lil’ bit declawed when portrayed as a mini-game. Do you want to play this game? Probably not, there are better, worse, and more gross ones out there. This blood stain’s so dry it just crackles and peels.
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