It is somewhat surprising that the Saw franchise has never being turned into a videogame previously. With the sixth film already out it has taken some years for a movie spin-off to become a reality. And perhaps that reality should have been well left alone.
By now most people are sick of the franchise and each victim that long-time nemesis Jigsaw en-traps in his deceiving abandoned asylum. It’s now the turn of Detective David Tapp to try and catch the serial killer whilst trying to save the other victims in the asylum.
Those who have played Condemned will find the atmosphere quite similar – the edgy and dark corners creating quite an intimidating atmosphere. The idea is to solve a series of puzzles which culminates in a final challenge to help one of the imprisoned escape.
Whilst the logic behind the game is pretty solid - in both difficulty and ingenuity – the puzzles themselves do tend to repeat a bit through each of the six stages. Some involve you matching pipes together whilst others use a series of cogs which need to be interlinked to open a new door or box which could contain an item.
The items which should be useful are pretty poor and it leads onto the awful combat that the game makes you endure. Pressing the left trigger will set you up into combat mode whilst a push of A or X will attack with the desired item. This can range from a mop handle to a baseball bat and a crowbar. However the combat is so awful that each item doesn’t feel any different to the other and at intervals the odds of you managing to finish an attack before being beaten in a non-stop cycle by the enemy will see you repeating sections again and again.
It is quite possibly the worst of any game I’ve ever played and it seriously hampers what otherwise is a survival horror with some decent puzzles to have a crack at. Thankfully enemies are usually far and few between and so the frustrating elements are kept to a minimum.
Further increasing the difficulty are booby-trapped neck braces that enemies wear. When triggered by walking close to them, it causes an alarm to beep which gets quicker. You have to defeat enemies before time is up and your head is quite literally blown apart with a similar neck brace you are wearing. Coupled with the dire combat, again you’ll be shouting at the screen quite often.
A good way of eliminating the enemy is by setting a trip-wire up with the aid of a shotgun bullet. These are littered about the stages which initially are a death trap for yourself; you’ll have to tread carefully at points. However they can be cleverly de-activated and re-rigged so that any chasing enemy is blown to pieces.
The navigation of levels is pretty poor save for a map showing locations of where you should be. Doors will be locked and to gain the key won’t always be an easy task. Sometimes combination codes will keep the way ahead locked and without the logic to find where the code is hidden in a room, you’ll be diving for the online guides to lead the way. Other times you’ll need to dip your hand into a giant vat of acid or down a toilet bowel of needles with a mini-game of sorts where you grab a key.
Arguably though the final brainteaser is usually the best as it cranks the fear factor up as you try and save someone from a nasty demise, whilst ensuring that every wrong move sees you frantically trying to work out the puzzle as it teases the smell of death. The first stage sees you trying to pump the correct amount of medicine into the machine which injects the patient. Every wrong move will see her heart rate increase and up the tension as you try and solve the conundrum. It isn’t always easy to see what the correct move should be and at various intervals, my girlfriend with a brain had to step in to ease the stress.
Another of those final puzzles sees you arranging moving cogs to de-activate a machine which threatens to slice a guy in half. With each minute that passes, the swinging blade gets lower and one step closer to death. The way these are integrated to create panic is superb and is certainly one of the highlights of the game.
Sadly though, the rest of the puzzles on offer are very similar throughout including matching circuit boards and pipes as mentioned earlier. They become tedious and give you an incredibly strict time limit to complete them in, sometimes wholly unfair with the task that lies ahead. It is almost like the game wants to screw you over before you’ve started to enjoy it.
The environments themselves are repetitive and begin to get dull. There was an awful lot of screen-tearing on the television I played it on and it was certainly irritating. Whether that is a fault with the telly I’m unsure; it certainly doesn’t happen with other titles. The character animation is also very low-budget in contrast to the backing textures which are detailed to an extent.
Konami has put some effort into the voice-work however, with Tobin Bell as the voice of Jigsaw. He does a superb job and the eerie echoes and random popping-up of the killer with each puzzle which catches you unaware is welcome. You may recognise the voice of the detective with Left 4 Dead’s, Earl Alexander leading the voice work. It is just a shame the physical presence of the characters themselves is poor.
With no online mode and just six fairly straight-forward stages, unless the puzzles are taxing for you (at least they are for me!), you’ll have finished this in no time. At some points Saw is an absorbing horror/puzzle title, but one that is flawed. With a bit more spit and polish and a greater variety of puzzles on offer, this could have being the re-invention of the horror series. Sadly just like the franchise it is based on, it is stagnant and dull.