Saw: The Videogame – Review

saw

Developer: Zombie Studios

Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC.

Release Date: Nov 2009

Saw: The Videogame trailer

I want to like horror games. I really do. But the videogame companies need to throw me a frickin’ bone here. For every decent horror film that comes out, there are about fifty absolutely terrible ones that make me want to douse my eyes with vinegar and jump into a helicopter propeller just to get away from them. It’s a little better with games because they’re a little harder to make, I suppose. But we still get the same old generic crap a hundred times over before something actually good comes outCase in point…

Silent_Hill_video_game_cover

Which brings me to Saw: The Videogame, something I approached with tentative optimism that it might be alright. But are you ready for a spoiler? Brace yourself…. It wasn’t. It was a big pile of crap with fries, if the fries were rusty nails. And served to you by Rob Schneider with a cold. When that actually happens in 5 years time, remember I predicted it first.

The game advertises itself as tying in with the movies, but I have absolutely no idea whereabouts it does this. The only explanation I can give for this is that the Jigsaw killer went on holidays at some point during the films and this is how he spends his free time, in an asylum torturing people. I suppose it’s better than going to Barcelona, but only because you won’t get sunburnt. Though you can’t get cornettos in asylums, at least not in any of the ones I’ve been to. Jigsaw isn’t really even in the game. The doll that looks like a midget butler with constipation shows up a few times right enough, but other than that, this could be any other game.

Well, O.K., not any other game. There are few games that would have a story as boring and pointless as this. You play as Detective Tapp, a character I honestly can’t remember if he ever showed up in the films. If he did, it was probably to say something generic like “We need to stop this guy” or “Ow, please stop shoving nails into my eyes”. Apparently he wants to catch Jigsaw, whoop de diddly doo, so he goes into his grim little fun house to do so, only to find, shock horror, Jigsaw was expecting him and wants him to play a game! (ho ho HO, see what they did there?!)

The game plays like your typical survival horror, but I’m going to compare it to Silent Hill, just to emphasize how much it gets wrong. You wander through a giant asylum, in which every room looks exactly like the one before it. Have you ever seen that scene in the Marx brothers movie A Night at the Opera, where a guy keeps running through two rooms, but they keep rearranging the furniture so it looks like a different room each time? Well, Saw is a little bit like that, only instead of furniture, it’s pig carcasses and the occasional blood stain. There’s a map to help you navigate the building but because it’s so big and you can’t zoom in, it’s like using an atlas to navigate your way through Tesco.

Occasionally you’ll bump into a few other people that Jigsaw has trapped in his asylum, all of whom he’s tricked into thinking that you, the player, have the key to the front door. Now this makes me curious. Why, in an asylum that has more homemade weapons than a home depot, do these stupid twats feel the need to kill someone for a key, when a good whack with a lead pipe or an axe would probably solve all their problems? Some of the characters have steel boxes stuck on their heads, and at first I thought this was because Jigsaw had put them there. Then I realized that these are exactly the kind of idiots that could get their head stuck in a bucket for hours on end.

Fighting these pathetic morons shouldn’t be as difficult as it is either, considering your character is a cop, you’d think he’d be able to swing a pipe at a little over 10 miles a decade. There’s an interesting thing going for the game, in that you can use traps that are littered all over the place to take care of your enemies. Or at least, this would be interesting, if there A) wasn’t only one kind of trap, B) it kills you far more often that it kills them and C) the bad guys are never around when you actually find a trap. I suppose you could set it and hope they wander into it once you’re far away, but what’s the point? You’re far away by then, so no one gives a toss.

The focus of the game, like the films, is the traps themselves, not the crap ones integrated into the gameplay now, but the crap ones integrated into the cutscenes. It starts off pretty good, you find yourself stuck with a reverse bear trap on your head and have to press a series of buttons to get it off. All right, I thought, this is a bit of oh kay. But much to my dismay, I managed to get it off without losing even once, which I found strangely disappointing. That’s when I realized the enormous flaw in this game, that the big pay-off, the selling point of seeing people explode into gooey meat showers, only comes if you actually lose! It’s like going to the cinema and being told you can’t watch anything until you drive some nails into your kneecaps.

It’s broken up into a series of chapters where you’re told someone is held in a trap, and because they’re too stupid to do anything about it, you have to find them and save their worthless arses. Even releasing them from these traps is boring because it almost always boils down to solving the kind of puzzle games that came free with Windows ’90 bloody 5. And you usually have a time limit, which means that you’ll lose quite a bit, and there’s only so many times seeing your comrades turn into soggy death can be appealing.

Remember when I said I was going to compare this to Silent Hill? Well the thing Silent Hill always had going for it was atmosphere. And while those games had some of these similar issues, it never mattered too much because it was as creepy as seeing your history teacher stroking a side of bacon while wearing some lingerie and sitting on your bedspread in the dark. I like to think that there was one single mind at the developer studio for Saw who actually had a decent idea of how this was supposed to work, but he was clearly the little brother of the man in charge, the guy everyone actually listened to because he was the LOUDEST. I’m going to call this guy Tim.

Tim was the man in charge of the niggling little details. The bits that you aren’t supposed to pay much attention to. Tim is also quite good at his job, and probably pays all his taxes on time. Unfortunately, Tim is a meek little twit who never gets his way. You see, the best thing about Saw is the little notes and audio books left behind by the doctors or nurses, which describe the asylum you’re in as if it was run by Jack the Ripper on steroids. They talk about how they lobotomize patients and throw boiling water at them to wake them out of trances. That kind of thing is fantastic because it makes you use your imagination, that dark places that giant spiders live in.

Unfortunately, these little touches are largely sidelined in favour of Jigsaw himself talking to you, and frankly, he just sounds like Darth Vader when he’s in a really good mood. The one other thing that Tim had control over was a neat little trick with the lighting. Unlike Resident Evil 5, the people behind Saw thought to themselves “You know what’s scarier than the daytime? Nighttime!” As such, most corridors are pretty much pitch black. You start off with a lighter for your source of light, but as you progress, you can switch between a camera or a flashlight. I liked this, because it meant you could have a wide but dim light (lighter), a narrow but bright light (flashlight) or you could light up the whole room for a few seconds at a time (camera). It’s a pretty neat little detail, and one I wouldn’t mind seeing in other games, especially as the only thing to be scared of in this one is that it might actually be considered good by some people.

Overall, I didn’t have much fun with Saw: The Videogame. It had shoddy controls, an obvious and boring set-up and the chilling atmosphere of a dentist’s waiting room. The graphics didn’t impress either, but that didn’t really bother me when the only thing worth looking at was the game over screen. Bugger this, I thought, when I’d had some guy I didn’t even like die for the 7th consecutive time. I think I’ll go play some Braid. Maybe there’s a loading screen in that that’ll give me the willies.

THEY SEE ME ROLLIN’. THEY HATIN’

Rating: 4/10

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Published in: on December 19, 2012 at 11:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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