Saw II: Flesh & Blood

By: Alan Bell    On: Xbox 360
Published: Thursday 11 Nov 2010 8:00 AM
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The Saw horror series, in which Jigsaw torments people with detailed knowledge of their lives and demented traps from which they must escape, has been hugely successful. In theory, it makes good material for a videogame: Survival Horror games are successful (see: Resident Evil) and people like puzzles (see: Professor Layton). Combining the two (puzzles where you have time pressure and, if you fail, a gory demise awaits) sounds like a good idea, right?

In theory.

Another concept which no doubt contributes here is that, in theory, if you add a license for a well-known property to a good videogame idea, you'll get the attention of a pre-made audience when your game is announced. That last part is certainly true - particularly when a good proportion of the audience for the main license, the Saw movies, are gamers.

A match made in heaven, right?

One of the risks with associating a license with a videogame property is that the people making the decisions as to how much to spend, when to release and what constitutes "good enough" are also paying cash for the license itself. A license doesn't come cheap - the more it's worth to you, the more you have to pay - money which ultimately comes out of the budget for the game itself.

Which is exactly what appears to have happened here.

At some point, someone has said "this will do - it will sell through the strength of the license, we don't need to bother". Every aspect of the title from the animation to the textures, the controls to the puzzle mechanics is good enough to scrape by, but that's about it. Let's take a look...

First up, the basic premise: as already discussed, it's a combination of puzzle and survival horror. In practice, the way this works is that you enter an area and must complete a puzzle in order to continue. Generally these puzzles break down as either a mind game or a reaction game - figure out the combination to a lock or press the right buttons to avoid an axe in the chest. Sometimes the mind game puzzles are actually kinda fun-ish to figure out but, for the most part, they're pretty dull and sometimes they're obscenely obtuse - and not in a fun way. The reaction games are only rarely fun and even then, in ways we've seen thousands of times before (the old "press random button to survive"-type). When they're not fun, they're mind-bogglingly frustrating as you reload (which takes ages) over and over in order to figure out what you're supposed to do in time to actually do it.

Then there's the controls. It's presented in third person and, in general, the "move around" stuff works fine (although don't reverse the Y-axis - you'll see why shortly). Interacting with things, like the rest of the game, suffers from a lack of polish, testing, care and love. Sometimes you can interact with things, sometimes you can't - it depends on exactly where you're standing and which way you're facing, leading to a bunch of moving stupidly around waiting for the trigger to trip that allows you to push a button (etc). A classic trap that many games suffer from (even Super Mario Galaxy 2) although rarely as often as seen here.

Minigames, such as lock picking, suffer the same fate as the rest of the game - generally sound in concept but delivered in a quick & dirty, "that'll do" manner. Take the lock picking game: you have to steer your camera through the randomly-shaped barrels. Touch a disk as you go through (think: Operation) and you fail and have to start over. For some reason, if you have flipped the Y-axis, the controls are reversed here too - which totally messes with your head. The result of this is that you'll find yourself either putting up with normal controls for the bulk of the game or constantly flipping it over when you have to pick a lock.

Other minigames give basic to no instructions, resulting in a lot of mucking around trying to figure out what the mechanics even are before you can attempt to solve the minipuzzle within.

Visually the game peaks at average and doesn't stray far from it. Environments are always boxy, feeling like textured cubes throughout. Occasionally nice details (like broken pieces of wall) are offset by poor textures, average animation and just generally "that'll do" graphics from beginning to end.

The sound is (you guessed it) good enough and not a lot besides. Fans of the films will like the quotes and the general "Jigsaw-ness" of the aural experience but it's so perfunctory even they will have a tough time getting too excited about it.

Which sums up the game, really. The premise is good but it rarely lives up to it. Sometimes puzzles are presented in a tense, "that's neat" kind of way but when you get down to it they're never much fun to figure out. It's rarely "Bad" but it's never more than average, either. The fact that the basic building blocks of the game, the puzzles and the action within it all tease smart design but never live up to it seem to confirm our initial findings - it's not that the developers are incompetent, but that they've been resource constrained which ultimately prevents this game being worth playing. If you're a diehard Saw fan you will likely enjoy this more than most but, even then, chances are you'd give it no more than 7/10. Disappointing.

The Score

Saw II: Flesh & Blood
"A classic example of how licenses can ruin videogames"
Rating: R18   Difficulty: Hard   Learning Curve: 15 Min


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Comments (4)

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On Thursday 11 Nov 2010 8:31 AM Posted by rebolta
For some reason this makes me think of the CSI games but I am probably way off.
On Thursday 11 Nov 2010 4:00 PM Posted by mrblobby666 VIP
Still wouldn't mind giving this a quick whirl. Quite enjoyed the first one although I'm stuck near the end. Is anywhere selling this one in NZ ?
On Sunday 14 Nov 2010 12:09 PM Posted by JMavz
I didn't even realize the Saw franchise had expanded into video games. Probably a good thing.
On Tuesday 1 Nov 2011 4:51 AM Posted by Turboginge
Completely agree with the lockpick comment. I can see that one thing being a big gamebreaker for me unfortunately