This over-the-top, puzzle action game for Sony’s entertainment console demands that a player help an extraterrestrial escape from a research facility while wielding the power of teleportation in Warp (EA Partners and Trapdoor, rated M for mature, reviewed for PlayStation 3, $9.99).
The pint-sized star, a translucent peanut of a cutie named Zero, offers the charm of a Teletubby, but the lethal force fans of a certain exploding Monty Python character would appreciate.
After our new pal breaks free of some nasty human scientists who have been experimenting on him, a player controls the creature as it roams through an underwater maze on a mission to help fellow inmates and, more importantly, find an exit.
What starts out with the potential for a Disneyized Portal-style group of conundrums can quickly break into a gorefest, depending on a player’s mood.
As Zero teleports through doors or hides in canisters to avoid scientists and armed guards (a pretty slick trick that’s pulled off with the click of a button), he can stealthily keep progressing through the facility.
Or, he can perform that same magic trick with a human being. In the finest traditions of a sci-fi biology lesson, we learn early on what can happen to a human body when a feisty invader embeds itself inside it.
With a jiggle of the left analog controller, the embedded Zero groans and expands until the host pops like a pimple, scattering appendages around and leaving a bloody mess. So now a player can imagine an exit strategy that now encompasses using this ability to explode objects (say a gun turret or energy coil) when trying to enter rooms loaded with hostiles.
Hold on, it gets better. Zero has other powers, such as unleashing a ghost of himself (called an echo) to fool adversaries.
That strategy comes in handy when trying to evade multiple armed guards. Apparently these boys were schooled under the Barney Fife firearms certification course — when an echo of Zero runs between them, a friendly fire tragedy ensues.
That package of powers expands as Zero absorbs other helpful tricks from endangered comrades, such as swapping within objects while in echo form and launching an object it is hiding inside at high speed.
The occasional challenge also pops up to hone powers (now unlocked, replayable and often tied to new skills) along with boss battles, such as an encounter with a cigar-chomping commander that requires a further finesse of a player’s critical thinking.
In addition to solving mazes, players can look around outside of the facility (taking advantage off the top-down, dissected room perspective) to see some pretty ocean life, such as schools of fish, plant life and rock formations or to unlock a film canister to display some of the game’s concept art.
Adding to the action that, by the way, gets progressively more difficult — to the point of needing a consultation with a physicist to solve some of the environmental obstacles — Zero finds parasitic grubs selectively scattered across the facility to munch on.
Devour enough of the critters to upgrade powers, such as revealing a list of all grub locations on the maps, teleporting silently and echoing with explosive results.
For around six hours of Warp-ing, Zero delivers a fun, full-blown adventure offering a macabre twist on the E.T. legend for the older strategist in the family.