Some games give you a chance to get inside the mind of your foes to gain a strategic advantage. Warp goes one step further by letting you hop inside their bodies then shake their guts around until they bulge and explode in a nasty spray of bloody meat-gunk puree. It’s a gross but satisfying twist that gives this otherwise cutesy stealth puzzler a little M-rated oomph. Well, that and the F-bombs your enemies drop when you thwart their efforts to contain your pint-sized wrath.
You play as an orange alien critter named Zero who is caught by humans and taken to an underwater science facility where your captors have no qualms about poking, prodding, and slicing you up for their research. Unluckily for them, everything goes to hell when you regain one of your stolen powers – the ability to warp short distances – and escape during a lab experiment. With your newfound freedom, you set out to cause mayhem throughout the vast complex while searching for a way out. Uncovering new abilities as you explore and figuring out how to turn them to your advantage is where Warp’s fun hits its stride.
Zero’s cool powers extend beyond merely flitting through thin walls, and using them in creative, sometimes devious ways is crucial for overcoming the deadly obstacles plunked down in your path. Early-on, warping into objects like barrels lets you hide inside them, and zipping into scientists or guards stuns them for a few moments. But once it becomes clear you can vibrate whatever you’re inside until it explodes, Warp’s cute protagonist suddenly becomes a lot more menacing. The way scientists freak out and babble hysterically when they see you coming is pretty funny, but we couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt the first few times we turn turned them inside out. That quickly faded once they began sounding the alarm on-sight, triggering armed guards to come flooding in with guns blazing. Apparently warning shots are not in their vocabulary.
Navigating the winding facility immediately takes on a pleasant Metroidvania-like flow. Gaining new skills, like the ability to create a phantom image to distract guards and swap places with objects, lets you backtrack to access new areas you can’t reach on the first pass. By collecting glowing grubs, you can purchase upgrades for your powers too, offering additional incentive to take the time to scour the hard-to-reach spots. Some terminals also offer virtual time-trials missions to test your skills on. If you feel inclined to squeeze every drop out content out this entertaining downloadable, there are plenty of diversions for you to extend the experience with.
Warp strikes a good balance between stealth-focused sneakery and brain-teasing puzzles. Motion-sensitive turrets, armed guards, and laser fences are among the many obstacles standing in your way. Covertly working around them is a blast, and it’s even better when you can co-opt them for your own use. Teleporting into a guard--only to zip back out again a split second before his pal fills him with hot lead--is just one example of the many clever methods you can use to get creative with Zero’s skills. While some of the puzzles require quick thinking and even faster reflexes to pull off, frequent checkpoints helps to keep you moving forward even when you eat it on a tough challenge.
The only thing that seems a bit off about Warp is the fact it seems to suffer from an identity crisis. On one hand, the cartoony presentation and humorous plot is lighthearted and full of charm. Then you’ve got the excessive gore and moments that are marred by in-game characters full-on cursing. We’re down for a good old bloodbath, but the juxtaposition of these few mature elements with the more all-ages friendly format doesn’t quite jibe.
Otherwise, taking in the numerous other factors driving the experience, Warp is an excellent, intelligently crafted game that ranks high on our list of this year’s must-have downloadable titles.