Reviewed by Ryan “Plagiarize” Acheson
Available for the Xbox 360 (reviewed), PlayStation 3
Published by Konami
“Would you like to play a game? is probably how more than fifty percent of reviews of Saw – The Video Game have begun. There’s really no avoiding it when we’re talking about Konami’s new video game based around the Saw franchise. Konami of course are pretty well known for their flagship horror series Silent Hill and with Saw they’re looking to start building another.
The Saw franchise certainly gives them a really nice jumping off point. Here we have an already established world in which people get kidnapped and forced to face various challenges, puzzles and traps in order to survive. Experiencing something like the more elaborate multi-part games we’ve seen in some of the Saw sequels first hand is a pretty exciting prospect.
It seems fair to presume that if you’re interested in picking up the game then you’re interested in the Saw franchise. Even so, if you aren’t particularly opposed to the license, Konami has made something which while definitely flawed, stands out amongst recent horror titles.
Wisely, Saw – The Video Game, spends a lot more of its time putting puzzles and traps in front of you than it spends forcing you to confront enemies head on. Cleverly, the game isn’t really asking you to make any leaps of faith that the movies aren’t. Everything is at least as well explained as things are in the films. You play as Detective Tapp, a character last seen in the original Saw movie getting shot. The game then has it that Jigsaw healed those wounds in order to save Tapp, so that he could then face a series of tests based upon various previous cases and focusing on the obsession that drove Tapp into trouble with Jigsaw in the first place.
Can Tapp overcome his obsession with catching Jigsaw and pass his test? Since it’s set between the first two movies we know that Tapp isn’t going to end up bringing Jigsaw to justice, but since we don’t know Tapp’s ultimate fate it doesn’t rob the game of too much tension. For the most part Jigsaw appears as you’d expect, talking to Tapp through televisions and over speakers, or on messages left on tapes for him to listen to. Tobin Bell remains as ever a real presence as Jigsaw, and the game would really have suffered without his input. Unfortunately Danny Glover didn’t provide his voice, or allow his likeness to be used, so this Detective Tapp looks and sounds different, but you can’t have everything I guess.
You wake up inside a mental asylum wearing one of the more iconic traps from the series and after a few quick button presses and thumbstick motions you should be out and on your feet to figure out where exactly you are and how the hell you’re going to get out alive. As alluded to before, along with the various puzzles and traps there’s a number of other players of Jigsaw’s game, and most of them have no choice but to try and kill Detective Tapp, since hidden somewhere inside his body, is a key which will allow them to reach their freedom.
It’s a clever device, and fortunately there aren’t too many enemies walking around either, since one area the game definitely stumbles is it’s combat. It clearly wasn’t the focus of the developers but all the same, it’s a pretty awkward system that takes a while to get a hang of. For the most part you can avoid it, and trust me when I say you’ll want to. If there’s a nearby trap to lure one of the other participants into, you’ll soon learn why that’s a much better idea than facing them head on. Some enemies also have timed traps attached to them, which will start counting down once they come near you.
It’s fun to make for a secure door, and bolt it behind you. That gives you the pleasure of watching their trap go off from a safe location.
As you’d expect it’s a pretty gory game, though it’s certainly more in keeping with the R rated cuts than the unrated ones. The blood at times, especially when it’s supposedly bleeding over the body from a wound looks weird, but most of the time things look pretty good. The insane asylum you find yourself trapped in isn’t especially varied but then would you expect a Saw game to ever look anything less than dark and grimy? The asylum provides plenty of industrial looking locales down in the basement, is decaying quite nicely in parts, and that classic dirt smeared tile look is regularly just around the corner.
You don’t start off in The Bathroom, but a bathroom, and it and many other locations definitely evoke the production design of the movies very well. Music is well represented and evokes the movie soundtracks quite nicely.
So, the question is really what are you looking for? If you are a fan of the Saw series, looking for a fun Saw experience, you’ll find a game that’s very true to the movies and sure to appeal to anyone who has enjoyed the franchise. If you aren’t a fan of the series, the question becomes how good a game Saw – The Video Game is when taken on its own merits.
To answer that question, it’s okay. Probably in no small part due to them trying to get it out before the movie and all that, there are definitely areas of the game that could do with more polish. There are better horror games out there if you aren’t looking for something a bit different. If you are, if you’re looking for a survival horror game that puts a really big emphasis on the puzzles and exploration, then it’s pretty easy to recommend it.
For all its flaws, Saw – The Video Game is different enough to be refreshing. It’s very obvious how much better it could have been, and there’s certainly wasted potential here, but it makes for a different more cerebral experience and that’s probably my favorite thing about it, just don’t expect anything scary or too polished.
3 out of 5
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