Do You Want to Play a Game?
If it’s Halloween, it’s SAW. Or at least it has been since Jigsaw made his bloody debut five years ago. Five continually worse sequels later and Jigsaw has finally found his way to the gaming world. The films are known for clever traps, suspense, and myriad plot twists, all of which should translate extremely well to the virtual world. However, as a game based off a not-so-good, torture-porn movie franchise, SAW has a few hurdles to overcome. So how does SAW fare as a video game? Find out in my review.
Like any good horror game, SAW provides us with a very creepy world to explore. In it you play as a police officer from the SAW films, David Tapp, who has to traverse through the trap-laden Whitehurst Insane Asylum. The asylum’s dark past of medieval tactics and patient abuse plays a big role in the game’s creepy atmosphere, and there’s a constant feeling of being watched, because you are in fact being monitored by Amanda Young (Tapp’s apprentice). The asylum provides a decent variety of areas to explore, including a morgue, crematorium, theaters, libraries, offices, and a handful of other areas that all have an eroded, abandoned look, since the asylum hasn’t been active for some time.
There aren’t very many characters to interact with; other than Jigsaw and Amanda, there are six other characters Tapp must save throughout the game. Unsurprisingly, each character has a reason for why they’ve been placed in one of Jigsaw’s traps, ranging from a corrupt CSI who framed an innocent person for a hit and run he committed to the journalist who coined the name “Jigsaw Killer” and framed Tapp for the murders. The story feels held down by the fact that you’re stuck in one area, with limited characters, each of which provides some back-story. Unfortunately, the character models are uninspired, making them more than a little difficult to care about, and this is a problem since you’re tasked with saving them from Jigsaw’s traps.
Generic character models aside, the environments look really creepy. It would’ve been nice to be less confined since the game is completely linear. I’m not saying the game needs to let us explore every nook and cranny like Batman: Arkham Asylum, but being able to explore a bit would’ve helped make it feel less claustrophobic. Since there are very few characters in the game there’s always a feeling of being alone and studied, like a rat in a maze, which is perfect for this type of game.
The environments are really the only things that shine in the total mess that is this game, especially when you have to fight. This feature was obviously tacked on as a poor way to break up the puzzle/trap gameplay, but it never succeeds as anything more than a nuisance because of the unpolished, frustrating controls. Besides the fact that SAW isn’t the type of game that works well as a brawler, the button layout is dreadful. For example, to fire a weapon you have to hold down the left trigger on the game’s controller and use one of the face buttons to fire. Who decided that was fun? In the end it doesn’t really matter; when you discover that the game’s idiotic AI can’t fight back against a couple punches, it forces literally every weapon in the game into irrelevance.
To pad the game’s length, Jigsaw has thrown in some violent thugs into the mix who want the key inside your chest, a scenario familiar to anyone who’s seen the films. Fighting these people is never fun, especially after doing so again and again every time you beat a puzzle and have to go on to the next room. It feels forced, and there’s a good chance they were added to the game to make it seem like there was more content than there actually is.
A game feature that sounds interesting at first but eventually becomes annoying is the traps that are aimed at killing you. Things like hidden shotgun traps that instantly kill your character if they’re not quickly evaded are fun at first, but they quickly become frustrating after getting killed time after time. There’s also the occasional glass-covered floor, and since your character is barefoot he’s hurt by the glass. My only issue with this is how much health the glass takes off, which is way too much.
So the combat and story aren’t very amusing, but the traps are why we expose ourselves to the gory trash that is the SAW series, right? Yes, the traps are clever and brutal, but unfortunately some of them are recycled from the films, like the reverse bear trap from the first SAW and the Pendulum trap. There’s one particular trap that really made me wonder what type of twisted designers were working on this thing, and that would be the Iron Maiden. In this trap the victim is on a stand with their legs bound keeping them upright, while two walls armed with circular SAWs close in on them. To save the victim from the trap you have to successfully beat several timed puzzles, and when you fail the victim becomes one step closer to being brutally maimed. I’ve never been terribly fond of timed puzzles, my anxious mind just can’t handle knowing there’s a time limit, but these puzzles are certainly triumphant in keeping me on the edge of my seat.
In the end this game feels less like a thrilling adventure and more like an eight to ten hour endurance test. It’s a good looking game, though the visuals will never ‘wow’. The traps that we haven’t seen before are as messed up as we’ve all come to expect from the series, and the combat is, in a word, terrible. However, if you’re a fan of the films, there’s definitely a chance you’ll find something here worth a rental, and for me that thing was the deliciously twisted Tobin Bell.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.2 Graphics
The creepy atmosphere is hurt by a handful of technical issues like texture popping. 2.5 Control
Combat is frustrating, but that’s almost to be expected in this genre. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Tobin Bell voices his character, though he’s the only actor to do so, and the eerie music and sound effects sustain a feeling of uneasiness. 2.0 Play Value
Almost no replay value, but fans of the films should be able to find some entertainment here. 2.4 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.