Wot I Think: Warp

By Jim Rossignol on March 21st, 2012 at 12:00 pm.

Who or what is that guy?
The lack of fanfare surrounding the release of Trapdoor’s Warp seems a little odd. Barely anyone seems to have heard of it. That said, EA do seem to be making a habit of not doing too much to hype their digital titles, and seem to be letting these games speak for themselves. Perhaps that okay, too, because games like Warp speak the language of Oh There Goes Cash From My Pocket Again.

Here’s Wot I Think.

I think Trapdoor have made a characterful, clever 3D puzzler. There’s no revolution here, and there are some frustrations along its tricky path, but Warp is an amusing idea turned into a robust game. That basic idea is as pure could be: it’s in the name. You are an alien, and you can “warp”. This means teleporting, sometimes through obstacles, sometimes inside other objects, sometimes into living people. The consequences of that last part can be grisly.

The set-up for this top-down puzzle game is that you are a gelatinous creature that has been captured by masked human experimenters. Once you have fluked back your warp power, you find yourself able to leap through locked doors, jump into objects and cause them to explode, and otherwise cause familiar videogame mayhem. You’re as soft as a balloon, however, so the armed guards and gun-turrets can end you in moments.

Your revenge for being experimented upon and shot at is surprisingly bloody: as you escape you can leap into the bodies of guards and scientists and, by waggling the directional controls, cause them to burst. The scientists cower and cry, and I popped them anyway. For a game whose protagonist is a cute blob thing that makes adorable chirping noises, it’s remarkably horrid.

Warp’s powers of blinking escalate the puzzles in a predictable and pleasing manner. This is partly through new challenges and powers, and partly in you learning to master the options you’ve been given. Clearing a room of guards by blinking between living an inanimate hosts is gruesomely satisfying. The way the warp powers work gives the game a unique sort of flavour, too. You find yourself peering ahead into the levels, trying to path between objects, or to see which guards you can pop without getting gunned down when you emerge, splattered in blood.

The game begins to throw down additional challenges almost as soon as you’ve mastered this first trick – water causes the power to be temporarily suspended, for example – and soon other powers, such as a Total Recall-style false projection of yourself, come into play in the later stages. You learn these with the help of another, rather chatty, alien entity, and unlock upgrades for powers as you gather the collectibles that appear throughout the game. Some of these need to earned in “challenge” levels, which are sort of more abstract test chamber-style puzzles outside the main base-escape story map. I’m not sure about these and rather which they’d been somehow tied into the main game more coherently.

Ultimately, I found myself quietly charmed by Warp’s puzzles. Despite the austere rent-a-lab backdrop, the game has lovely scenes, and one or two “ah” moments where figuring things out for yourself redeems some intellectual reward. That balance of cute and horror also works heavily in its favour. It’s quite a grown up puzzler.

Not all of it is delightful, however. One scene in particular, where a series of perfect warps have to be made to avoid instant death at the hands of a boss character, made me scream like enraged apeman. Okay, so I only actually had to play it through a couple of times to get past it, and I could skip the cutscene that played each time, but the sheer insta-death frustration of it was enough to get my blood boiling. These kinds of games – and by that I mean all such puzzlers and platformers where “game over” is a hazard of having to fail the jump/dodge/button press to know what happens so you can avoid on the next go – don’t seem to be able to avoid irritating me in this fashion. Perhaps I am the one who is at fault. Perhaps not. And Warp is definitely not a major offender in this area, though, and I was able to get out of lots of scrapes with skilful warping.

There’s also the matter of the AI, which delivers the most simplistic patrol routines imaginable. So locked into their routines are the guards that they even occasionally knock ill-placed scenery objects around the levels, making a right old mess of things.

Nor are Warp’s controls as slick as they could be. I did find myself mis-warping almost routinely. Failing to jump as expected was something that just seems to come from general control clunkiness, and it feels like it needed a little more attention before it was put in player hands. It’s only a minor thing – it works – but it never feels entirely natural.

The consequence of this is that while Warp is an entertaining experience, it does fail to hit the high notes required of this sort of thing. It won’t be memorable in the way that other great one-trick games have been, and I suspect it might be the kind of game you pick up in a sale, get a few hours of fun from, and then forget about as bigger, bolder games capture your imagination.

Warp is cute, smart, and mostly well made, but I fear its legacy will probably match the fuss made for its release.

Warp is available on Origin and GamersGate, and requires Origin to be installed. It was also promised for Steam, but has not yet appeared there. I am going to try to find out why that it, and whether it will appear there soon.


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  1. CaspianRoach says:

    >It was also promised for Steam, but has not yet appeared there.

    >The lack of fanfare surrounding the release of Trapdoor’s Warp seems a little odd. Barely anyone seems to have heard of it.

    It’s pretty obvious isn’t it.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Yes, journalists and PR people only talk about things that come out on Steam. This is a well-known fact.

      • Malk_Content says:

        No but the millions of gamers who would see it on the front page and tell people they know about it if they like can create more fanfare than any PR or journo.

    • Kinth says:

      Hmmm you can get Warp on steam, Well here in the UK you can anyway.

  2. InternetBatman says:

    All that blood really doesn’t seem to match the aesthetic. It’d be a shame if EA handicapped the game’s chance of success by taking it off Steam.

  3. Blackcompany says:

    This reminds me just the slightest bit of Deity, that Digipen “Proof of Concept” RPS previewed not all that long ago. I am curious to know whether the experience is similar to Deity at all. If so, this is a must-have for me, since Deity was bloody brilliant.
    Either way this still sounds interesting enough to look into. Will have to check it out.
    Edit: And no, Jim, you are not the only person who is enraged by the “You have to die and reload just to learn how to do it right” method of upping the difficulty. This is simply poor design, in my opinion.
    Fortunately it sounds like Warp only has one or two such instances, and is an overall fun experience. Hopefully, it is sufficiently fun to warrant Origin in order to play, as I have not tackled that puzzle yet. I figure it can’t be any worse than Steam, really, given the similarities.

  4. ran93r says:

    Didn’t see it mentioned so:
    £7.99 on Origin and 4 whole pees cheaper on GamersGate.

    Not sure I want to drop that much on something I’m not sure I will like, it does “seem” fun but I’m not convinced.

  5. actionthom says:

    Yeah I agree on this ‘insta-death if you can’t hit the button in time’ problem. The pleasure of a puzzle game is in the solving of the puzzle, not the doing of the solution. If I know how to solve the puzzle, but it takes me 8 attempts to actually perform the solution due to fiddly controls and timing of jumps and so on, then you go in the ‘what a shame’ bucket.
    I’m looking at you Braid and PB Winterbottom

    • trjp says:

      Braid wasn’t QUITE so bad in that it allowed you to retry with minimal penalty (at least as far as I got it did) but I agree on Winterbottom which required fiendish thinking and then a bit of luck in the execution department as well.

      • Ragnar says:

        You’re right in that the mechanics of Braid made retrying a lot easier, but there were many sections where you needed to try a jump over and over again until everything finally lined up right. It didn’t stop me from finishing the game, but it definitely caused some annoyance and frustration. Some sort of visual cues would have helped.

    • LintMan says:

      “If I know how to solve the puzzle, but it takes me 8 attempts to actually perform the solution due to fiddly controls and timing of jumps and so on, then you go in the ‘what a shame’ bucket.”

      I totally agree. I also despise trial-and-error “Do It Again, Stupid” gameplay where you need to play the same game section, repeatedly dying while you learn and memorize the proper sequence of actions to get past it.

    • wccrawford says:

      This needs to be said louder. Sometimes I think that developers don’t understand the mind of a puzzle solver.

    • MattM says:

      In P.B. i would often have a solution built only to find that it was one second too slow and I needed to edit it down. It could be frustrating, but I don’t think we should rule out all puzzles where timing and nimbleness play an element. When you finally got the timing right in P.B. (or the similar puzzles in R&C: A Crack In Time) then you got a satisfying feeling watching 4-5 synchronized clones go about their work. Sometimes modifying the timing required some careful puzzle solving thought.

  6. Bats says:

    Been wanting to get this ever since I saw the Quicklook on Giantbomb. Hopefully it does indeed hit Steam, since that’s where I’d be picking it up. Unless it still then yet requires Origin to be installed, in which case I just won’t have it.

    • zakihashi says:

      It’s do need Origin, but, dosn’t matter really if you already accepted one format. Skyrim force me to use Steam, which is just as bad.
      My choice of shop is GamersGate after all, not Steam.

  7. tejohr says:

    Only bad thing about it is how badly ported it is. Some framerate issues, no advanced graphics options and silly controls. With some messing with .ini files (it’s UT engine) and joy2key you can fix 2 out of 3. Still, big recommendation.

  8. trjp says:

    The controls on the 360 version were a bit wonky tbh – it turned a puzzle game into a “if you miss the button/move you die” game which got tiresome even inside the length of the demo – let along the whole game.

    It’s visually lovely tho and if you like your puzzles ‘razor edge’ in the control department you’ll lap-it-up.

    I’d just break the controller tbh

  9. The First Door says:

    I tried the demo (on XBLA) and was rather disappointed by the start of it, to be honest. Sat down to try it for half an hour or so and after an initial cut scene, something talking at me, a series of tiny, rather dull rooms and a Simon puzzle I’d run out of patience.

    Now I feel I might have been a little harsh on it, however, so I might have to go back and give it a longer try!

  10. buzzmong says:

    I was looking forward to this, but Origin? Nah, I’ll give it a miss thanks.

  11. Deadly Habit says:

    gotta love that even on steam it requires an origin account. pass

  12. rapchee says:

    “rather which” hehe sometimes even the spellcheck can’t help, or possibly it just made things worse

    • Christian Dannie Storgaard says:

      Also, “[...] blinking between living an inanimate hosts [...]” and I think there’s an “as” missing here: “That basic idea is as pure could be”, but I might be wrong (English = second language).

  13. Wisq says:

    FYI, it’s out on Steam now.

  14. Innovacious says:

    Online Disclaimer on steam


    Not sure is Origin, always online DRM or just one time activation. Having to accept Origin EULA doesn’t give me hope.

  15. WLF62 says:

    It is on Steam, but you still have to use origin to play. http://store.steampowered.com/app/102850/

  16. Soup says:

    I finished it on XBLA, and while it was quite fiddly to begin with I was surprised to find that it really held my attention. I imagine the poor controls are due to porting, because after half an hour or so I stopped having any issues with it.

  17. TotalBiscuit says:

    Rather surprised that RPS failed to mention the hard-wired controls (which aren’t exactly ideal) or the 30fps cap. Can’t even use the mouse in the menus even though the cursor is actually there. Clicking on things does nothing, it’s really a rather naff port.