Saw II – Flesh & Blood
The Saw series is now one of the staples of modern horror and, whether you like it or not, there’s a fair few fans that come with the territory. Possibly the most unlikely movie/videogame crossover, the original Saw: The Videogame might have been poorly received but still Saw fans came, saw, and bought the game in droves, making this sequel inevitable. In fact, Flesh & Blood comes a mere 12 months after the original and ties neatly into Halloween and the cinematic launch of Saw 3D, resulting in the game suffering due to its shortened development time (much like the films). Although, to set our review in motion, we have to understand the appeal of the Saw film franchise because, yes, whilst Saw suffers from yearly releases, there’s something about it that keeps people coming back for more time and time again.
For one, Saw is known for its unflinching and extremely horrific gore-factor that serves to be as cringe worthy as possible; from the outrageously over-the-top set piece traps, the sinister figure of ‘Jigsaw’ and understated finale plot twists. Take then Saw II: Flesh & Blood which can do nothing but miss out on all of the above. Granted, Saw II nails down the creepy and intense atmospherics of the film series perfectly, with the industrial warehouses and dilapidated brick buildings giving way to graffitied walls, leaking pipes, flickering lights, dangerous environments and an omnipresent feeling of dread and heightened tension; that something might hide right behind the corner. Truth is though, the game otherwise can’t live up to the series’ highs. Gore-hounds will be disappointed, with no sense of terror or disgust creeping in at Saw’s otherwise blood-soaked set-up due to the lack of graphical edge and shockingly poor animated characters that seem to be straight from schlock PS2 budget-titles.
There are also no plot twists to speak of (not that we’d spoil them for you anyway), with the questionable morality themes and ‘live or die’ choices resting with our lead protagonist, Michael Tapp, son of Detective Tapp, who is played by Danny Glover in the films and was lead of Saw: The Videogame. Taking place between the second and third films, Flesh & Blood’s plotting is dubiously overwrought and poorly constructed to care about, with different characters added to the fussy plot for Tapp to save in each of the game’s set piece traps (you are a bystander, not the victim, except in the opening scene), making it difficult to keep up with everything each person has supposedly done to warrant a grievous kidnapping. You can ‘flesh’ out the back-story of characters and Jigsaw’s disgusting history through audio files and case files found during the game, although the stupid design choice of having tapes only playable in-menu makes it unlikely you’ll sit through each recording.
The set pieces, otherwise, range in success. Some are well thought out and involving to solve; for example one puzzle sees you having to shout lock combinations to another poor victim clamped in a wrist-slashing trap, while also disarming bomb-laden mannequins and interpret which of the many hand-drawn combinations on the wall are correct. However, most are departures from the series’ essence, which is a significant flaw of the game. For example, no Saw movie would ever see the lead character having to take part in a ‘match two pictures’ puzzles while protecting a man from being flame-roasted above ferocious, fiery flames. This leads us onto the puzzles of the game since Flesh & Blood is a puzzle game at heart. And again, we have exactly the same feelings towards them; some diverge into near-perfection (the mannequin/UV light combo trick) while most are dull and repetitious mini-games (unimaginatively employing turning switches on and off, for example). Criticisms from the first game are also repeated, with the traps-behind-doors set-up both annoying and predictable in equal measure. You will die a lot of times in the game, generally through accidental presses of a button because of how the aforementioned traps and irksome combat system constantly forces timed presses on. That the latter also suffers from dodgy collision detection and stunted animation further exasperates matters.
Saw II outstays its welcome after a couple of hours and keeps on forcing the hackneyed plot on you when you want it all to end. It’s still probably a worthwhile play for fans of the series but for everyone else, it’s difficult to stay with for long, with to its long stretches of linear repetition quickly grinding you down until you reach the point when all you can think is…please, make it stop!
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