Saw II: Flesh and Blood Xbox 360 Review

Saw II is a much better game than you’d expect it to be, and arguably better than it has any right to be. This is simply because it takes some of the core ideas from the movies and runs with them – sometimes this does the game a disservice, but on a few occasions throughout the adventure, it just flat-out works amazingly well.

You really have to applaud Saw II for it’s opening – asking you to cut a key out of your eye to get a lock off a trap that will soon snap closed around your head, squishing it. It is a nice panicky moment to start a game on, having the character in peril, and putting you in charge. Sure, the cutting and removal of the key is pared back to a few QTE button presses, but still, it is quite the spectacle.

That opening scene is Saw II at its best, and there are a handful of other moments throughout the game that match up to it in terms of content. It is the rest of the game where the quality gets somewhat muddled. But let’s mention the good stuff first. In terms of gameplay, Saw II will have you racking your brains to beat a selection of puzzles built around traps created by Jigsaw (the main protagonist for at least some of the movies). There is some decent range to them, and a large selection of these puzzles are entertaining enough to partake in – or grizzly enough when they go wrong – to make the game fun to play.

But then there is the bad. There are a few too many of the puzzles that just don’t pay off, and some which I personally found made little logical sense – although, at the time, I thought I approached them the way the game wanted me to. What’s worse is that some of Jigsaw’s traps are just variations on a theme, which repeat throughout the game, but have just been given a coat of paint to make them seem slightly different. It is very hard to get excited about solving a puzzle, when you bested something 90% similar an hour before.

Then there is the environment itself, which does start to grate the more you play. I know it is hard to make a decrepit, abandoned warehouse look visually appealing, but other games with a predominately grey/brown pallet have made themselves look interesting in other ways, so it could have worked here too.

Furthermore, there are multiple times the game forces you to fight enemies using QTEs – in a unique but workable system. This is yet another plus point for the title. However, go around the next corner and it’ll ask you to try and avoid an enemy as he runs headfirst like a bull towards you. Not only that, but you’re also optimistically tasked with directing him to a specific place whilst avoiding his attacks at the same time. The game gives you full control of your character at this point, but with clunky controls it is hard, and not much fun, to accomplish what is asked.

This near-erratic style of gameplay is evident throughout the whole game, and is highly detrimental to its overall appeal. One moment you’ll be in love with what is on show, working your way around one of Jigsaws ingenious puzzles, scratching your head, but still loving the challenge. Five minutes later you’ll be near tears, constantly repeating one of Jigsaws less than spectacular puzzles, banging your head against a wall, and wondering if maybe the old guy was having an off day when he designed this one.

That above paragraph probably best describes Saw II, as it’s mostly a slapdash of ideas haphazardly thrown together with seemingly no care if they work together or not. There is little to no harmony on show between the individual sections, and at times it honestly feels like each bit-part was made independently, then just knitted together into something resembling a game at the end.

With some refinement, and a willingness to toss out the bad eggs that made their way in, Saw II could have been another title to add to the rather short list of decent games based on licensed content. But instead, the finished product only peaks to quality a few times throughout the experience, and revels in mediocrity far too much. Ultimately, this leads to the game being nothing more than a slightly above average overall experience, and that’s a pity.

Over the course of putting this review together, I constantly found myself rewriting and backtracking on why I loved parts of Saw II. For everything I enjoyed there was always something to take away from that pleasure in equal measure – whether it be the messy controls, bad checkpointing, inconsistent pacing, or just the shivers of annoying gameplay dotted throughout. Overall, the game is far too erratic for its own good.

However, the game nails the feel of the films well, and that is one trait that must be applauded. So, for fans of the movies, in particular the earlier ones, before their overt craziness stepped over the line to complete insanity, there is something to admire here. And it is that niche audience that will probably get the most out of what Saw II brings to the table. But even if you’re part of that crowd, don’t expect to love every minute of what you see.

6/10

by

Version tested: Xbox 360, Playstation 3

Developer: Zombie Studios

Publisher: Konami

Genre: Horror