Warp’s premise is harmless and effective. You’re a cute, orange alien named Zero and you desperately need to escape an underwater science lab. Along the way another sentient presence telepathically links with Zero and encourages him to bounce around the enormous labs finding a handful of upgrades in route to an ultimate escape. Said presence provides both direction and tutorial, often pushing the player to use Zero’s abilities in inventive ways before outright stating what needs to be done. Warp’s puzzles rarely dead-end the player’s options, but a fail/safe exists in the case of an unexpected neural flat line.
As the name implies, Warp’s primary mechanic is a small teleportation move. A yellow dot, affixed to the right analog stick, is always a few feet ahead of Zero and dictates the distance he can warp. Going through thin doors and walls is obvious, but warping can also be employed with a bit of finesse to dance around dangerous lasers or through enemy gunfire. At times warping can seem sort of clunky, as if the level design was having a tug of war with the limited reach afforded by the move, and can make warping feel imprecise and inconsistent.
Zero can also warp inside other objects. If he warps inside a barrel or turret then he’ll be invisible to patrolling soldiers and scientists. He can also warp inside humans and either bail out, rendering them dazed, or literally explode out of them in a mess of blood and gore. Eventually soldiers start coming equipped with water shields that provide an additional layer of difficulty, but they’re frequently undercut by the absolutely idiotic AI. Zero can be in front of Zero and literally sidestep behind an object and almost instantly, even if he’s right next to Zero, the soldier will completely forget Zero existed. While Warp as a whole feels very similar to Metal Gear Solid’s VR Missions, its miserable AI can’t even keep up with what Kojima and Co. were doing in the late 90’s.
Warp has plenty of other ideas that Zero picks up along the way. Echo allows Zero to send out a hologram of himself or whatever object he inhabits. This leads to neat situations where you’ll have to either trick guards or turrets into flipping switches or murdering each other. Whether it was carefully walking between walls to reach a new object or trying to find an electric barrel to power a generator, I often found Echo as the means to conquer Warp’s most clever and subdued puzzles. Launch, by comparison, is late game addition that allows Zero to throw objects from one place to another. It’s used in a few smart puzzles, but it felt like it was saved for last because it wouldn’t lend itself to much else.
Warp also fancies itself as a member of the Metroid/Castlevania school of creating a giant map with areas that are only reachable later after other powers are acquired. Indeed, by placing glowing pink grubs (used at currency to buy helpful power-ups), film reels (standard collectables), and challenge maps (optional pure gameplay challenge rooms incentivized with more grubs), the player is encouraged the revisit old areas. There is a bit of extra challenge here because going backward often requires a different set of tricks than moving forward, but generally I didn’t think the challenge was worth the effort. Warp provides a decent map, but it doesn’t make traveling all the way back through them especially appetizing or easy. It always felt like more trouble than it was worth.
Presentation is an area where Warp is never comfortable in its own skin. It’s not just that my PSN version was littered with screen tearing, frequent frame drops, or random loading times (though all of that is a bit of a head scratcher), but rather the tone and message exhibited by its sights and sounds were frequently at odds. Most of the time Warp seems like a goofy kind of game but occasionally it takes these manic turns for the dark side that seem completely incongruous with its mission. Massive gore and occasional f-bombs are completely out of place in a game like Warp. As someone who thoroughly enjoyed Bulletstorm I don’t consider myself a prude, but every time the last boss called me a motherf—er I shook my head in disgust. Neither Warp’s puzzles nor its mechanics are particularly advanced and said nonsense does nothing for the game but limit its appeal.
Further souring me on the experience was Warp’s lame attempts at boss encounters. The second is beset by inconsistencies in animation and collision detection that lead to a host of frustrating failures. The very last encounter, on the other hand, is an absolute disaster. Going into explicit detail (spoilers, I guess), you’re tasked with throwing barrels through a tube so they can pop out on the other side of the screen and hit a centrally located enemy’s rotating weak point. The consequence is that if you happen to connect the enemy defaults into a sequence where he spins much faster and layers a more powerful laser on top. The issue is that you can actually obtain a level of proficiency with Warp’s mechanics to fire off more barrels and hit his weak point as he is spinning – except that any barrels that do connect won’t register until he’s completely cycled through his animation. Basically, challenge is tremendously indifferent to skill, relying on luck more than the combination of mechanics the player just spent the previous six hours perfecting. It’s dumb at best and offensive at worst.
Warp boasts the ability to perfect any previously found challenge rooms outside of the game and adds additional depth with leader boards but, as you might guess, after the knuckle sandwich of a last boss encounter I wasn’t exactly motivated to stick around after the credits rolled.