Warp looks like a couple of things it's not. It looks like a top-down stealth game, in which a cute alien avoids the malevolent machinations of clandestine vivisectionists in a top secret submarine research facility.
But Zero, the apparently adorable alien in question, isn't that interested in keeping things on the down-low. He's involved in frantic, messy confrontation as much as subterfuge. Also, he can only really be considered cute up until the first time he teleports inside a hapless scientist, exploding the groaning boffin in a shower of gristle.
Teleportation is Warp's principle gimmick, both as a means of smearing enemies across a room and as the key to the game's lightweight puzzles. Zero can only warp a few feet in front of himself and while he can zip straight through many of the facility's locked doors, other obstructions are too thick to pass. Zero's aversion to salt water prevents him from simply nipping around outside the sub. The player is ultimately corralled by traditional button-pushing problems: Zero must locate and disable generators that power heavy sealed doors.
Things get more complicated with the addition of gun turrets and human opponents equipped with saline shields that prevent Zero from warping through them. A later power allows you to project a ghost image of yourself – useful for coaxing enemies to shoot one another. Later still, you get the ability to swap places with any similar sized object that your ghost is able to reach, extending your warp range, and heralding a slew of frantic spatial puzzles which require rapid swapping between multiple objects.
It takes a long time for Warp to wring intellectual challenge from its variables, but, such is the pace of its splattery, space-rending chaos, it's no worse for that. The game's lurid black humour makes the lack of austere challenge hard to resent – and later levels do deliver brainteasers and demand twitchy skills besides.
All the same, some mechanics find themselves exploited once too often, and for a game of this level of vivid visual sheen, there are some oddly careless slip-ups – such as putting cutscenes after checkpoints. Control can be finicky too – warps occasionally misfire, and the rough-and-ready clipping and occlusion is difficult to judge from the off-vertical viewing angle. Sadly all these flaws are compiled into an antagonisingly crap finale that squats proudly aside the many bowel-openingly awful boss battles of the last decade.
Nevertheless, it's hard to resent what is otherwise a cheerful romp with some titillating, fresh gimmicks and a winsomely dark sense of humour. Blistering challenge rooms and online leaderboards may extend its stay, but ultimately Warp is a shallow game, and happily so: here one moment and gone the next.
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