When Konami announced earlier this year that it had a game based on the horror movie franchise Saw in the offing, it seemed like quite a good plan. A brand new theme park ride based on the films was opening, the fifth movie had banked over $100m worldwide, and two more films had already been inked in.
But then Saw VI underperformed at the box office and put a spanner in the works. Furthermore, there was an underlying suspicion that Konami’s game might be a fairly tepid cash-in, replicating the gore and ridiculously fast edits of the film but failing to provide a decent game underneath it all. All of a sudden the runes weren’t looking quite so good.
And the game is certainly guilty of some of the editing that’s plagued the later Saw films. But particularly in the short term, Saw: The Game is a surprisingly entertaining mixture of exploration, action and primarily puzzles.
You take the part of Detective Tapp, who once upon a time was played by Danny Glover, but not here. Master trap-setter Jigsaw – voiced wonderfully well by the ‘star’ of the movies, Tobin Bell – is making Tapp pay for his relentless pursuit in the past with lots of beastly traps in the present. In the setup and the material with Jigsaw, Konami pitches the game perfectly and you can’t help but buy into the tone of the movie.
And with the traps too; here’s where Konami has pulled no punches. It’s gathered together in Saw a collection of very challenging puzzles, the like of which you rarely see in generally softer contemporary games. They’re all the better for the extra challenge, too, and when the game gives you the space and time to work through them, it’s satisfying to solve the puzzles it throws at you. Your brain will genuinely be tested in a title that you might at first write off as just another piece of survival horror.
Sadly, though, the strength of the puzzles isn’t always high. And while sometimes the urgency brought in by a ticking clock works heavily in the game’s favour (and certainly helps keep the tone of the films), there are times when you’re asked to resolve small puzzles in unfair amounts of time, and it’s moments like this that really suck part of the fun out of things.
In defence of the game, it’s surprisingly effective at creating an atmosphere and we found it quite edgy at times, with long periods of nothing and virtual silence employed to build up the tension. And when it works, it’s genuinely very good. But sadly the irritations eventually bog it down, and the relatively brief length of it doesn’t help either.
Saw is – and we’re fully aware that there’s a cliché riding around the corner – the kind of game that’s rewarding to find in the bargain bin, but not so much fun if you’ve paid full price for it. Unless you’re rich. Which we’re not.