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Clip Analysis: “Enslaved: Odyssey to the West”

Clip Analysis: “Enslaved: Odyssey to the West”  (photo)

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Video game teasers tend to stick to a certain formula: dazzle the viewer with awesome graphics, show off some of the games’ abilities and maybe dribble a little story out to tantalize would-be players. But every so often, one piece of video-centric marketing will float above the rest or sink to join the sludge.

In Clip Analysis, I’ll be looking at trailers, teasers and just about any game-related video in an effort to call out what works and what doesn’t in terms of communicating a particular game’s coolness.

This time, I’ll be taking a look at the trailer for “Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.”

Original ideas always represent big risks in entertainment. Even if something is cheap to produce, the question of whether an audience will follow a creator can be an expensive one, if only in emotional cost; hence, the tendency to stitch familiar tropes together with a few more outré elements. It’s a tricky alchemy and can be fascinating to watch.

Due out in the fall, the Namco Bandai release “Enslaved: Odyssey to the West” promises to be one of those games where a little bit of new gets folded it in design concepts that audiences are already familiar with. The game re-imagines the Chinese epic novel “Journey to the West,” which concerns itself with the mythical Monkey King’s quest to rescue Buddhist sutras from India. It’s a very loose interpretation, though, as it takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth after centuries of war. Storywise, the familiar elements are the headband that forces obedience, the telescoping combat staff and the main character’s name of Monkey from Journey to the West. The two main characters of “Enslaved” are Trip, a female tech whiz and a surly brawler named Monkey. The pair get randomly thrown together escaping from a slave ship and Trip commandeers Monkey’s free will with a pain-inducing headband that essentially forces him to do her bidding. All she wants to do is get home but she’s doing it by taking away another person’s right to do what he wants.

I saw a demo of “Enslaved” some weeks ago and was excited when trailers for the game started to roll out. How would Namco Bandai present a game with so much going on?

• The weirdest thing about this clip to me is that it doesn’t avail itself of “Enslaved”‘s main selling point: the performances. The game’s got incredible digital acting, directed by Andy Serkis (who played Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” movies). Serkis has been doing serious work in the area of performance capture processes, which digitally encode the vocal and physical interaction between players. He and “Enslaved” developer Ninja Theory collaborated on “Heavenly Sword,” a PS3 launch game that also featured very expressive animation and vocework. None of this gets outed in the clip, though. I have to think that people would be interested in such behind-the-curtain stuff.

• The other thing that Enslaved has going for it is the fractious relationship between its two leads. A game where one character takes away another’s freedom, after both were slaves? That’s a morally slippery slope and territory that’s rarely trod in games. Of course, you can guess that they’ll grow into some sort of affection for each other, but setting up the initial wrongness of their partnership makes the journey there more interesting. Tell us that. Show us that.

• What the clip does show off is the symbiotic relationship between the player-controlled Monkey and the AI partner Trip. This isn’t a new concept but the differences between the characters are marked and interestingly presented. This isn’t a pairing of two physically commensurate bad-asses; getting through some of the challenges will mean more than “cover me while I shoot.”

• Another thing that sparkles in the trailer is the art design for both characters and the world they inhabit. Sci-fi design is a tricky thing, especially when it comes to envisioning a post-apocalyptic world. The Booklyn Bridge looks like the Brooklyn Bridge, but one from an entirely effed-up reality. Things needs to seem familiar but fatigued and the design shown off in “Enslaved” seems to dodge the clichés that abound in this kind of sci-fi.

“Enslaved: Odyssey to the West” comes out this October for PS3 and Xbox 360.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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