Review – Saw II

The sequel to the gory game edition of the popular Saw franchise is out, and we have ran it through its paces and tried all its traps. Did it live up to Jigsaw’s standards or did it fall flat on its face? Find out after the jump.

The storyline is set between the movies Saw and Saw II and follows Michael Tapp, a morally challenged reporter,  the son of Detective David Tapp (played by Danny Glover in the original Saw movie) as he investigates the recent death of his father. Jigsaw abducts Henry, and the games begin. The story changes depending on your choices, and you can have three different endings based on your decisions. Michael is faced with trials and traps that not only test his physical skills, but also his morality as well.

The game wastes no time introducing you to one of Jigsaw’s traps, albeit a simple and crude one. You start out as Campbell, a drug addict that is stuck in Jigsaw’s ‘Venus Flytrap’. Using simple button presses and the analog stick, you’ll have to cut underneath your eye to remove a key embedded in your face that will release you from the trap. Once free you’ll eventually be faced with your first morality test and you’ll have to choose between saving yourself, or saving some unknown stranger. Your choice at this point will determine which ending you’ll see after you have played through the entire game. This adds to the replayabilty of the game, as you’ll have to replay the game in its entirety to see the other endings.

The question you have to ask yourself is, will you ever want to play the game again (we’ll give our opinion at the end of this review). If you are a true fan of the Saw series and played the first game, you are in for more of the same style of gameplay. It is a third person survival horror game, with puzzles, traps, and surprises around every corner. Quick Time Events (QTE’s) replace some of the actions used in the previous game, and do take away from the over all suspense of the game, and can pop up at almost any time. Floors collapsing underneath you or shotguns ready to blow your head off (literally in the game)  have to be avoided by these QTE’s, so always be prepared to press the proper button(s). Shotguns and scythes can be found behind creaking doors, so always be careful when opening them. Peeking through peepholes is necessary to find codes to open locks but can be just as deadly since some have a large caliber hand gun ready to remove your face. Exactly how those are triggered is unknown, but be ready for the QTE’s nonetheless.

Getting your head blown off, or body sliced by a scythe will send you back to your last checkpoint, and that is something that can be frustrating. Checkpoints are spread out a little far and surviving three separate QTE’s only to die on a fourth isn’t much fun if you have to redo all of those again. Health (actually your pain level) isn’t regenerative and can only be improved by hypodermic needles that are found in first aid boxes and in some other places. These can be as few and far between as checkpoints, and listening to your heart beat while almost dead for ten minutes or so can really get on your nerves.

Lock picking has been changed in this game, and is actually pretty intuitive. You’ll either be guiding your pick through rotating tumblers inside the lock or you’ll be rotating the tumblers as the pick moves through the lock. Either way, it’s a nice addition, with the exception of those that use the inverted Y-Axis camera option. The inversion works for your normal camera as you move around, but not for your lock pick mini games.

Electrical mini-games have returned with a slight change. Instead of matching colors, you’ll have match red to green. There’s also button puzzles where pressing buttons turns lights off and on and you’ll have to pay attention as you’ll need all of the lights off to proceed.

You’ll have a flashlight hanging off of your vest, and this will play into some of the puzzles. Taking a cue from the first Saw movie, some writing on the walls can only be seen if you provide a light source, then take that source away. Glow-in-the dark paint is a pretty cool addition and there’s one puzzle that will require you to really think about what might have said paint on it. Here’s a hint: mannequins are your friend.

The graphics for the game aren’t exactly top notch, but keep in mind that this is a dark game to begin with. More detail to blood dripping out of your body after getting sliced or stabbed would have been a nice addition. Blood looks last gen at best, but doesn’t take away too much from the overall experience. The level of detail on each environment is decent when you can see it. The traps themselves range in style, but are still Jigsaw quality traps, there’s just only so much you can do with traps. They do get a little repetitive, but they are what they are. There are a few exceptions where the traps are intuitive and require some serious thought, but most are just QTE traps.

Combat in this game has changed from the first game. In this game, you’ll either use QTE’s to dodge and parry your opponent to take him out, or you’ll use traps and the environment to take them out.

Collectibles in the game are there for completionists and trophy lovers. There is one Billy doll (the little Jigsaw dolls we all know and love) to be found on each level and will require you to complete a more difficult puzzle to acquire. While not required to finish the game, it is something that adds to the overall experience. There are also case files and audio tapes to be collected, and these tell the story of the game and the Saw series. They are littered throughout each level so keep an eye out for them. Anything that is interactive will be ‘shiny’ so keep an eye out for those objects as well.

Saw II is hit and miss really. Some things, like Billy Doll puzzles, can really test your intelligence and make the game fun, while others, QTE’s everywhere and the spread out checkpoints, creates unnecessary frustration. If you’re a huge fan of the Saw series, you’ll be buying the game regardless of what anyone thinks. If you’re not, you may want to pass this one up or just go with a rental. Saw II is mostly Saw I, but with a little less fun.