The Saw movie franchise has finally come to a close. Being a huge fan I was happy to see the conclusion come away with such a gripping finale. Alongside the release of the seventh and final movie, Konami has delivered a sequel that no one ever expected to see the light of day. Saw II: Flesh and Blood delivers another packet of fan service wrapped in a mediocre game that only true fans of the series will care about. The big question is can this follow-up deliver enough to entertain fans that are now without anymore Jigsaw puzzles to look forward to.
Saw II mostly follows the story of Michael Tapp, the son of Danny Glover’s character from the first movie. Jigsaw has brought you into the mix to discover how your father died. The thing about Flesh and Blood is that you have to be a major fan of the series to grasp any portion of this story. Case files are strewn about the levels, all containing interesting info and back-story on a lot of the characters from the movies. However, if you only go see the movies for the gore, these files will be a waste of time for you. If you are a huge fan though you will definitely enjoy seeing all of this info that was never seen in the movies.
If story is not your thing and you are simply here for some action, again you are in the wrong place. The first Saw game was universally criticized for its shallow combat. The sequel completely dissipates the combat mechanic in favor of quicktime button presses. While it takes you out of the action itself, it does end the frustration of actually have to fight inside a poorly designed action game. The focus of the Saw games should be puzzles, so honestly this change didn’t bother me. However, it almost would have been better to present the combat scenarios as cut scenes and avoid this aspect altogether.
The meat of Saw II is definitely the puzzles and Flesh and Blood does a good job of spicing things up. For those of us who played the first game and remember the hair-pulling circuit puzzles, you are in luck. These are now a thousand times less frustrating. There are also traps that require you to try and save victims much like the first game. Sometimes they are rather unique, while other times they serve as an introduction to a puzzle that will be repeated, or shall I saw ran into the ground later in the game. Still most of them keep you on your toes and it is cool to see some of the unique designs the developers have come up; even if there are some repeats from the movies.
One of the biggest things that the game suffers from is pure lack of polish. Everything from the controls to the menus feels like a budget title. Being released only a year after the last game likely had something to do with that, but with the popularity of the series it does detract a little bit from the experience. You control your character from a third-person perspective and it takes some time to get accustomed to it. You will constantly run into walls until you get the hang of the stiff design. Health is handled in the traditional fashion with you collecting hypodermic needles around the levels to heal yourself.
While I love the movies and the games, it does come with some annoying aspects. First up the lack of direction in certain scenarios such as controls. The first culprit was the balance beam segment. The game tells you to pull the left and right triggers to cross it, but it never mentions the analog stick. These types of oversights are far too common and lead to some cheap deaths. One thing I really enjoyed though was how the puzzles never give you too much in the form of hints. Especially when collecting the Billy Dolls. There is always a solution that makes sense but it is not always right in front of your face. This gives you a great sense of accomplishment when you do manage to figure it out.
Developer Zombie has managed to capture a lot of what makes Saw. The music and voice work in this game is spot on. They even have Tobin Bell reprising his role as Jigsaw, which definitely makes his part. The level design is decent and definitely feels like a Saw-inspired locale, but the poor textures and stiff animations do detract from the immersion that could have been. As I also mentioned the menus and other aspects do give off the vibe of a budget title, but I am not surprised as the first game I am sure didn’t exactly set the charts on fire.
Saw II: Flesh and Blood is a game for fans of the franchise. The Jigsaw traps are definitely the highlight of the game even if they do get a tad bit repetitious. Anyone else looking for a puzzle game or perhaps a horror style action game should probably take a pass on this one. If you are a fan though you will be able to look past the game’s shortcomings just to experience even more of the universe. This is the definition of a game built for only one type of audience, let’s just hope this audience continues to support the games and maybe next time they will get a larger budget, and a longer time to develop now that the movies are complete.
Review copy provided by publisher.