So, a while ago I wrote a few words about atmosphere in video games. During that piece, I used Saw as an example of a bad game made playable by its creepy, unsettling atmosphere, which in turn led a few people to surmise that the game itself is actually good. Because I’m all about the people, I thought I’d take some time to clarify why it isn’t.
Repetitive, unimaginative puzzles: Namely, bigger and slightly more difficult versions of the same two puzzles repeated ad nauseum throughout the entirety of the game. The first is a simple circuit puzzle which involves directing electricity from a source point to several nodes, and the second requires a selection of pipes to be rotated until they fit together. There are others, but they usually only crop up once or twice in specific scenarios, so Konami rejected more of them on the grounds that they were too much like puzzles that made sense and were enjoyable to solve.
Barely visible, instant-death traps: Tension is a good thing in a horror game, and creeping slowly through the environment is generally quite a natural thing to do, especially considering your lighter extinguishes itself if you move too quickly. However, when you’re being chased by a lunatic swinging around a baseball bat with nails through the end, rounding a corner at high speed and having your head blown off by an almost invisible wall-mounted shotgun is a little bit harsh.
Terrible combat: Oh, the combat. Perhaps the worst combat in any game I’ve ever played in almost two decades of gaming. Swinging a length of piping or a bat takes roughly ten minutes, and usually five minutes into the animation the enemy clubs you over the head with something and resets the whole process. The best course of action is generally to just spam the game-breaking uppercut move and give all the weapons a wide berth.
Barrels full of acid/toilets full of syringes containing keys: At several points throughout the game, Detective Tapp (the player-character, and the same guy from the first film) needs to find a key. Sometimes these keys are hidden in a cupboard, but sometimes they’re buried in a toilet full of syringes. What’s the best course of action in these scenarios? Well, plunging your hand right inside up to the shoulder of course! This is so fucking stupid it makes my head hurt. Even worse, keys are occasionally located at the bottom of barrels filled with acid (they somehow haven’t dissolved but, details) and again Tapp’s immediate response is to bury his entire arm inside. At one point there is a drain on the floor next to the barrel, which he doesn’t even consider using.
There are many more issues, but considering the ones listed above make up pretty much the entire game, I don’t see any percentage in listing them all. This is not a good experience by any means, and while the atmosphere is strong, that only really justifies a playthrough if you’re morbidly curious, scarily into the franchise or, like me, a bit of an idiot. There’s probably a joke about not wanting to play a game here, if only I cared enough to find it.