Saw (also known as Saw: The Video Game) is a third person survival horror video game with action elements that was developed by Zombie Studios and published by Konami. The game launched on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles, with a downloadable version released soon after for the Microsoft Windows platform. The game was first released on October 6, 2009 in North America and was released later that year in other regions. The Microsoft Windows version was released on October 22, a few weeks following the initial release for consoles. It is an adaption of the Saw film series that was released around the same time as Saw VI, although they have entirely separate story lines.
In Saw, The Jigsaw Killer has healed Detective David Tapp from his gunshot wound, and places him in an abandoned insane asylum to teach him a lesson of life appreciation. Obsessed, Tapp traverses the asylum and gathers clues along the way in hopes of finally apprehending Jigsaw. He encounters several people with past connections to him as he comes closer to escaping the asylum and its inhabitants who have instructions contrary to his survival. Along the way, Tapp also uncovers the origins of Jigsaw and his motives behind his tests, as well as learning the fates of those from the first Saw film. The development team also brought in James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the creators of the first Saw film, to write a new storyline and design new traps for the game.
Most of your time in Saw will be spent wandering around the asylum’s dark corridors and participating in puzzles. Some of these will seem familiar to fans of the series, like trying to get the infamous bear trap off your head, while some are new to the series. Most tend to be on the easy side, but the key here is that you’re working against the clock in most puzzles, which does a decent job making even the simplest puzzles feel more important. At the same time though, the timer can prove to be frustrating, especially later in the game. As you progress through the game’s campaign, the puzzles don’t get harder – they get more frustrating. For instance, not only will you have to free yourself from a set of chains, and then enter a secret combination to stop a flow of poisonous gas from reaching you, you’ll also have to defend yourself against a group of attackers. The natural progression of these games is to face tougher puzzles as you go on, it feels cheap to be given the same puzzles over and over, only with added distractions. Remember how I mentioned fighting off attackers above? Yeah, good luck with that – the combat system in Saw is so terrible, it’s amazing that it didn’t get cut from the game completely.
In short; it’s broken. Like most current next-gen games, different face buttons will perform different attacks, but the system is so unresponsive you’ll find yourself sticking with any attack that works, which thanks to shoddy collision detection, is pretty much any attack that comes within five feet from its intended target. You’ll also have a number of weapons available to you, including baseball bats and crowbars but they get weak and break after only a few hits, becoming useless. Luckily, if you play smart (and you’ll learn to in order to avoid combat), you’ll be able to pick off your opponents before you have to even worry about fighting them. Using items you’ll find around the asylum, you create traps that will often kill your opponents instantly. The system isn’t incredibly deep, but you’ll be able to piece together things like trip wires that spray toxic gas out when your opponents cross it or just go old fashioned and rig an explosive to go off when your enemies get anywhere near it. One fun gameplay element is spotting puddles in the water, and electrifying your enemies with a couple of conveniently placed wires. It’s best to think of Saw’s combat system as similar to Batman: Arkham Asylum’s…if you were on heroin.
You’ll wander around a maze-like asylum, competing in mini games, puzzles and challenges – only everything feels like it’s in slow motion and nothing seems to work as well as it should. In Arkham, you learn to develop a rhythmic timing with your combat, which is next to impossible in Saw thanks to the unresponsive controls and shoddy mechanics. Saw’s saving grace would have to be it’s spot-on recreation of the world the Saw films have created. Make no mistake about it, this game feels like it came right from Jigsaw’s twisted mind. Everything from Tobin Bell’s raspy performance as Jigsaw, to the screams of victims feels pitch-perfect and believable. Impressively, the developers even nailed the lighting effects in most areas, creating an eerie and uncomfortable mood that feels perfect for a round of “find the key in the toilet bowl of syringes.” If Saw: The Video Game was a trap concocted by Jigsaw, it would be a painful one – -having to sit through shoddy gameplay and unfinished mechanics for achievements (the game hands them out very freely), luckily this one is escapable just bu hitting the off button on your console. Unless you’re a dedicated fan of the series or looking for a horror/puzzle game, it’s best to rent Saw: The Videogame.