Saw Review

If you compiled a list of movie franchises that were perfect candidates to be turned into videogames, Saw would be high on that list. The horror movie franchise is ripe for the videogame format, featuring an omnipresent villain who places his victims in devious and horrifying traps from which they must use their intellect and buckets of blood to escape. Sounds like a horror adventure game in the vein of Phantasmagoria waiting to happen, right?

Unfortunately, Saw doesn’t capitalize on this facet, presenting a technically inefficient survival horror game that is only held together by its strong license and fun trap design.

In Saw, you play as Detective Tapp, whom Saw movie fans will remember from the first movie. Tapp has been on Jigsaw’s trail ever since he slit his throat and killed his partner Sing. The game opens with you waking up in a dank bathroom in an insane asylum; realizing you are now part of Jigsaw’s latest game, you must navigate his traps and horrific devices to catch him and save the lives of his latest victims.


What Saw does right is the use of it’s license. Everything from the character voices to the trap design screams of the Saw movies and makes you feel like you are the star of your own installment in the Saw franchise. Jigsaw will appear on TVs scattered throughout the insane asylum, mocking you and explaining why you are trapped and the sins you have committed. The game uses the same camera angles and sharp cuts from the movie as well, which intensifies the situation with frantic movements and kinetic visuals. Developer Zombie Studios has also mined the entirety of the Saw movies for content and nods to series fans. As you work your way through the asylum, you’ll see unfortunate souls trapped in their own devices that are ripped straight from the movies. These include the barbed wire box from Saw 1 and the angel trap from Saw 3. These nods, along with audio recordings explaining Jigsaw’s modus operandi and case files on his past, bring Saw fans deeper into the movies and immerse newcomers in the series’ dark and dirty world.

This type of fan service isn’t enough to hold the game together though, and it starts to fall apart when you being to actually play the game. As Tapp, you must navigate the insane asylum you are imprisoned in and save numerous victims who are in Jigsaw’s traps. These “boss” traps are actually pretty fun, and have you attempting a puzzle to rescue the victims from their soon-to-be grave. The puzzles themselves are simplistic, such as a sliding block puzzle or a gear puzzle which has you place different sized gears to complete a chain, but the stress of the process is amplified with a time limit and the frantic camera angels mentioned before. The boss traps are few and far between though, and are connected by bland combat and repetitive, easier puzzles. As you trek from boss trap to boss trap, you’ll have to solve dial, Pipe Dream-esque, and combination lock puzzles to progress. While these are fun the first few times you encounter them, the game chooses to continue to repeat them over and over again in slightly different varieties. It becomes incredibly boring when you have to complete your fifth dial puzzle and feels as if the developers only place them in to pad the length and justify your purchase.


Combat doesn’t fare any better. Along the way, you’ll encounter other people stuck in their own, smaller traps who are trying to kill you because you hold the key to their device in your body. While this is a nice mechanic to keep you on your toes and always hunted, fighting them off becomes an absolute chore. Weapons you pick up are always slower than using your fists, and the hit detection is completely off. I swung my baseball bat right through my enemies more than once. In an attempt to spruce up this system, Zombie Stuidos allows you to set up your own traps, in the form of tripwires, electric pools, and stun bombs. It’s a nice gesture, but it’s way easier just to wail on them with your fists and there is no benefit for luring them into traps. It’s actually way more frustrating to set up your trap as the enemies run faster than you and always get to you before the trap is set. Combat in the game feels tacked on and should have been dropped in favor of more atmosphere and smarter puzzles.

Graphically, the game is a mixed bag. Character models and animations are poor and look like last-gen creations. Their eyes look vacant and cannot emote anything other than wide-eyed faux terror. Luckily the environments fare better. The asylum is a dark and dank place, held together by age-old rafters and rusting pipes. The game expresses this well, conveying the industrialized look and mood from the movies. There are a few reused textures and rooms here and there, but the game does a good job keeping you focused on a certain event or set piece and they all look great.

It’s a shame though, because Saw has serious potential. The game’s atmosphere and use of the license is top shelf and really delivers to fans of the movies. It’s just all held together in a hobbled and technical mess of a game. Combat is broken and the smaller traps throughout the game just become repetitive and boring. It’s a chore slogging through the poor game design to get to the more fun boss traps that lie in wait. If you’re a superfan of the movies and don’t mind solving repetitive puzzles to get more nuggets of info on your favorite serial killer, then the game could be for you. But if you are a passing enthusiast wondering if Saw is worth your time, pass on this trap of a game.


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Author: Matt Erazo View all posts by

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