If you're the squeamish sort, it's best to stay far away from Saw--but then again, if you're familiar with the popular films upon which this horror adventure is based, you already knew that. In Saw, you'll witness (and cause) a number of gruesome, blood-spattering deaths as you make your way through the kind of elaborate puzzles that murderous maniacs often spend large amounts of free time concocting. The complex setups are a franchise staple, so they come as no surprise. The real surprise here, depending on your point of view, is that Saw actually turned out to be somewhat enjoyable. It's got a number of issues: the combat is atrocious, and the game wears out its welcome a few hours before it limps across the finish line. Yet for all its clunkiness, Saw makes an impression. "Fun" may not be quite the word to describe the tense and anxious emotion that hovers over you as you play, but that's as it should be. The Saw films inspire loathing and dismay, and the fact that the game inspires the same sensations is no small feat.
6232456>Just an average weekday at the asylum.None
As expected, villain/antihero Jigsaw is Saw's guiding force, and he has a simple but loaded question for you: "Would you like to play a game?" You're David Tapp, the first film's unrelenting detective and the newest kidnapped subject in Jigsaw's remorseless tests. Jigsaw has removed the bullet Zep Kindle blasted into your chest and replaced it with a key--the key every other player in Jigsaw's murderous game needs to escape from the mental asylum in which you're held captive. The enigmatic psychopath leads you through a series of trials in which you must help other victims wriggle free of their complicated traps, though these victims aren't just random citizens plucked from the streets. Rather, they figure in Tapp's life, and some will be familiar to fans of the films. Jigsaw's pop-psychology rationalization for his behavior (you can't appreciate life until you're forced to savor every individual breath) plays a huge role in the story. But even if you never quite buy into his topsy-turvy view of personal responsibility, actor Tobin Bell's raspy wheeze convinces you that Jigsaw himself believes in his own ramblings. In fact, the voice acting is great across the board, and when character dialogue overlaps, you won't run into the awkward pauses that so often plague vocal exchanges in other games.
You'll spend the majority of your time skulking about the dark, gritty hallways of the mental asylum Jigsaw has appropriated for his sundry evils. Most of your obstacles come in the form of puzzles--some simple, and some not. Picking a lock requires you to rotate discs to match a sequence of shapes, using an age-old mechanism familiar to adventure fans everywhere. Opening certain doors or shutting down the surge of poisonous gases involves turning fuses to direct the flow of electricity to the necessary nodes, another age-old standby. Other recurring puzzles are somewhat more original, such as those in which you must connect a line of pipes from the outside of a multi-ringed disc to the center. The most interesting puzzles, however, are those used when freeing your victims. One plays like the old card game concentration, but with a twist. In another, you redirect streams of poison and antidote to the correct receptacles.
Considering the high-intensity situations, many of the puzzles seem too pedestrian--ordinary puzzles in an extraordinary setting. But Saw keeps you on your toes by placing a time limit on your puzzle solving. An impending explosion might be poised to take you down unless you can enter the correct code on a lock and hightail it out of there. The room will fill with noxious fumes that will continually deplete your health until you can align fuses and get the place ventilated. The time limit keeps the pressure on, which usually works out well, given that it provides the sense of urgency needed to keep tensions high. In a few sequences, however, the game goes a bit too far. In one late-game sequence, you have to search a bunch of lockers for necessary puzzle-solving items, turn off the flow of hot steam, solve three rotate-the-fuse puzzles, and deal with poisonous emissions--all while under the threat of a timer. Right after that, you have to do much the same thing, but also defeat an attacker for good measure. Sequences like these will have you cursing up a storm.
Open the wrong door, and the bomb goes kerblooey.