Saying Flesh and Blood is “more Saw” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly if you’re a fan of the franchise. What I mean by saying this is the game doesn’t aim to innovate or even improve much over its predecessor, instead its goal is to make you do unspeakable things in the most brutal way possible, and that’s precisely what we’ve come to expect from this series.
Saw is for gorehounds, always has been, and it’s in this area where the game excels. Over the course of playing the game, which takes roughly 4-6 hours depending on how much time you spend diddling around or collecting the hidden items scattered about, I was surprised by some of the things the game does really well. Unfortunately, I was also surprised by some of the things this game does horribly. If you’re a fan of Saw you might want to read on and if you aren’t there still might be something here that interests you. The Baby Factor: If Saw got together with more Saw for a night of hot incestual relations, Saw 2: Flesh and Blood would be its tortured (and possibly slightly mentally handicapped) offspring.
The first Saw game was better than I expected, it combined the inventive traps and Tobin Bell’s (Jigsaw) velvety voice with staples of the horror genre to produce a decent game. It didn’t revolutionize its genre or try anything particularly new but it did have an intensely creepy atmosphere and clever puzzles to keep us busy while we tried to survive. For the most part this game does exactly what its predecessor did: it aims to fix a few of the nagging issues from the first game and simply give us more of what we love (and more of what we don’t).
Saw 2 has changed a few things, specifically in the combat. Instead of pressing a button and being met with your character wildly swinging whatever weapon he has equipped, now to initiate combat you wait for a button prompt. I’m of the school of thought that already uncomplicated combat does not need to be streamlined. Plus, taking away the satisfaction of timing you attacks essentially removes gratification I receive when I defeat an enemy. With that said, it’s not terrible, I just don’t feel this was an area that needed much change. If a third game sees the light of day I hope they return to the combat mechanics from the original and just add some depth like giving us the ability to dodge, block, etc.
Remember those pesky traps that were sprung when you opened doors? Yeah, those are back and they’ve brought some friends. I didn’t mind the tripwires and guns waiting behind keyholes, but after you’ve dodged (or been maimed) a hundred of them they get a little frustrating. Naturally, they were going to make their triumphant return in this game, but it feels like there are far more of them then there was in the first game. However, unlike my experience in the original where there was a 50/50 chance of me getting slain by the traps they seem to be a little easier to survive this time around.
One of the vast improvements in Flesh and Blood comes with its puzzles. I’ve always been a fan of solving puzzles in games, and that’s probably one of the many reasons why I came to love this genre in the first place. Saw 2 has some very clever puzzles and for the most part I never found myself frustrated or searching online for the solution. All over the Saw franchise is the theme of thinking your way out of situations, or making tough decisions, and both of these are prominent in the game.
This game has its fair share of issues but by far its most soul-crushing problem is one you wouldn’t think to be an issue. I’m talking about walking across beams, and it bothered me so much I felt it required its own paragraph. In the first game I never (or at least very rarely) had an issue maintaining my balance while I traversed an unsteady plank, usually raised above some incredibly intimidating spikes. But for some reason someone thought it was a good idea to have you press the left and right triggers in time with the prompts to make your way across. Now, for any game this isn’t a smart move but for one with below average response time I found myself dying more from these areas than anywhere else in the game.
Most of the people who would ever consider checking a Saw game out have done so already because after seven films and two games most of the horror savvy population knows exactly what the Saw series has to offer. The first three movies started off as a fairly intelligent handful of torture porn flicks, but with the fourth film came issues that have plagued pretty much every cash-in: terrible acting, predictable story, and simple laziness all around. I enjoyed the first films for what they were, crafty movies with good gore, and the games are staying miraculously close to their creative sources there.
So, like I said, fans of the franchise have already decided whether they’re interested in the games. So it’s up to the rest of us to decide whether this is our cup-o-bloody-giblets.
The Final Word: Flesh and Blood has everything the films do and more: the puzzle fetishists like myself will have plenty to keep us occupied and the gorehounds will have all the body parts they desire. If you’re looking for a weekend rental, you could do way worse.
This review is based on the PS3 version of Saw II: Flesh & Blood.