Monkey's relationship with Trip, at least in the early levels which we're given time with, is somewhat terse. Not surprising, given she's forcibly fitted him with a headband which will kill him instantly should she come to any real harm. Punctuated as it is with sarcasm and truculence, their banter is witty and, at times, extremely touching, hinting that perhaps they shan't consider each other so antagonistic by the end of their adventure.
So close is their symbiosis that Enslaved is actually pitched to me as 'a single player co-op game'. Monkey might be the muscle, and his attitude more worldly-wise, but it's Trip who possesses the technical nous to see the pair through many of their ordeals.
In one sequence, as the odd couple attempt to traverse a minefield, Trip asks Monkey to catch her one of the dart-like robotic dragonflies circling a large and ancient tree. A bit of resentful acrobatics later, Trip breaks out the holographic computer on her wristband and reprograms the tiny creature, turning it into an energy-sensing eye-in-the-sky which can pick out and map the location of the mines, allowing Monkey to pick her up piggyback and guide her through the danger. "Pretty cool," the surly simian is forced to admit.
Initially resistant to many of Monkey's terse commands, Trip soon realises that her judgment must cede to his in some of the more dangerous situations. To command her, players call up a radial menu which also focuses the camera on her location. From here a number of options will eventually be available, although our only two were enabled during our play test.
First is a simple 'catch-up' command, bringing Trip to scurrying to heel. Not only does this keep her close for easy protection, it allows me to call her out of cover when I've dealt with or distracted any potential threats.
The other ability on show is an electronic 'decoy' - a shimmering blue hologram which draws the enemy's attention away from Monkey long enough to let him traverse open ground or perform flanking manoeuvres. Crossing one bridge, high up between two lurching office blocks, the decoy gives me time to run across to cover by drawing the fire from three robot sentries with a vantage point over the causeway. Once across, and safely back in cover, Monkey can then distract the bots more traditionally, shouting and waving his arms. Trip then follows as the robots concentrate their fusillade on his hiding place.
Once Trip's safe the nasty mechs need dealing with in a permanent fashion. Trip whips out the decoy once more and Monkey swings athletically across some pipework to approach them from behind. There's a real sense of momentum to his movement, and a necessity for a correspondingly rhythmic series of button presses. Monkey has all the gymnastic presence of Nathan Drake, but coupled with an animalistic power and confidence which lacks a lot of Drake's Keatonish clowning. He's fluid and smooth in motion, weighty and graceful all at once.
Much of our progression through the city is vertical, Monkey hurling himself, and sometimes Trip, across gaps and up walls like a bullish, tattooed orang-outang. The camera moves dynamically throughout, accentuating the drama considerably. The climbing model owes a considerable nod to Uncharted and its sequel, but I'm yet to be convinced this is a bad thing.
This balletic menace carries across perfectly to Monkey's style of combat. Whipping out the steel-shod staff which is his primary form of offence, he flows into dextrous combos. Weak and strong attacks are the bread and butter of his fighting playbook, but a sweeping crowd-control move and a devastating finishing flurry broaden the palette a little. It's a fairly simple system but an effective and impactful one, conveying both force and impact.
During fights the camera zooms in slightly, focussing on you and your current target. Tapping a shoulder button raises a shield when enemies flash red to signify an attack, and a bright yellow suffusion to the staff indicates that you've pummelled your unfortunate foe enough to unleash the coup de grace.