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Saw II: Flesh And Blood had a lot to prove to me. I'm always skeptical of games based on movie licenses, even when I like the licenses. The Saw films never bowled me over so right from the start my relationship with this video game was strained.

The very first gameplay act of the game confirmed my prejudice. The main character, Michael, wakes up with an iron maiden-like device attached to his neck. In a few minutes, the device will close on his head and kill him. An X-ray image nearby shows him that the key is implanted beneath his eye. The player needs to cut the stitches on his lower eyelid with a scalpel (controlled with the analog stick) and then dig out the key. Ew.

Once the casual gore is out of the way, though, Saw II settles into a puzzle/adventure groove. The character must traverse this large labyrinth that the Jigsaw Killer has dumped him in. Soon after removing that steel trap from his head, Michael comes to a locked door. A series of stone rings are set in the middle of the door. Glancing at a nearby mirror, the player will notice the elaborate tattoo carved into Michael's chest. To get through the door, you must rearrange the rings on it so they match the tattoo.

Yes, it's cake but in time the puzzles will get tougher. The second or third puzzle of the demo tasks players with fixing an electric circuit by rotating sections of wires. Advanced players can keep themselves entertained by solving optional puzzles that earn them Billy dolls, collectibles that in turn net you Achievements/Trophies.

Combat is a sort of puzzle, too. In one scene Michael is confronted by a man with bound hands and a spiked helmet. He can't be harmed so Michael needs to use the environment to kill him. Exploring the room will eventually lead the player to open a door to an elevator shaft. They can then bait the enemy into charging into the shaft and falling to his death.

That's about as far as the game strays toward the action genre. No other combat was shown but it's supposedly driven by Quick Time Events. QTE's are also used to avoid environmental dangers like a guillotine trap or collapsing ceiling. By reducing the acrobatics and combat to simple button prompts, the development team at Zombie Studios is allowed to focus their energies on the puzzle/adventure side of things.

I don't think Saw II is ever going to be able to convince me that the films don't suck. However, I could see myself playing and enjoying this game. It's presenting a tense, dark spin on the adventure genre.

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