Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee - New 'n' Tasty!

aka: Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee - New 'n' Tasty! (Limited Edition)
Moby ID: 67597

PlayStation 4 version

An Oddysee you'll never forget!

The Good
* Captivating story and cinematic platform gameplay

  • A lengthy, challenging campaign filled with deadly puzzles

  • Possessing enemies is a ton of fun

  • A great translation of the original graphics into 2.5D

    The Bad
    * Punishingly difficult and unforgiving

  • Steep learning curve

  • Throwing grenades can be a bit wonky at times.

    The Bottom Line
    I just can’t get enough of cinematic platformers loaded with trial-and-error gameplay and intentionally stiff controls. I love the challenge of having to actually think about overcoming more realistic physical limitations as opposed to mindlessly controlling the superhuman-like characters of other platformer games. Yet if there’s one mountain I have never climbed, it’s the Oddworld games, and more specifically the first two titles: Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus, which were two major examples of the genre released in 1997 and 1998 respectively. I tried out the original versions of these games on my Steam account, only to be taken aback at just how complex and unforgiving they were, even by this genre’s often rigorous standards. Oddworld may have just been the most complicated, and nasty cinematic platformer experience of them all, something only designed for the bravest and most tenacious gamers among us. With the incoming release of Soulstorm, the reimagining of Exoddus and sequel to this game, on its way, now’s the time to look back on the 2014 remake of the original Abe’s Oddysee that successfully revitalized Oddworld Inhabitants back to prominence in the video game market.

    On an alien planet known as Oddworld, there exists a meat factory known as Rupture Farms, which packages all of the creatures of the world up as various meat products to be sold across the galaxy, until each species has gone extinct. Our enslaved Mudokon protagonist, Abe, observes a boardroom meeting one night and discovers that, with few options left, Rupture Farms in planning on putting his species on the chopping block as the main ingredient in their upcoming product, “New ’n Tasty”. From there, Abe attempts to escape, becoming a reluctant hero as he attempts to rescue all of his fellow Mudokons enslaved at Rupture Farms before they become baked into meat pies.

    Oddworld’s creator and the voice of Abe, Lorne Lanning, wanted to create a game that expressed more social and political themes than were typically expected of the titles of the day, eventually settling on Odddworld being a commentary on environmentalism, capitalism, and food crises. A lot of this had already been explored in other media, but seeing it in video games was quite a rare and unusual thing at the time. Had Oddworld come out only half a decade later, it would have likely been hailed right alongside many beloved indie titles.

    Controlling Abe is, true to the cinematic platformer style, intentionally clunky and stiff. You can use the analogue stick to walk or run at different speeds. Abe can crouch and roll up into a ball to enter tight spaces. He can also sneak, which is useful for getting past sleeping or unobservant enemies. Using the GameSpeak system, Abe can give simple commands to his fellow Mudokons, ordering them to follow him and wait so that they can be maneuvered to the right places. This system can also be utilized to complete copycat door puzzles and inputting passwords, using whistles and farts (it was the ’90’s).

    Abe is also able to possess enemy Sligs using his chant. Once possessed, Abe can use GameSpeak to speak to other Sligs or tell Mudokons to duck. Sligs cannot jump, climb, or crouch like Abe can, but they can interact with switches and pulleys if necessary. Abe can also fire Slig weaponry, which can be used to kill other Sligs or enemies. Just be sure to not shoot your fellow Mudokons, and try to be sneaky about killing Sligs, as they can turn on you and kill your possessed vessel. The Sligs have left Chant Suppressors around to prevent Abe from using it to possess them, which can either be blown up using grenades or using a power received toward the end of the game.

    There are various items which Abe can throw. You can throw coins which can be used to distract Sligs. You’ll also be able to pick up grenades which are used to destroy hazards and kill enemies, or meat which is used to distract Paramites long enough for Abe to sneak past them.

    This remake may have apparently toned down the difficulty of the original, but it’s still an outrageously tough, patience testing game at times. There are certain levels which require the player to execute precise actions within a quick amount of time. Some puzzles practically require you to abuse or break certain mechanics just to get past them, such as one room where I needed to repeatedly throw coins to get a Slig to turn around long enough for me to get behind them, then run and jump across several ledges at once. Using grenades is flaky and inconsistent, since they bounce around so easily, and dropping them off ledges is flaky at best since they bounce around randomly. During the late game, it’s actually possible to lock yourself out of being able to rescue Mudokons since you’ll need specific items or powers to reach behind several doors. The checkpoint system is both a gift and a curse: they’re frequent enough that you won’t need to worry too much about saving. However, there are times where you can hit a checkpoint and inadvertently place yourself in a nearly impossible or unwinnable situation. I recommend using the Quiksave functionality as much as you can since that will allow you to go back if you get permanently stuck in an area.

    The real kicker is the ending. I felt like I had gone out of my way to save every Mudokon I could, but by the time I rolled the credits on my first playthrough I was shocked to discover I had missed over half of them, which was enough for the game to show me the bad ending. And it really is a bad ending, the kind of thing you don’t want to see after a game has really put you through the wringer like this one did. You’ll need to save at least half of the game’s Mudokons to see the good ending, but most players aren’t likely to achieve this milestone on their first playthrough. You’ll need to be fully aware that the majority of Mudokons are hidden in some incredibly tricky locations. You can go back to earlier sections of the game to collect the missing aliens, which is a nice touch and helped me get the good ending without needing to venture through the entire game a second time.

    Visually the remake has been given a complete overhaul, going from 2D prerendered sprites to fully 3D backgrounds and characters rendered in the Unity engine. Artistically, it’s a perfect translation of the original game’s style to modern hardware, with much more colorful lighting and environmental detail. The remake also ditches the static flip-screen scrolling of the original for a continuously scrolling camera, and while this leads to a much smoother experience it does mean that certain puzzles are breakable in ways not quite intended by the designers. I would sometimes run into obstacles when running fast, so I would often end up walking instead. I also noticed a few strange jitters as the camera scrolled around, and I’m not sure if this is due to early Unity games’ often terrible optimization or the way the camera was coded.

    I played this on my PlayStation 5 due to backwards compatibility, and while most of the game was fine, I did run into repeated crashing near the end in rooms which contained a ridiculous amount of Slogs, creatures that are sometimes used as guard dogs. It was only through repeated loading and luck that I was able to get past these. I don’t know if the crashing was a result of playing a game that hadn’t been properly updated to take advantage of the new hardware, but this section was annoying regardless, especially since there had otherwise been no issues up to that point.

    Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee New ’n Tasty may have made me want to do terrible things to my PlayStation 5, but leading a slave revolt is never easy, even with divine power on your side. If you can overcome its complex controls and puzzle design, Oddworld: Abe's Odyssee New ’n Tasty, like the best games in its genre, has that addictive quality to it, that inexorable pull to see Abe through his journey, no matter how difficult it is and no matter what ending you see. There’s no doubt that Oddworld is an acquired taste: you have to not only truly love cinematic platformers but also be on-board with wacky creature designs, a protagonist with a strange voice and a blackly comedic storyline. But New ’n Tasty helps to make this wild concoction go down much easier for today’s gamers.

by krisko6 (813) on March 21st, 2021

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