Back in school a guy called ‘Fish’ (not his real name, just his super cool nickname) was excitedly telling me about a game he’d played the night before. Fish told me that you controlled this little alien and helped him escape places. But the best part – and we both agreed on this – was that you could press a button and make him fart. Being a kind aquatically named kid, Fish gave me a loan of the game the next day. It turned out to be one of those demo disks you used to get with magazines. You know the ones. They had a bunch of games on them to try and were often really fun experiences in their own right. Popping that disk into my brother’s PS1 I didn’t even peruse the rest – I went straight-ahead and booted up Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee.
It was totally different from what I’d imagined from the brief description Fish had given me. After some brutal deaths I started to learn the intricacies of the gameplay and finished the demo. But what stuck with me was the world I’d just dipped my toe into. The Mudokons and their oppressive Glukkon overlords, the Sligs with their guns and batons, the heavy industrial backgrounds – it just stuck with me and I wanted more.
Since then I’ve played various titles in the franchise including the spinoffs like Oddworld: Strangers Wrath. Great games, but it was always the ‘odd world’ that brought me back to these titles. So when the latest instalment, a remake of sorts of Oddworld: Abe’s Exodus entitled Oddworld: Soulstorm was announced, I was intrigued.
The added bonus here is that it’s been made free to PS5 owners with a PS Plus subscription (of which I have both).
Oddworld never looked so good
The cutscenes are vibrant and detailed giving us a view of Abe’s environment like we’ve never seen before. It’s not the most eye watering stuff I’ve seen on next gen – but with its strange setting and colourful characters it’s a definite treat for the eyes.
And the same is true in game. As our plucky little blue guy plods through each 2D level, we’re treated to rich backgrounds that add depth to each scene. Effects are befitting of the setting – full of bright tones and that recognisable Oddworld flavour.
Well that’s, odd???
The gameplay remains faithful to the titles namesake. You lead Abe through platform puzzle levels and try to save as many Mudokons as possible. Fans of the previous titles will be familiar with our big-eyed heroes telepathic powers that he can use to manipulate the environment; opening doors, pulling levers, and even possessing his enemies – so far though I’ve spent most of my time creeping about on my tiptoes trying to light fires with highly flammable slug juice.
I have to be honest and say that it still feels a little clunky. The controls don’t feel natural but perhaps that will come in time. And Abe’s resistance to walk off any sort of ledge is a double edged sword – great that he doesn’t just fall off things, but a real pain when you want to quickly drop down and hide but instead Abe is stood shouting ‘whoa’ and swinging his arms around theatrically.
And the aforementioned fire-starting isn’t as easy as it should be either. On an early level I knew what I had to do – dowse a path with flammable liquid leading up to a small campfire to set of a chain reaction. Could I light the fire? Could I hell. My aim isn’t that bad. Perhaps I just don’t have the knack for it yet. I’ll reserve judgement for now but early signs have frustrated me little (perhaps that the point?)
The weight of the world on your (blue) shoulders
But the story will pull me back despite the teething problems. You want to help Abe and his fellow escaped slaves. You hate the Glukkons and their ultra capitalist ways. It’s good versus evil in its most distilled form and it just works. Abe retains his trademark vulnerability – you’re rooting for him and you know he’s capable of anything if he just gets a little encouragement. And the ensemble cast do an excellent job too. From the shamanistic oracle who sets Abe on his quest, to the scheming tycoons after him, the voice acting and writing are on point.
So far so…let’s see how it goes. I want to play more and I suppose that’s the biggest testament to my first few hours with the game.
Long time fans of the franchise should absolutely check this out for themselves.
For more info on the game check out the official site
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