The following review was written by a member of The Escapist community. For more information on community reviews, please see this forum thread.
There are few games that can get a person like me misty eyed, but Abe’s Oddysee is one of them. To say I have a strong fondness of this game is an understatement; to say I love it still falls short of the entire truth; in fact, any attempt to compose a sentence from the English language expressing how much I admire this game would still miss the mark entirely. When I think about the amazing land of Oddworld filled with Mudokons and Scrabs and… what’s that? What’s a Mudokon? Oh ho ho, sit down dear child, and listen, listen well, for I have a tale to tell…
Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee (and that is spelled correctly, by the way, it’s ‘odd’ysee – get it?) is set in the surreal Oddworld, a dystopia where industrial giants destroy the land and enslave the hapless race of Mudokons in order to inflate profit margins; all the while driving races to extinction and marring the pristine surroundings. Sound familiar? Well, that’s where the similarity ends, because Mudokons are green alien-looking dudes with sewn lips and the ability to possess certain animals. The industrialists are Glukkons; tall, armless, cigar smokers who wear smart sleeveless suits and have sinister glowing red eyes. The foreboding atmosphere is buttressed by an even more disturbing and darkly comical plot.
Abe, Mudokon ’employee’ of the month, is busy waxing the floor of the meat processing giant Rupture Farms when he overhears a board meeting being held by the meanest, most ruthless Glukkon in Oddworld: Molluck. Profits are down because of the steadily declining wildlife they use to create their foodstuffs and the shareholders are going nuts. Molluck calmly divulges his nefarious plan to the wary board members: to save his meat packing empire, he plans on processing Abe and all of his Mudokon pals into delicious meat snacks! Suddenly, Abe is spotted, and considers finding the fastest escape route out of Rupture Farms, but hesitates. He can’t just save his own hide; there are 99 other Mudokons who need a savior too!
Abe’s Oddysee is a 2D platformer, and a tough one at that. It’s similar to the original Prince of Persia with arched jumps, fiendish traps and a duck-n-roll gameplay style; the difference is that Abe has no attacks of his own, and is in fact, completely unarmed. Well, he has one special move, which allows him to posses the Slig guards, hideous slug-like creatures armed with machine guns. This means that Abe relies primarily on stealth, slinking silently in the shadows, occasionally possessing a guard or two in order to solve devilishly hard and ingenious puzzles. A great example of this can be found early in the game; in order for Abe to proceed, he must navigate a series of corridors guarded by patrolling Sligs. How do you deal with such a conundrum? Easy, hide out of the line of machine gun fire, posses a single Slig guard and mow down all the other guards before running the possessed puppet into a meat grinder. Puzzle solved and hilarity ensured. Of course, the puzzles get increasingly more complex, and trying to complete levels can be harder than first perceived, especially when security eventually steps in and prevents you from possessing Sligs.
The only way to master the game is through trial and error. As Abe, you must learn the area layouts and master the timing on encounters. Its reaction based, and you have to develop those lightning fast reflexes quickly because the puzzles have a ridiculously hard learning curve and complete control over Abe is utterly essential in tight situations. You are going to die, a lot, and having to rescue Mudokons on top of everything else just makes it harder to achieve the goal- you can’t just run past guards and hope to get lucky – all your mates will become lead pumped corpses if you dare. Completing levels and trying to save Mudokons is a fine line to balance; should you take the morally minded side, then you’re in for some expertly crafted and insanely hard mind melting dilemmas. Playing the reluctant hero is not only hard, but it also requires the constant communication between Abe and his chums through the use of Gamespeak, which allows Abe to relay instructions to his posse of frazzled Mudokons – from ‘wait’ to ‘follow’, the wearied followers will rely on instructions from him before moving a single muscle. Abe can also fart and whistle but these are less essential, yet still rather amusing, tools.
Now all this is very well and good, but is the game a looker? Well, yes. Yes, it is. The world is incredibly well-realized and the character design is spot-on. The art is amazing and it sucks you in from the start with its portrayal of a gritty industrial hell-world, as well as its brooding temples and wastelands later on. All of the creatures have a worn, dirty look to them and yet even the vicious Scrab wildlife can be both endearing and terrifying. Oddworld is a horrible place to live, and creator Lorne and his development team aren’t going to let you forget it. It’s difficult to try and encapsulate what a fantastically dark world the developers have created in words, but to see such formidable, soul-chilling environments and creatures balanced by naïve and strangely lovable characters is truly a sight to behold. The art is complimented by sinister, atmospheric musical pieces that builds so much tension it’s hard not to break a sweat; long, barren sound-scapes fill the background complete with whirring machinery or cooing wildlife and when the chase is on a fast paced, drum-heavy tribal music kicks in, causing your heart rate to speed up in accordance.
But it’s not only the music and sound-scapes that make this an aural pleasure, the voice acting is so marvelous and well suited to the characters its hard not to fear for Abe’s pals even after you’ve logged out of the game. Admittedly, some may think the graphics are a little dated, but if you can put up with a little bit of a blurry resolution, you’ll find that the actual animation and backgrounds are created with such flair and originality they possess that most desired of all traits: timelessness. Nothing has made me drop my jaw in astonishment since I saw the graphics for Abe’s Oddysee for that first time, and I doubt anything ever will.
Recommendation: Old school platform puzzler for the gamer who wants to live and breathe a world rather than destroy it, but hellishly difficult and perhaps just a little bit too steep a learning curve for most.
Bottom Line: The tough but rewarding gameplay coupled with the most amazing story telling and beautiful environments make this a landmark in gaming history and one you should all go take note of. Go and get this game, by buying, begging or burglary, just find a way to play this wonderful piece of gaming.
Lewis Dunn reminds readers not to play with their food, unless it plays with them first.
-Lewis Dunn (dunnace)