Everybody played Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee back in the day. Although the game was available on just about everything, the title’s four-fingered Mudokon was at one point just as recognisable as fellow multiformat PlayStation mascots like Lara Croft. The challenging puzzles and striking design pulled people in, while the clever, thinly veiled message on environmentalism hit its mark without feeling like you were being slapped across the face every five minutes. Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty revisits Abe’s first adventure, offering the same great experience overhauled to meet the standards that we’ve come to expect from a 21st century platformer. And yes, that includes a whole host of different fart noises – truly the new generation is upon us.
Abe’s Oddysee was one of a whole host of ‘cinematic’ platformers that hit in the early-to-mid-90s, following in the footsteps of Flashback and Prince of Persia. You’d travel from screen to screen, dodging obstacles and exploring large environments, all the time overcoming harder and harder environmental puzzles. The title’s impressive graphics made it stand out at the time, as well as its use of GameSpeak, a system that allowed you to actually talk with the captive Mudokons. The conversations never progressed beyond flatulence, of course, but people were simpler in those days – that’s how 95 per cent of our friendships started anyway.
Things have evolved in the last twenty years, and Just Add Water has approached this remake with the attitude of preserving the heart of the original title without being afraid of ditching what didn’t work. The end result is an Oddysee that’s perfect for the PlayStation 4, and one that doesn’t feel dated or out of place alongside more modern platformers. For example, you no longer have to move through static screens, as the camera moves along with you, instantly improving many of the challenges of the original game. Moreover, some of the additions from Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus have been utilised as well, most notably the ability to lead several Mudokons at once.
For fans of the original desperate to know whether they should risk a blow to their nostalgia with this enhanced outing, there’s really no need to worry. With very few exceptions, this version embellishes rather than changes; it fixes old problems instead of building from scratch. It’s the game as it would have been had the technology been available at the time, with no gimmicks or modern day ideas shoehorned in for the sake of it.
As a result, this definitely manages to hold up to the legacy left by its PSone predecessor, but it’s fantastic in its own right as well. The level design is spot on; whether you’re in an ancient temple or deep in the heart of a soulless factory, the stages have been created in such a way that it all feels part of the living, breathing Oddworld – a key point when you consider the environmental themes behind the plot.
On top of the design, the actual graphics are beyond nice as well, with poisonous green fumes and neon lights filling each factory, while pure sunlight flits through gaps in foliage when you’re away from the more industrialised areas that once imprisoned the poor protagonist. Backgrounds are stunningly detailed, too, showing sea vistas, endless steel cages, or lines of dead Mudokons.
The main story won’t take you overly long to finish, but tougher optional challenges are sprinkled throughout, many of which are so hard that you’ll actually come to hate the various minions of Rupture Farms almost as much as Abe does. The plot itself involves the aforementioned former slave escaping his evil overlords after discovering that he and his people are about to become the main ingredient in a (probably yummy) new snack. The extra stages give you a chance to free as many of the hideous hero’s old buddies as you can – although killing them in violent ways is just as much fun as rescuing them.
If you’re worried that the uber-hard challenges won’t be a match for your mega-awesome platforming brain, then you’ll be happy to know that you’re going to have to earn this game’s Platinum Trophy. There’s a Gold trinket for freeing all 300 Mudokons on the hardest difficulty level, a feat which requires perfect timing, a lot of patience, and an awareness of where all of the little critters are hiding. And then there’s another Gold gong for rescuing them all in three hours or less. As a consequence, this isn’t going to be a game that you’re going to feel finished with in a matter of hours – even if you can complete the core campaign fairly quickly.
You’ll want to keep coming back for more than the virtual rewards as well, as the characters that you encounter maintain the Oddworld property’s penchant for intriguing personalities. Everyone (or everything) that you meet has been designed to make you smile; from the way that the Slig guards walk around, their bulldog gait like the stereotypical security guard, to the way that Abe reacts when you make him walk into a wall, it all oozes charm. It shouldn’t be hilarious ‘accidentally’ allowing a Mudokon to career like a coward towards its death, but the sound effects make it so. This is a world that you’ll want to prod and poke just to see how it reacts.
And that’s not just down to the presentation. Overcoming difficult sections and even following Abe through to the story’s conclusion is immensely enjoyable, mostly because the protagonist is the ultimate underdog and watching him go up against all, er, odds is always entertaining. That said, there are a few things that may prevent it from being everybody’s cup of SoulStorm Brew. The controls have definitely been improved over the PSone version of the game, but the hero still feels a little heavy, taking a significant span of time to jump once you’ve hit the button. This issue is particularly problematic in the bonus stages, where you need both incredible accuracy and timing, but it doesn’t feel like the controllable character is necessarily on your side.
On top of that, the PS4 version of the game comes loaded with its fair share of glitches and crashes, including a few that shut the game down and force you back to the home screen. The auto-save works well enough that you’ll never lose any progress – and you can always quick save using the touchpad if you’ve completed a particularly hard section with no checkpoint – but there’s no easy workaround for the screen suddenly turning pitch black or certain sounds cutting out randomly. No doubt a patch will be issued that fixes everything, but for the time being know that you’ll almost certainly see these problems.
Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty is everything that you could hope for from a remake: old issues have been resolved, the levels now flow much more naturally, and the world has never looked better. It does run into a few niggling problems along the way, but this is the beginning of a brand new Oddworld – and that’s a prospect that becomes increasingly exciting with every Mudokon mutilated.