Originally published on Tuesday, 6th November, 2018: True to its name, Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee is one of the oddest games ever created, with a unique look and feel, bizarre visuals, and an enjoyably dark wit. Now known as the first of a franchise, the original classic wowed players back in 1997 with impressive graphics and full voice acting. This was a game that reminded players why the CD-based hardware of the PlayStation was superior to the cartridge games offered by Nintendo. While he never quite reached household name status like Crash or Spyro, Abe has his place in gaming history, and it all started here.
Abe’s Oddysee is a 2.5D platformer that tasks you with navigating the dangerous alien underworld, manipulating and persuading NPCs, and, in some places, stealthing your way past sleeping foes. Abe can achieve this via a variety of methods, usually exclusive to solving a puzzle on each screen. He has the ability to mind control Slings, the most common grunt enemy, as well as the charisma needed to convince his fellow Mudokons to help him out after rescuing them. As one of the earliest examples of a perfect ending reward, collecting all of these chaps along the way awards you a secret full motion cutscene for your trouble. Collecting half of them also entitles you to the good ending.
Plot-wise, it’s weird, wonderful, and highly creative. Oddworld Inhabitants injected passion and genuine effort in crafting a world that feels so desolate and grim that its musky pollution could almost be smelled through your TV screen. With a palette of greens and browns, this feels like a lived in, organic extra-terrestrial world and is highly realised in both the cutscenes as well as the attention to detail in each level. You play as Abe, a Mudokon worker with a big mouth and likeable sass who breaks the fourth wall whenever you give him a command he doesn’t understand. Discovering that your corporate employer has turned to cannibalism for the creation of its "New 'n' Tasty" product, you’re hunted down by the Sling security and thrust straight into platforming action. The voiceover from Abe is well done, with appropriately otherworldly inflections that impressively manage to keep him endearing and sympathetic.
The utilisation of a 2.5D style is also a clever choice. Where a 3D Abe in 1997 would likely look ugly and pixelated, this Abe looks ugly for the right reasons and the delightfully dystopian level design looks all the better for not struggling to render 3D environments. That said, the moments where Abe travels into the background can sometimes make him very small.
Unfortunately, however, the platforming elements haven’t aged very well. Despite a focus on puzzle solving, there are times, as one would expect, where jumps must be landed and mines avoided. With Abe’s run cycle continuing for a few steps after you let go of the d-pad, it can be frustrating to not have the clean, intuitive responses of, say, Crash Bandicoot, which can lead to some annoying, unfair deaths.
The final thing to note are the amount of secrets available. The very first screen, for example, has a hidden entrance taking you to a whole new location. If you want to achieve that holy grail of 100 per cent, you’ll need either a walkthrough – or a lot of time to go exploring.
Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee is a classic and one of the defining games of the PlayStation era. From its grim, dystopian setting to its quirky sense of humour, it exudes personality and charm. Though on the surface it may appear to be aimed at children, its surprisingly dark tone, plot, and difficulty make it more appropriate for an older audience. Due to the clever choice using a 2.5D perspective, it’s aged quite well graphically. Though the platforming controls are a little sloppy, the puzzle solving is still great fun and the atmosphere and world are established so well that you’ll be too invested in its odd tale to notice.