When the Oddworld franchise made the move to 3D, the developer decided that many of the older 2D mechanics needed to come along with it. Saving captured innocents while solving puzzles and farting way more than is funny was still the name of the game, only now there were beautiful, wide environments to explore and a new protagonist to take advantage of. Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee was a popular Xbox launch title, but that was thirteen Christmases ago – how has it stood the test of time?
In many ways, the third Oddworld game is just like its two PSone predecessors: you solve puzzles, explore a maze of industrial complexes, and possess enemies to move forward. It follows the same basic formula as Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exodus – only instead of fairly decent controls and interesting CGI environments, there are dodgy 3D jumping puzzles and 360-degree mayhem. In many ways, the tried and trusted method that made the first titles so memorable takes a step back for the third entry.
The controls weren’t terrible back in the day, and they still aren’t – but they’re not great either. The weight that made Abe such a finely-balanced character disappeared for Munch, and the titular one-footed character is by and large a little clumsy to move while on land. Neither feels too unwieldy, despite these weaknesses, and the gameplay has been appropriately built around the characters as they are. Designers on bad games are only too happy to build a world that’s too difficult for their main character to traverse, but thankfully that’s not the case here.
Puzzles aren’t as difficult as they were on the PSone, and the action isn’t an emphasis like in Stranger’s Wrath. Again, this feels like a by-product of now working in 3D, and it dates things somewhat. More involved sections, which have our heroes drinking power-ups from vending machines then running really fast or attacking enemies, balance out eventually repetitive conundrums.
The story is good, but the environmental message is about as on the nose as you can get. You’ll feel genuine sadness when a crying Munch realises that he may be the last of his kind thanks to overfishing; however, this would be more powerful if the title wasn’t hitting you over the head with borderline preaching elsewhere.
Thankfully, the rest of the script makes up for it. The voice work and comedy is top notch, offering a style that only Oddworld can offer. The world, too, is beautifully made, although limited by its age. Sure, there are a few too many convenient jumping spots, and, yes, exploring can sometimes be a little bit daunting, but by and large, it’s a successful and recognisable trip into Oddworld.
Having two main protagonists helps to keep things interesting, although it doesn’t work for the whole game. The characters have slightly different abilities, which means that swapping is key to making your way through the puzzles. Abe can still assume the bodies of his enemies, but the mechanic’s not as all-powerful and clean as it was in previous titles. Meanwhile, Munch can zap opponents, making you feel a little less like you lack any real fighting chance.
As a Vita port, Just Add Water has done a decent job. The visuals look fantastic – better than the Xbox original – and the touch screen option when interacting with doors and information points is a nice if not especially useful addition. It’s a fun game to play on the move, too, and being able to enjoy it in bite-sized chunks feels surprisingly natural. The added Trophies are more than welcome, and the Platinum isn’t especially tricky if you’re happy to play through a few times.
With that said, this port does also possess a few bugs – some of which will make your Vita crash completely. Indeed, your progress will be easily lost when the system freezes, which is never a good thing.
Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee is not a bad game when taken in isolation, but it’s arguably the worst of the franchise’s four primary titles. That said, fans will want to replay it, and, minus a few annoying bugs, Just Add Water has ensured that this Vita version is the best that is possibly can be without altering the original’s design. Newcomers should opt for New ‘N’ Tasty or Stranger’s Wrath first, but this will be waiting for you should you want to complete your collection.