Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty Review

Written by Rick Lane

February 24, 2015 | 09:47

Companies: #just-add-water #oddworld-inhabitants

This is partly because beneath the blood and fart jokes lies a more serious message. Abe works as a floor sweeper at Rupture Farms, Oddworld's lead meat-processing plant. Rupture Farms produces carnal snacks like Paramite Pies, Scrab Cakes, and formerly Meech Munchies ("but then the Meeches ran out", Abe laments). Yet all is not well in the executive office. Profits have plummeted as rampant greed has driven much of Oddworld's wildlife to the brink of extinction. Fortunately, the armless (but certainly not harmless) executives known as the Glukkons have a plan. Abe discovers to his horror that the plan involves plates of Mudokon meat, provoking his impromptu escape from the factory floor.

Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty Review [TUESDAY] Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty Review

Abe's Oddysee provides a savage commentary on the destructive side of capitalism so often ignored in the face of tasty profit; how it devours its workers and sterilises its surroundings. If anything the message is even more pertinent now than it was eighteen years ago, as Europe's austerity crisis deepens and our own government squeezes whatever it can from its poorest in atonement for mistakes made by its richest. If you need further convincing, Greek Finance Minster Yanis Varoufakis recently commented: "If workers and employers ever succeed in commodifying labour fully, capitalism will perish." Abe's Oddysee captures that image perfectly, as the Glukkons idiotically attempt to transform their labour into lunch.

Pardon that brief indulgence, but this is a truly rare sight to behold in a videogame. Even less common is how Abe's Oddysee delivers its satirical punch; gloved in a softening layer of affable silliness. There's no preachy grandstanding or Bioshock-style oration. Like People Can Fly's exceptional FPS Bulletstorm, Abe's Oddysee is a prime example of "smartdumb" in action. Unlike Bulletstorm, Abe's clever undercurrent carries a message rather than a bunch of entertaining mechanics.

Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty Review [TUESDAY] Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty Review

Speaking of which, we should probably discuss how the game plays. The answer is the same as it always was; really really tough. Abe's Odysee is one of those games where you advance by increments of death. Even by the second chapter, you're running up against some incredibly tricky platforming sections where you need to juggle floating mines, regular mines, motion trackers, patrolling sligs and gaping chasms. It's also one platforming game where you might benefit from using the keyboard controls. With a gamepad I found the analogue stick's slippery transition between running and walking to be the cause of many a demise.

Mercifully, Just Add Water have included a generous checkpointing system, which removes some of the sting. In addition, you can quicksave whenever you please. Consequently most of the game's obstacles only caught me out a couple of times, and only once, in one of the Oddworld's well-hidden secret areas, did I become stymied to the point of switching the game off.

Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty Review [TUESDAY] Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty Review

Even when the puzzling was at its most obtuse, I always felt the urge to return simply because of how the game approaches level and puzzle design. In particular, the character interactions and creature behaviours remain a fascinating experiment. I love the cowardliness of the Paramites, how they'll only attack when cornered or in numbers, and the Darwin defying aggression of the Scrabs. The only thing that enrages them more than Abe's quivering form is the presence of another Scrab, resulting in a brief, balletic duel to the death.

The Gamespeak side of Abe's Oddysee hasn't aged quite as well. The whistling puzzles present during the mid-game are extremely simplistic, while the Slig's Gamespeak appears to be largely ornamental. Nevertheless, it all contributes to that feeling of Oddworld as possessing its own delicately balanced ecosystem. Oddworld's inhabitants don't act in a certain way because that's what the game needs them to do. They do so because that's how they behave as living organisms. This makes the Glukkons' destruction of that ecosystem all the more meaningful.

Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty Review [TUESDAY] Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty Review

I think that's what ultimately makes Abe's Oddysee such a joy to play; how carefully balanced everything is so that the world feels natural, even when its designed to feel synthetic, as is the case when exploring Rupture Farms. New 'n' Tasty does an excellent job of revealing that organic splendour, and in the process establishes a new standard for HD remakes.
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