Monday 24 March 2014

Abe’s Oddysee Review (Playstation)

One thing being said with alarming regularity is that there’s a distinct lack of originality and personality coming to market. Even back in 1997, few companies were willing to take a chance on putting out something completely unique. Oddworld Inhabitants not only created one of the most original and charming titles in the history of gaming, but also alerted us to their ridiculously ambitious Oddworld project.

Briefly, the project was to make a Quintology of games that would allow you to see a completely new world from a number of different perspectives. Each game in the series would have at least one bonus game released to further expand the adventures of the character (or theme) of any particular Quintology title. Abe's Oddysee was the first part of the Quintology – the sequel, Abe's Exoddus, being the bonus game. Unfortunately, this grand vision would never be finished as a frustrated Oddworld Inhabitants would leave the industry after Oddworld: Stranger was treated very badly by its publisher.

Abe's Oddysee follows the story of a Mudokon floor-sweeper named Abe. While working at the meat processing plant one night, he discovers that the Glukkons have decided to make a new type of food. Horrifyingly, it is to be made out of all the Mudokon workers. It is now up to Abe to rescue his ninety-nine colleagues and thus end the evil plans of the factory owners once and for all.

The title is presented as a 2.5-dimensional platformer with the action taking place in the foreground and background. If you can imagine the sort of rotoscoped graphical approach used in Flashback and add to that puzzle elements from Lemmings, you will be somewhere in the right area. Abe must navigate his way out of the factory, avoiding guards and their dogs (Slogs and Sligs), and the many bombs, traps and other nasty things which would turn him into snack food. Along the way you must decided if you want to save other workers. Be warned though, while choosing to save them or not is entirely up to you, the consequences of your actions could leave you in big trouble.

One of the unique things about the game is the use of Abe's voice to communicate with others. By pressing R1 and the correct button, Abe can come out with the phrases "Hello", "Wait", and "Follow me". These phrases must be used to guide the other workers to safety. Abe can also chant which allows him to open portals and possess enemy Slogs. Slogs can then be controlled by the player, allowing them to use (amongst other things), their own set of vocal skills. As you move through the game more skills become available, each essential to solving the puzzles you will come across.

Puzzles start out fairly simply but soon become complex, yet logical (in an Oddworld kind of way), and sections are kept short so frustration is always at a minimum. The thing that makes an already great game even better is the level of detail apparent in both the look and personality. The way the alien world is presented is breathtaking with each area having its own look and feel.

Humour also plays a huge part in making the game seep into your subconscious. There are numerous nasty ways to get rid of enemies, each of which causes Abe to giggle after he has done the deed. Slogs stalk around moaning and screaming "help" when Abe is trying to posses them, and even when you don't quite manage to save a Mudokon, it is hard not to laugh at the often gruesome ways they are dispatched.Throw into the gaming mix some of the best-designed and most amusing cut scenes to have appeared in ages, and you cannot fail to be charmed.

It is obvious the people who developed this took a great deal of care and attention at every turn. The only real fault is that sometimes, because of the graphical style, characters may take that half-second longer to react than you'd like – but this is a small point and rarely interferes with what you are trying to do. Impressively, Abe's Oddysee still seems fresh to this day and it acts to show just how disappointing it is that we may never get another original Oddworld game.


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