Walking, talking, large, muscular mounds of sound are all too prevalent in gaming nowadays. This tradition is obviously not exclusive to gaming and probably has its roots in film. Guys with huge fucking biceps and machine guns running through the forest blowing the shit out of anything stupid enough to move have infiltrated gaming from movies like Arnie’s, Sly Stallone’s, etc.
You have your Serious Sams, you have your Master Chiefs, and you have…well…make that nearly every FPS character in existence. All of these are super human dudes who pack plenty of heat and can take millions of hits before they go down—and that’s without body armour.
Abe is different. He’s a skinny, lanky guy who has no weapons in a world of armed guards and territorial creatures with pointy things designed for stabbing people. All you have is your wits, your loincloth, and your farts, and you must take down a multi-national conglomerate that has both evil and tasty plans for your brethren.
Since profits have been dropping at the meat house where Abe works (due to said meat house hunting most of its delicacies into near extinction), the executive creatures named Glukkons have decided to switch to slave labour to cover costs. Abe finds out about this and becomes determined to escape and save his friends.
The stage is set for a unique game. Now, I have to say one thing: I don’t believe that I can really do the game justice simply describing its mechanics. Don’t take these words as absolute gospel, because the fun of this game is based very much in its experience rather than something that’s easily described.
Now, Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee is not an action game, nor is it totally a puzzle game. It’s a 2D side-scrolling game in which you must evade various nasties such as falling meat packs, land mines, electric fences and other dangerous things, and, with any luck, save enough of your Mudokon friends to warrant the good ending once its all done and dusted. But these inanimate objects aren’t the main focus of the game in terms of puzzles—that’s something even more novel.
At this game’s core are the various interactions Abe has with both the player and the creatures in the game, and even the interactions between creature and creature. Each thing in the game reacts differently to different situations. For example, there is a crawling menace called a Paramite, which will run away from Abe if on its own; but if they outnumber you, they will attack you. It’s this interaction that becomes an integral part of the game, but its implications are much larger with the introduction of GameSpeak.
GameSpeak is Abe’s ability to vocally interact with other creatures in the game. For those who have played Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath, it’s NOTHING LIKE THAT RUINED SYSTEM. I’ll say it now: The GameSpeak in Stranger’s Wrath is royally fucked. This game was the first to implement GameSpeak, and it works great.
Now, onto what GameSpeak actually is. You have a set of eight or so commands you can give to your friends and other creatures. In order to save your friends, and therefore get the good ending, you must utilize these commands as best you can. You tell one of your buddies to follow, and he will dutifully follow. Tell him to wait, and he will. Some are there for some pointless fun though, such as farting, laughing, growling etc. (although in a latter game, Abe’s Exodus, farting plays a major role).
Throughout this game, you’ll need to bait animals with meat, whistle a bit of a tune, blow shit up, and possess the bodies of guards on patrol, called Sligs. Not the most pretty of faces, but bloody useful if you can manage to snare control of one of their bodies. You see, they have one HUGE advantage over you: They have guns. You can cause a right riot with these babies, and even if other Sligs realize you’re possessing one and therefore try to kill you, you can defend yourself.
And these guys have GameSpeak too, and can control their pets, Slogs, which are also after your demise About the only animals in this game not trying to kill you are your Mudokon buddies and Elum, your…well, we’ll call it trusty steed, even though it doesn’t even look like a horse. And all of them uglier than that one aunt in your family with hair on her face, lips that can be seen from space, and who always wants to kiss you with a mouth with more saliva glands than Barry White has testicles.
In any case, the gameplay of Abe’s Oddysee is superb, although very difficult on a first run. One thing, though: Never play this game on a PlayStation. The controls there are designed for people who are Mensa-approved IQ blitzers with contortionist hands. On the PC, however—and that is the copy I have and play still—there is not a single problem with the controls. Not one. Even if you don’t like the initial setup, which to me seems unlikely since it’s pretty well mapped, you can rearrange the buttons to whatever you want. No boundaries whatsoever save for the obvious “One button can’t do more than one thing”.
There’s a bit of replay value as well for completionists. Unless you were extremely vigilant the first time, you can run through the game a second time to actually save every Mudokon in the game. And, there may be something for the sadistic bastard who KILLS every Mudokon in the game…
As far as 2D side-scrolling games go, this game’s graphics are top-notch. It’s nice to look at, sporting innovative character design and plenty of purty colours. The soundtrack is fantastic, too; full of both industrial, tense and tribal drum chase music. Explosions have a good bit of grunt behind them, and the animals make a wide array of interesting sounds.
Perhaps difficult to find now, being somewhat of a cult classic, this game is worth the cash you’d find it on eBay or Amazon for. And while you’re there, pick up a copy of Exoddus, too. Both of these games will keep you going for a while, and every now and then you’ll feel the compulsion to return to this series. It seems that every summer break, I play the Oddworld series once more. It’s an important relic from my childhood, and I will definitely make a point to hang onto it long into the future.