Arcade: Munch’s Oddysee [2000]

Date: February, 2000

Source: Arcade, Issue 16, pp. 26-27

Format: PlayStation2| Developer: Oddworld Inhabitants| Publisher: GT Interactive| Players: 1| On sale in UK: Autumn|


Follow him for the adventure of a lifetime.

A catchphrase can do wonders for a career in the entertainment industry. All the great game show hosts have one — Brucey with his “Nice to see you, to see you nice” malarkey and Larry Grayson’s “Shut that door” stick in the brain like a .22 slug. These two entertainers wouldn’t be the fine upstanding pillars of British TV without their catchphrases.

And it can work for videogame characters as well — you don’t need anything too complicated, keep it simple and you’ll soon have a star on your hands. Look at Abe, all he has to is utter a simple “Follow me” and suddenly he’s worshipped the worl over.

Munch’s Oddysee is the second in the Oddworld quintet and is so far advanced from the games that are on PC and PlayStation that it is something akin to the leap made from Mario SNES-style to the plumber’s N64 outing.

The story revolved around the Glukkon queen Margaret, the Gordon Gekko of Oddworld and mother to the late Molluck, the cigar smoking Glukkon that Abe so ably disposed of in his Oddysee. Her fiscal empire makes Bill Gates look like a man with not much money at all — she owned RuptureFarms and the SoulStorm Brewery, so she wasn’t best pleased when Abe inspired the Mudokon uprising in the last Oddworld outings. What will she do? Is she out for revenge? Let’s put it this way, Abe wouldn’t want to be left alone in a room with her.

The Glukkons eco-unfriendly ways haven’t changed. This time it’s a new race, the Gabbits, that are being exploited and are being driven closer and closer to extinction. To the Glukkons the Gabbits are just walking donors, ideal for lung transplants to cure the cancer many of them have from smoking all those cigars.

Enter Munch (first name Latamire) the accidental hero who will lead them away from the jaws of extinction to their freedom. Or least that’s the theory. While Munch is the main character in the game Abe will also put in an apperance in a supporting role. It seems Abe and Munch’s destinies lie on similar paths and you will have to use both to play the game. Quite what that destiny is, Oddworld Inhabitants isn’t revealing at the moment. All that is known is that it involves Abe, Munch and their mums. Fair enough.

The lead characters have vastly different abilities and switching between them is a key part of the game. And although puzzles will still make up part of the game, Munch’s Oddysee is more adventure and story orientated than the previous outings.

The all-new PlayStation2-only Oddworld is a wonder to behold. Gone is the 2D approach to the proceedings and in its place is a lush 3D world complete with its own ecosystem— weather and seasons change the landscape dramatically. The key thing here is that Oddworld is a “real world” simulation — an attempt to create a living, breathing world. Munch’s Oddysee isn’t just a game it’s a nice place to visit as well. This beautifully created world will be home to many of the creatures first met in Abe’s Oddysee and Exoddus. Almost all of them will return — the guard Sligs and their dogs, the Slogs; the spider-like Paramites and the Elum are there for you to ride around on. But these camels aren’t the only form of transport you’ll find in the game — a number of vehicles are available for you to fly and drive and have a number of functions. Obviously getting from A to B in this massive world is made easier with a flying machine but some vehicles can be used to round up herds of creatures and command them to do your bidding.

According to Oddworld Inhabitants all the creatures will follow lifecycles and will act independently and live out their “lives” in the game. On Oddworld beings are born, grow, yell, debate, and even swindle one another. They can nurture love, trust and forge friendships. They can also have bad sides to their personalities — developing fixations, getting paranoid and even suffering nervous breakdowns. You don’t need guns in Munch’s Oddysee — there are much better ways of disposing of (or torturing) your enemies. For example why not possess someone, steal their credit card and bleed them dry? But don’t leave it at that— give them a nicotine and alcohol habit and kick them out on the street to live the rest of their lives as worthless bums. Nice and sadistic. Without doubt Munch’s Oddysee is one of the most ambitious games ever attempted. It is perhaps a sign of things to come on PlayStation2, where simulations of real worlds become the norm. It seems the game’s open-ended structure will be its beast feature as it clearly has a strong narrative line, although you can play just for the hell of it. One thing is certain: the return of Abe and his flatulence is a welcome thing.


Attack of the munchies

If you enjoyed the feeling of absolute power over the characters that you possessed in the previous Oddworld games, then Munch’s Oddysee will make you feel like a God. “Gamespeak” has been taken to new levels here and you’ll be able to command not just one or two creatures at a time but entire armies of Scrab monsters. You’ll also be able take control of characters lives — and ruin them!


An Odd man speaks

Munch’s Oddysee is going to be one of those groundbreaking games that’s far too complicated for mere mortals to understand. So Arcade had words with Lorne Lanning, President of Oddworld Inhabitants and voice of Abe…

You’ve managed to reconstruct the lush pre-rendered graphics of Abe in a real time 3D world. Was this important?

Yes, because we are aiming to capture the illusion of life. We want to feel immersed in a world that is rich with life and struggle.

If you’re going for a real world simulation, does that mean changing weather, seasons and time of day?

Yes. Land will be fertile if it hasn’t been polluted and if the rains are still coming. But if the land has been raped and is barren then the life forms that live there will come into hard times, reproduce less often, etc. The gamer’s actions, or lack of them, will influence the state of the landscape and influence the availability of resources and the behaviour of the inhabitants.

The Abe games were very puzzle oriented. How has the gameplay changed in Munch’s Oddysee?

The world is far more alive, so the basic concept of pre-planned puzzles breaks down. Our puzzles that used to be “conquer this screen and pass these guys to move on,” become more like “revitalise the land so that the water levels rise and you can swim up into the pharmaceutical factory and rescue animals.” However, every factory is a puzzle in itself.

You’ve talked previously about simulating character’s life cycles and social chemistry models. How does this work and what role does it play?

Social chemistry models are what happens based on the way characters feel and how you interact with them. You may want to empty all the vending machines so the characters that rely on them will get pissed off. This will alter their behaviour in ways you can take advantage of. Character lifecycles are the brains that tell each character what he needs to survive. The characters depend on various things for survival, if they change then this alters the creatures that live on the land.

Okay, last but not least, can Abe still fart?

You know it!