Date: April 2014 Source: GamesTM, Issue 147, pp. 46-47
Oddworld: New ‘N’ Tasty
CONCEPT RuptureFarms’ profits are down and a new recipe for success is required…
Not entirely new, but potentially very delicious
It seems a little unfair when listing PSone classics that most overlook Abe’s Oddysee. Sure, it didn’t have the sci-fi fizz of WipEout, the sweeping cinematics of Final Fantasy VII or the obvious assets of Tomb Raider, but the game offered a challenge that often exceeded all three, starring a character in a world as memorable as anything else the Nineties had to offer. Were we intoxicated with reckless nostalgia we might even suggest the first Oddworld was a stealth classic every bit as good as Metal Gear Solid. Perhaps that’s taking things too far, but you have to concede Abe’s debut had a certain something deeply embedded beyond its platforming DNA.
With a premise that perfectly combined Wallace & Gromit’s Close Shave with Schindler’s List, Oddysee was set across a world so dark and brutal that only brief snatches of simple humour were required to lift the leading character from his bleak existence and into our hearts forever. It was of course Abe’s flatulent charms many remember most, as he progressed from screen to screen in an effort to save his comrades from the cannibal terror of their employer. Some will forget though that the scarcity of save points contributed greatly to the frustration many suffered, yet so taut was the puzzle-platforming that 17 years on most fans would be only too happy to do it again, even if New ‘N’ Tasty were just an HD respray — which of course it isn’t.
This really is taking the game above and beyond what we thought would be possible
STEWART GILRAY, CEO JUST ADD WATER
/// In close collaboration with Oddworld’s Lorne Lanning, UK studio Just Add Water has taken the original 1997 game and rebuilt it using modern tools for more capable hardware. The 2.5D viewpoint remains, but instead of sprites, the characters and levels are remodelled in 3D, as are the cut-scenes. Not that the original has dated too badly given the persistent vogue for meaty pixels, but the rather more evolved graphics are certainly new and, well, tasty.
A rather trickier proposition has been how far the development team has adapted the gameplay to better suit an audience less prone to accept the practised timing of runs and leaps that the Abe of old required. Save-anywhere checkpoints are a doozy, but with a scrolling backdrop in place of the static screens of the original, there are concerns about how we might progress past waking Sligs if we can’t flick back to the previous screen to have their state reset. Even more of an issue is how the original games were able to use sound cues to warn us of what might be on the next screen. Obviously if you’re tearing along a scrolling level the need to forewarn becomes less binary and more difficult to establish the right balance. As a consequence many of the enemy creatures have been adapted. Sligs, for instance, have a targeting light that casts a red vision cone ahead of them, ensuring that players are aware of when and where they might be detected. As for the walking sentries, the team has borrowed — suitably enough — from Metal Gear Solid, in that after a period of time guards will return to what they were doing before you interrupted them.
Whatever the rights or wrongs of bringing Abe’s Oddysee in line with 21st Century gaming expectations, two things are clear: Oddworld remains a labour of love, not just for its original creator, but the renovators of Abe’s new/old adventures. The amount of redevelopment that has gone into New ‘N’ Tasty is considerable, and while it might upset a few purists, most with fond memories of the PlayStation classic will be delighted. In any case the appeal of Abe’s adventures wasn’t their difficulty, or their 2D sensibilities, but the story of a guy trying to escape a terrible situation and help a few of his fellow Mudokons along the way. The lesson of Abe’s odyssey was singular and universal; that life is beautiful, in spite of one’s existence being miserable and death frequent. Those happy days will soon be here again.
Format: PS4, PS3, Vita, PC, Wii U
Publisher: Oddworld Inhabitants
Developer: Just Add Water
Release: Q2 2014
Genre: Platform adventure
Just Add Water’s CEO Stewart Gilray is a veteran of UK development, having started out with Bullfrog’s Powermonger before moving on to work on Digital Illusions’ Pinball series.
Oddworld: New ‘N’ Tasty
PS4, PS3, Vita, PC, Wii U (2014)
Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee HD
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD
PS3, Vita, PC (2011)
PS3, PSP (2009)
Stranger’s Wrath was an overlooked classic, so to have the game tarted up for a new audience has been a minor highlight.
PEOPLE GET READY
ODDWORLD INHABITANTS HAS always made a point that the future of the series hinges on the success of New ‘N’ Tasty. If the game manages to shift 250,000 copies, a ‘new and tasty’ version of Abe’s Exoddus will go into production, while if half a million copies are sold we’re told to expect a completely new game in the series, though likely something very different to the adventures of Abe, Munch or The Stranger. Of course, how long either of those games might take to cook is another matter entirely, but those sales estimates seem entirely reasonable to us.