Official UK PlayStation Magazine: Oddworld [1997]

Date: August 1997

Source: Official UK PlayStation Magazine, Issue 22, pp. 84-85

And now for something different…! Sherry McKenna and Lorne Lanning, co-founders of Oddworld Inhabitants, turn their Hollywood film expertise to videogames.

With CVs longer than War and Peace and names that would do the scriptwriters of Knot’s Landing proud, Lorne Lanning and Sherry McKenna are Oddworld’s two main Inhabitants. PSM flew to New York to meet the odd couple

We’re in the meat-packing district of New York. Not far from the docks, down on the Lower West Side, just off of 10th Avenue. On The Waterfront territory. The sort of are in which Rocky would have been seen cracking the ribs of some hanging frozen carcasses. And the cinematic references are not misplaced, as we’re here to see Hollywood veterans Lorne and Sherry, co-founders of Oddworld, unveil their eponymous creation.

The games industry has a come a long way from backbedroom geek to Californian chic, and the odd couple are the latest to bring their Hollywood backgrounds to the world of videogames. Like Boss Studios, the pair have a long association with the world of film and visual entertainment, especially with regard to special effects.

Sherry, who is responsible for the company’s creative and strategic planning, has worked for Universal studios, among others, and has 19 years experience in working on feature films. She has accumulated more than 30 Clio awards (we don’t know, either) and over 25 International Film and Television awards. But Lorne is the driving force behind the Oddworld project, and took over two years trying to persuade Sherry of its potential. Also, having worked for Universal and Disney, Lorne’s technically-directed many commercials, feature films and theme park rides.

Unlike their peers, Boss, however, Oddworld will not be developing projects as diverse as Exhumed and Spider. Instead they’ll be focussing on only one game genre, and, to a certain degree, only one game.

Abe’s Oddysee is the first part of the Oddworld story that will eventually comprise five videogames. All five will help to introduce and establish a new genre that Oddworld have been creating, known as ALIVE (Aware Life-forms In Virtual Entertainment). The main features of ALIVE are the introduction of Gamespeak, allowing players to master alien languages, and QARMA, which is similar to fate or destiny. An Artificial Intelligence, QARMA monitors and responds to the ethics of your decision-making throughout the game.

It all sounds ludicrous, of course, but witnessed first-hand, it’s quite astounding. We’ll need to play the full game before deciding whether Oddworld have made the transition from film to game successfully, but at this stage you’d have to say they look like near-certainties.

The gameplay is a beautiful blend of intriguing puzzles and interactive cinematic cut-scenes — and Lorne estimates that even if you know exactly what to do, there’s still over 60 hours of gameplay to complete, including finding up to 50 hidden characters, Super Mario-style.

Abe’s Oddysee, in which hero Abe must abandon his slaughterhouse duties and save his pals from becoming canned meat (hence today’s venue), is due for release in September. Publishers GT Interactive already believe the game will ‘be one of the top titles in ’97’, with early press reviews ‘overwhelmingly positive’.

Abe’s Oddysee is the first of five games in the Oddworld series. It’s a beautiful 2D platform/puzzler in which Abe, a Mudokon, must rescue his fellow slaughterhouse slaves from being turned into minced meat. With more than 60 hours of gameplay and 400 screens, the game looks like it could become one of this year’s top titles.