I like to think of myself as a reasonably sophisticated gamer, able to look past trivial things to see what lies underneath. That’s not always the case, though, and just like the cover art for BioShock kept me from playing 2k’s masterpiece, so too did the strange looking creature adorning Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee. I learn my lessons, however, so with Just Add Water releasing a remake of the 1997 title with Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty on PS4 (and PS3/Vita) I wasn’t going to bypass it again.
Imprecise and occasionally infuriating, movement in Oddworld is easily the weakest part of the game whether you’re trying to be stealthy and deliberate or quick and decisive. There’s an odd momentum to everything you do that just doesn’t jive with platforming. Now, given this is a remake of a 17-year-old game I have no doubt it’s faithful to the original. Games have progressed since then, however, and a tighter, more fluid control scheme would’ve eased the learning curve substantially.
All that being said, the controls eventually become palatable as you sink more time into the game and get familiar with its idiosyncrasies. There are even times where you’ll blow through a section and think you’ve got it down. And then you’ll miss a jump a half-dozen times in a row or hop when you only wanted to stand, alerting a guard and ending your life in the process. You can absolutely work around it, but that’s literally what it feels like: advancing and enjoying the game in spite of its controls.
To Just Add Water’s credit, Oddworld New ‘n’ Tasty doesn’t just feature a new coat of paint over old visuals. Everything has been completely reworked from the ground up and looks really sharp. The game’s locations offer a nice variety, and the imagination shown behind the character design of this alien world’s various races is excellent. Plus, for a game that contains a fair amount of silliness, New ‘n’ Tasty doesn’t spare the blood during the hundreds of deaths you’ll witness and endure.
While there isn’t a lot of dialogue, Abe‘s sheepish voice is perfect for a character that has spent his life as a slave to Rupture Farms. It does check in on the quiet side, possibly as a result of suspect audio mixing, so be prepared to turn up the volume (or turn on the captions) if you want to catch everything being said. The musical accompaniment is strong, and I really came to enjoy the diverse shrieks and honks of Oddworld’s native inhabitants.
Working late one night waxing floors, Abe overhears a plot by Rupture Farms’ owner, Molluck, to begin killing the Mudokons (Abe’s race) and selling them as meat since the company’s current supply of livestock is dwindling rapidly. Abe makes an immediate break for it, and from there it’s up to you to lead him to safety.
What Oddworld neglects to tell you, at least initially, is that it wants Abe to rescue the other imprisoned Mudokons along the way. This is done by guiding them safely to areas where a circle of birds appears. These birds can then be transformed into a portal by chanting (R2+L2). It’s very strange, especially by modern standards, not to relay this information immediately as I’d already made my initial escape and left dozens behind before the game explained the purpose of chanting.
As you progress you’ll gain some additional abilities as well, turning Oddworld into a mix of puzzle solving and platforming. It’s the blend of cerebral challenges and quick reflexes that make the game stand out, creating an exhilarating experience that never feels hopeless. I lost count of how times I tried and failed a strategy, learning enemy patterns and reactions in the process, but it never got to the point where I wanted to stop playing. In fact, I binged on New ‘n’ Tasty with some lengthy play sessions.
Based on how many of your fellow Mudokons you rescue along the way you can see either a good or bad ending — and unless you already know what you’re getting into I’d be prepare for the bad one the first time around. Given how interesting much of the gameplay is it’s easy to envision making more than one trip through the game trying to go as quickly as possible, or rescue every since Mudokon, many of whom are hidden in secret areas you’ll need to explore to find.
Like I mentioned earlier, the imprecise nature of the controls can test your patience, and with the checkpoints spaced fairly liberally this could’ve really chipped away at the fun. The ingenious inclusion of a quick save/load function renders that point moot thankfully. A quick tap of the touchpad saves your game at any point, and upon your death you simply hold down the touchpad to jump right back where you were rather than getting tossed back to a checkpoint. It makes a huge difference.
As much as the controls annoyed me, and as much as the timing of introducing gameplay elements after they could be used puzzled me, I truly enjoyed Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty. Its level and puzzle design is excellent, and I knew the second I saw that bad ending that I had to play through it again and see the good one. If you’re looking for a stiff but fair challenge, this is damn good purchase.