Articles

LGR – Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee – PC Game Review

October 5, 2019


[typing] Care to see something oddly intriguing? “Oddworld: Abe’s Oddyssee,” developed by Oddworld
Inhabitants and published by GT Interactive in 1997, for the Sony PlayStation and the PC. Oh man, look at this box! It’s a square. How odd and worldly, who wouldn’t love this box? Other than game store workers
and people with shallow shelves, and screw them! The box is square. I also really dig this manual, not only for its usefulness,
but for its artistic style and pleasing layout. It makes it clear that you’re about to get into a game
that knows what it’s all about, and takes pride in itself. And it’s also square. “Oddworld” begins with a world of odd introductory logos followed by a unique main menu. ABE: Hello. Well hello to you too, aren’t you adorable? I really love this menu, everything from the
fact that the titular Abe is hanging around to the bizarre sound effects
going on that remind me of “Zargon.” You can even test out the GameSpeak,
including copious flatulence. [fart, fart] Once you decide to begin your quest, you are shown
a lengthy cinematic revealing the story thus far. And man, this was absolutely
impressive back in ’97, at least to me. Anyway, the basic gist of the story
is that Abe works at Rupture Farms, the biggest meat processing
facility on the planet Oddworld. He’s waxing poetic as he waxes floors, content with his custodial position
and his Employee of the Year status. But one night, he overhears a conversation
taking place among the company brass, and the story takes on a decidedly “Soylent Green” twist. Turns out that the company keeps making animals
extinct, and in an effort to increase profits, they’ve decided to use Mudokons
as their new meat product. Abe is a Mudokon, however, so obviously that
freaks him the heck out, and he makes a run for it. So the ultimate end goal of the game is to escape,
but also to free your fellow employees from the facility. And by employees, I mean slaves, because they gotta keep that
social commentary train rollin’. It’s at this point that you are handed the reins of Abe and aside from some helpful tips
displayed on the factory’s scrolling marquees, it’s up to you to find out just how in the
world you’re gonna make it outta here. Although, personally, part of me just
wants to stay and soak the world in. Everything is shadowy, metallic
and apathetic to your safety, invoking ideas of Industrial Revolution-era harshness,
mixed with alien dystopian imagery. Every single screen shouts death and dismemberment, utilizing a precise dosage of creepy visuals
and surreal sound design and I adore that. Anyway, there’s some gameplay
to talk about here as well. It’s a platformer, so you move
in the four cardinal directions, and you can run, jump and interact with
the environment by using an action key. However, it’s one of those platformers
that initially comes off as clunky, with seemingly sluggish controls and animations
that take a while to finish once you initiate them. Once you come to terms with this though,
it’s apparent that each and every frame of animation and piece of each level is designed
with a clear purpose in mind, and requires finesse and timing
to navigate successfully. So it’s not your typical side-scrolling action affair. This is a screen-by-screen
slow-paced and methodical experience. It’s more along the lines of “Out Of This World,”
“Flashback” and “Blackthorne” which some refer to as a cinematic platform game. Personally, I call these “Groundhog Day” games because you end up replaying the sections dozens of times to get things exactly right before moving on. But unlike many in the genre, in “Oddworld,”
99% of the time there is no way to fight back, so its emphasis is almost entirely
on stealth and puzzle solving. Take it or leave it, this game is
brutally difficult and it revels in it. Of course, you’re not the only Mudokon around
to enjoy this delightfully murderous locale. Along the way, you’ll run across 99 fellow slaves, all of which are dutifully and fearfully
carrying out their tasks before you show up. If you choose to, you can risk helping a brother out, accomplished by introducing yourself
and asking them to follow you. ABE: Hello.
SLAVE: Hello. ABE: Follow me.
SLAVE: Okay. With your unquestioning disciple in tow, you can then guide them to a safe
location represented by a circle of birds. Perform a chant and a portal
will open and they’ll run inside, leaving you behind to fend for yourself,
the ungrateful jerks. Ah, it makes sense though, as you’re practically the embodiment of the selfless messianic archetype from the very first cut-scene. It also leads to either a good or bad ending,
depending on how many you save, so if a binary selection of final cut-scenes
is enough incentive for you, go right ahead and make the game
immeasurably more difficult by saving everyone. But as I said earlier,
“Oddworld” is already insanely tough. So more often than not, I just found myself
making a decidedly non-heroic run for it instead of stopping to play Jesus. That is, until I run into something specifically designed
with the sole purpose of murdering me spectacularly, which happens on practically every screen. You see, each level is divided up into a grid, which is revealed by the maps
you’re supplied with from time to time. Each part of the grid is one screen of gameplay and enemies rarely activate on the upcoming screen
until you make the choice to step into it. Slow and steady wins the race, at least eventually, because until then you’re going to be screwing up again and again and again and again– oh my holy nuts,
this is getting on my nerves! Sligs, Scrabs, Paramites,
landmines, sentries, bottomless pits, the list of traps and enemies is absurd. And most of the time, at least one of them is
in exactly the right spot to impede all progress. This is a masterfully created rat maze of death, with you as a crippled rat and the maze
composed of electrified fences laced in C4. But, uggh, yeah, that feeling
of pent-up tension being released when you finally figure out the secret to
passing that one seemingly impossible area, aw, it’s intoxicating. And with everything so skillfully
designed and gorgeous to look at, it’s a serious pleasure to play
if you’re into this kind of thing. At least until the very next screen where things
get even more impossible than they were last time, and you curse Lorne Lanning with words
that even Satan finds offensive. It’s this back and forth of pain and pleasure that
makes “Oddworld” so compulsive to continue playing. That and the amazing backdrops,
the fittingly minimalist soundtrack, the slowly unraveling lore, and ever-increasing mechanical complexity. It’s never content to just leave you alone and continue solving the same puzzles
over and over with different artwork, oh no. As soon as you’re almost comfortable, it’ll thrust a new
ability on you that’s vital to master before moving on. Something like tossing grenades,
or mounting a friendly creature named Elam, or even controlling the minds of enemies. I’ve gotta say, this is as rewarding
as it is infuriating to play. Well, to a point. I can barely make it through half the game
without completely throwing my hands up and shutting it down and waiting to
muster the mental strength to continue. To top this off, you can’t just
save the game at any time, but instead must rely on checkpoints
which are naturally in short supply. Last time I played this, it took me
three years to come back to it after I rage quit over some trap
designed by some unapologetic sadist which set me back half an hour in
gameplay for the millionth time. Don’t get me wrong, I love “Oddworld,” but I FREAKIN’ HATE “Oddworld,” you know? It’s awful! Screw this! My point is that “Abe’s Oddysee” is
something you’ll probably love or hate, or usually just both at the same time. That’s only when it comes to
the nitty-gritty of playing it, though, because as a piece of art,
I think it’s nothing short of inspired. Simply due to that fully-realized world it lets me inhabit, I frequently get the urge to
go back and play through again, even though I know my patience will run out long
before my artistic side ceases being snootily amused. And thankfully, the game got the recognition it deserved, ranking up sales and sequels and
earning its designers lifelong admiration. And it’s still easy to enjoy with releases
on mobile devices, GOG and Steam, as well as a well-designed
remake known as “New and Tasty.” If you’re in the mood to rack your brain and
your fingers with some challenging puzzle-platforming, and haven’t yet played “Abe’s Oddysee,”
I would recommend it completely. Unless you have minimal patience
or are prone to fits of rage and in that case, you might want to
warn your neighbors beforehand lest they call the cops
when you set your computer on fire. Hey, did you enjoy this video? Then, well, you know, I’ve got some others,
including one here on “Blackthorne” and this other one of something else I did recently.
Yeah, they’re both interesting, I think. So, click them if you’d like
and as always you can subscribe to subscribe and make sure that happens. I don’t even know what that means anymore.
YouTube’s subscription thing is weird. But whatever, if you like that, you can do it. And you can also do Twitter and Facebook
and Patreon, which is what those links are there. Aaaand as always, thank you very much for watching.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *