Re-View: Oddworld – Abe’s Oddyssee

Re-view

I don’t like this game.

It isn’t that the game is bad. Oddworld: Abe’s Oddyssee remains near the top of my highest-rated puzzle games of all time. It has fluent and competent mechanics, interesting features and a plot that successfully draws the player in.

Unfortunately, it also lacks an auto save.

With a remake on the horizon, I decided now was a good time to remember the first Oddworld Inhabitants title; why is it amazing and funny, and why is it infuriating and mind-numbing.

The game starts off with a truly provocative cutscene: a dystopian-style factory on Oddworld where the planet’s wildlife is ground up into meat by the industrial machine. We are soon introduced to Abe, a lowly worker who stumbles upon a sinister plot to convert the working masses into a new commercial meat product. So begins an adventure to escape Rupture Farms, saving Abe’s co-workers as you go. The game certainly seems to be making a profound message on many levels, but thankfully it’s also hilarious.

You never get the impression that Abe is anything more than an everyman struggling against something bigger than he is, and that’s where the game gets a lot of its charm.

Your tactics in this adventure are very much stealth-orientated. You have no attacks per se; instead you rely on hiding in the shadows to avoid trigger-happy enemies. One respite is your chanting ability which allows you to possess enemies. It’s an interesting puzzle-solving mechanic, and the fact that it is barred from use about half the time ensures that it doesn’t become a cure-all for the difficult puzzles you’ll face. Other options include projectiles such as bombs, rocks and meat, luring enemies into mines or off of cliffs, or transforming into an unstoppable shamanic killing machine, though the latter is only an option later on in the game.

I would describe Abe’s Oddyssee as having one of my favourite dystopian worlds. It parodies unchecked industry perfectly, and contrasts the dreary factory with the wilds of the planet Oddworld fantastically to really create a sense of justice as you move to dismantle the industrial machine. The shamanistic chanting ability only adds to this. It really gives the impression of nature and spirituality versus metal and money. At the same time, you never get the impression that Abe is anything more than an everyman struggling against something bigger than he is, and that’s where the game gets a lot of its charm.

Abe's Oddyssee 2
The industrial desolation of Oddworld provides a breathtakingly poignant environment to the story of Abe’s Oddyssee, but the game never takes itself too seriously. Just look at that patrolling Scrab down there. Even the way he rips you to shreds and devours you is more whimsical than it is frightening.

One of the main challenges in the game is rescuing your co-workers. The different rooms of the factory are littered with secret passages leading to Mudokens that you can rescue, and many of these passages are almost impossible to spot. I constantly get the impression that the secret puzzle rooms early on were designed for a second play through, as they can be lethally frustrating and often demand the use of skills you usually wouldn’t find out about until much further on. They’re the kind of puzzles that one can only figure out through constant repetition; dying over and over until you spot a pattern that can win it for you. This wouldn’t be so bad if the game was generous with checkpoints, which it most certainly is not.

Despite this, I cannot really fault the game for frustrating me. I said I didn’t like it, but playing Abe’s Oddyssee is more a labour of love than an exercise in frustration. The mechanics themselves still work well, and though the game can be frustrating, it’s also extremely rewarding once you get it right. It comes down to the patience of the player.

They’re the kind of puzzles that one can only figure out through constant repetition; dying over and over until you spot a pattern that can win it for you. This wouldn’t be so bad if the game was generous with checkpoints, which it most certainly is not.

I should also mention that for all its seriousness, Abe’s Oddyssee is also one of the funniest games I’ve played in a long time. The sounds Mudokens make as you ‘accidently’ murder them, followed by Abe’s nonchalant “whoops” is one of many well-executed gags that helps lighten the mood as you play. It keeps the game grounded as an actual game as opposed to a commentary on the world with a game attached to it, and that’s where a lot of its overall charm comes from.

For all the frustration it offers, I cannot fault Abe’s Oddyssee too much. Although I said I didn’t like the game, it’s very much a labour of love as opposed to an exercise in teeth grinding. It can be difficult, but also satisfying as hell. It’s a game I plan to keep playing until I get the best ending, and you’ll probably be seeing more Oddworld titles in further editions of my blog.

The humour, mechanics, environment and story of Abe’s Oddyssee fit seamlessly together in a way that’s hard to top. I would put this game on the same level as Portal, if not for the horrible frustration I felt as I struggled to get to grips with some of the game’s harder puzzles. This is a fantastic title for puzzle game fans. I’m definitely going to keep my eye on the horizon for the remake.


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One response to “Re-View: Oddworld – Abe’s Oddyssee”

  1. McBags avatar
    McBags

    Great review ! Reminds me so much, and you’re right: Abe is anything more than an everyman struggling against something bigger than he is

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