If you haven’t heard of the video game producer Oddworld Inhabitants, you really owe it to yourself to check its games out. Founded in 1994, the company is responsible for only four games: Oddworld: Abe’s Oddyssee (‘97, PS1), Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus (‘98, PS1), Oddworld: Munch’s Oddyssee (‘01, Xbox) and Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath (‘05, Xbox). You probably noticed that all of Oddworld Inhabitants’ games begin with the prefix “Oddworld.” The company’s original intent was to create a large, consistent universe throughout its games. All four of these games take place on the fictional planet, Oddworld.
After the release of Stranger’s Wrath, the company took a break from releasing games due to the state of the gaming industry at the time. It was later revealed by Lorne Lanning, the creator of Oddworld, that though the company had sold 5 million units, it had never seen a royalty check. Now, nearly 10 years later, we finally get a (sort of) new game from them in the form of a remake of Oddworld: Abe’s Oddyssee called Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty.
New ‘n’ Tasty is rated T forTeen. There is some gore and a little bit of violence (the enemies will shoot or eat you) but the main action of the game is to avoid violence. What gore and violence does happen is cartoony, over the top, and often humorous. I can’t see it being inappropriate for any age group, except maybe small children.
Out With the Old, In With the Old
This game is a remake of a very old game, but don’t let that dissuade you. Oddworld Inhabitants rebuilt this game from the ground up with a modern-day graphics engine. They also changed the controls, redid the voice acting, and generally tweaked every bit of the game to make it feel brand new. Other than those updates, though, the game stayed basically the same; the story and most of the levels carried over from the 1997 version. What makes this game so surprising to me is how well everything has held up. If I hadn’t known this was a remake of an old game, I would assume it was a great new entry in the series. It has held up that well.
Told through charming rhyme, New ‘n’ Tasty’s story begins with a gorgeously depressing view of Rupture Farms, a city-sized meat-processing factory. We are introduced to our protagonist, Abe, a slave who reveals that he is in trouble for crossing the meanest boss in Oddworld.
Abe is a member of the Mudoken, a peaceful and spiritual species that has been enslaved by the evil Glukkons to work in their factories. The Glukkons are an industrial species that distrust magic and spirituality and enlist the bio-mechanical Sligs and their pet Slogs to keep order.
One day Abe is doing his job when he overhears the Glukkon boss, Mullok, holding a meeting with his business partners. Their products (different kinds of meat pies) aren’t selling well. It would seem many of the species they harvest are going extinct from over-farming. Just when all hope seems lost for the Glukkon business, Mullok reveals that a brand-new product, called New ‘n’ Tasty, is a sure way to cheaply increase sales. How? He intends to use the Mudokens, Abe’s species, as the main ingredient.
Shocked, Abe makes a run for it, but not before being seen. The hunt for Abe is on, and it is up to him to escape Rupture Farms and find enough power to save his Mudoken friends before they become meat pies themselves.
The game picks up directly after the opening cut scene. The escape from Rupture Farms is mostly a tutorial level, although there are hidden secrets there that I didn’t find until my second playthrough. The gameplay revolves around 2D platforming and solving puzzles to move forward. “Puzzles” is a slightly misleading term in this case. Abe has no way to fight back against those who are hunting him, so every level of the game turns into a puzzle where you must figure out how to fulfill your objective without being seen and shot or eaten. It is occasionally possible for Abe to possess one of his enemies and do some damage (resulting in a very entertaining chuckle from Abe), but most of the time you have to avoid them.
The levels are also filled with mines, which result in instant and gory death if touched. Luckily, there is no penalty for death and the checkpoint system is somewhat forgiving. I won’t beat around the bush, though. This game is hard. I consider myself an avid gamer and there were a few times on the Normal difficulty that I found myself cursing in frustration. Most of the time these moments are because the game is genuinely challenging, and completing a particularly sticky section is incredibly rewarding. However, the controls for the game can be a little wonky, with the run and walk movements both mapped to the left stick. I found that more than a few times I died because Abe wouldn’t stop running when I wanted him to, and he exploded into a sticky, chunky mess. These moments were very frustrating in a game that requires so much finesse. However, most of the time I found the controls to be fine.
Another added element is the various Mudokens that you can find in Rupture Farms. Your goal is to liberate all of them and get the “good ending.” This adds a whole layer to the game, as many of the Mudokens are hidden away in special levels within levels or down a path one normally wouldn’t think of taking. Abe must also communicate with them using “GameSpeak”—various phrases mapped to the D-pad such as “Hey,” “Follow Me,” and “Wait.” The Mudokens do whatever you tell them and die very easily, so you have to be vigilant while leading them to the portals and out of danger.
Overall the challenge of the game might be a deterrent for some, but I get frustrated easily and I never found it to be too unfair or unforgiving. Fans of the original game can play on hard mode, where one bullet will kill you and everything is tweaked to be a little more hardcore. Or, if you consider yourself less of a hardcore gamer, there’s also an easy mode where health is more abundant and the enemies are a little slower.
One of the first things I noticed about the game was how beautiful it was. Everything in the game has been rebuilt from the ground up with the Unity graphics engine. Every single environment is absolutely gorgeous, from the stark metal mazes of Rupture Farms, to the forested region of Paramonia, to the dark and cavernous recesses of Scrabania. Each area is drastically different from the others, with new wildlife and unique challenges.
The lighting of the game is also amazing. Some levels are straightforward and in daylight, but the lighting design really shines when things get dark. Scrabania is mostly set inside, and torches light your way. The shadows these cast lend a sense of realism to a world that is outlandish and strange.
It certainly helps that Oddworld is such a beautifully realized universe. The designers have put a lot of thought into it, and it absolutely shows. The art style has remained consistently bizarre and wonderful throughout all their games. Each character design and species is unique. In order to truly appreciate the art you have to see it for yourself.
If you like platformers, if you like puzzles, if you like deep and interesting stories, if you like fully realized and well-established universes—heck, if you like video games, you should probably get this one. It’s much more than a great game—in a time when there is very little room for creative freedom, Oddworld Inhabitants has stood behind its vision in a way that few other companies have. Their products have always been of great quality, and New ‘n’ Tasty can be added to a long line of successes. It is a fun, humorous and challenging romp through a wonderful universe full of lore and adventure.