There was a time when all we knew of Oddworld was the murky interior of the Rupture Farms meat processing facility. In this downtrodden but strangely beautiful place we learned of Abe and his plans to escape slavery, and ultimately, escape death. Since Abe’s Odyssey’s release back in 1996, we have been lucky enough to see more of Oddworld and its weirdly wonderful inhabitants, but not long after Abe made his exit from this refreshingly original franchise, it unfortunately disappeared. Hopefully we will get the chance to return to Oddworld someday, but until then our last journey was that of a creature simply known as Stranger. Whether you are familiar with his tale or not, it is certainly nice to see him grace the industry with his presence once more.
For those who have never played it before, Stranger’s Wrath takes us to a previously unexplored area of Oddworld. Although packed full of the franchises distinctive art style, Stranger’s Wrath takes on a different feel. Unlike any of its predecessors its style is heavily influenced by that of an old Wild West tale, complete with all the elements you would expect. There are taverns, bounties, outlaws and all manner of other references and stereotypes of this genre.
Although it seems a little random, this concept really works well and this is especially so within the confines of Stranger’s story. As you take control of this mysterious protagonist it becomes obvious very quickly what your objective throughout the game will be. Stranger is a bounty hunter, and it’s his job to return outlaws to town, dead or alive. This dynamic runs throughout the entire game, and although by the end it does get a little tiresome for the most part, it provides a nice backdrop for the game’s play style and story.
As you progress you will realise that it is up to you how you hunt your targets and also how stealthy your approach will be. The game is mainly played in third-person, allowing for a sanbox/platformer feel, however the first-person view must also be used in order to operate Stranger’s invaluable (and awesome) crossbow. This weapon doesn’t fire arrows, but instead small creatures, each with different effects for use on the unsuspecting bounty. This in turn allows you to choose your play style and method of approach or attack. It is this variety that will keep the game fresh long after the dynamic begins to go stale.
Visually, Stranger’s Wrath stands up well, and the small additions that developer Just Add Water has brought to the HD edition only help matters. Obviously most games are going to look better in HD, but some added lighting mechanics such as lens flare really help bring the title’s visuals up to date. Some of the older texturing does occasionally let it down, but these issues are very few and far between. As well as its original art style, the Oddworld franchise has always had equally original music and this title is no exception.
The musical score helps both build atmosphere and compound the Wild West feel. These high standards are also present in the voice acting and dialogue too. Although a little two dimensional in places, for the most part the script is the delightful mixture of twisted humour and interesting characters that we have come to expect from this series.
Unfortunately when Stranger’s Wrath was released in 2005 it wasn’t without its problems, many of which are still present in the HD release. Some of the movement mechanics are stiff, the format gets repetitive and the jump mechanics leave a lot to be desired. Luckily (although these flaws can frustrate) the game has enough charm to make you forget about them.
Having said this, it still would have been nice to see some of these issues addressed. Just Add Water did a great job of updating the visuals, adding more difficulty levels and put together a great PSN Trophy list, it’s just a real shame they didn’t take it upon themselves to tweak the games mechanics a little more.
When all is said and done Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath is a great addition to a great series. Yes it has flaws and it is by no means perfect, but what it lacks in some technical areas it makes up for in charm and originality. You don’t have to be an Oddworld expert or even have played any of the previous titles to enjoy Stranger’s Wrath, but if you are in need of original design and atmosphere with some great humour thrown in then you may just want to check out everything Oddworld has to offer.