I first met Abe, what feels like a lifetime ago, in the summer of 1997. I remember spending hours, upon hours navigating the strange and wonderful ‘Oddworld’, meeting new friends and new enemies. With my PlayStation 1 hooked up to a standard 19” tube television I set off for adventure. Now with the release of Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty only one question remains; Can this next-gen remake bring back the same feelings of adventure and wonder that came with the original release?
You take control of a clumsy Mudokon slave-worker named Abe who, like many other of his Mudokon brethren, are imprisoned in meat processing factory named RuptureFarms. While doing his daily duty of waxing the floors, he accidentally stumbles into a company meeting highlighting the rapid decline in ingredients for various company products. With some animal ingredients already hunted to extinction, they decide to create a new product using the meat from Mudokon slaves. Upon hearing this, Abe makes a daring escape from RuptureFarms and attempts to save the Mudokon people and shut down RuptureFarms once and for all. With tales of the extinction of animals, corporate greed, and slavery; Oddworld is a wonderfully dark world.
While I’m usually mixed with my feelings of HD remakes, I can safely say that this title has just set the bar. With the enhanced 2.5D graphics and use of the Unity engine, the game looks absolutely fantastic. Clearly a labor of love, Just Add Water has brought back the aesthetics of the original in a beautiful new way. Environments looks lush, gloomy and wonderful. Even the iconic main menu shows Abe’s face looking better than ever; full of emotion and character.
Those familiar with the Oddworld games know and love its wacky, yet dark and industrial art style, and New ‘n’ Tasty stays true to this legacy. From the dark, dreary backdrops to the large rusted metal foregrounds, the game feels like you have truly entered an ‘Oddworld’. I will say however, some areas do look a bit ‘cleaner’ for lack of a better word. Where as in the original some areas looked dead and forgotten, in New ‘n’ Tasty they look a bit more maintained. While this is a nitpick, it’s something I noticed.
The gameplay is exactly how I remembered; a puzzle-platformer in which you guide Abe and his pals through various mechanical pitfalls, avoiding enemies and using the environment and possession to take out baddies. Possessing enemies and using them to shoot up an entire squad then walking into a meat grinder just never gets old. It may sound a bit harsh, but when your only three options are; hide, avoid, or possess, you accept a little violence to make it through. Not having a weapon of your own to use still feels tense and exciting at the same time. Not being a brute with loads of weapons is part of the charm of the frail, skinny character that is Abe.
The controls feel tight, fluid, and responsive, even for a game whose original controls came off as a bit clunky. The DS4’s touchpad also doubles as a super-fast quick save button, which is a godsend in some very difficult parts of the game. With a tap of the touchpad a quick save is made, and with a hold of the touchpad, the last save you made is instantly loaded, which makes for a much less stressful play. Abe isn’t a very agile little Mudokon, so jumping can turn into bit of a nightmare in certain sections. If you played the original in 1997, this is not news to you. While the controls have been tweaked, sometimes Abe will under-perform in areas, and this can be very, very frustrating. Missing a ledge or not clearing a land mine can be the source of violent outbursts of gaming rage. Speaking of difficulty, they have added three options this time around; Easy, Normal and Hard. The original was known for being insanely difficult in some areas, and thus ‘Hard Mode’ is basically the setting of the original release. As for normal and easy, they both feel just about right for their respective names.
Saving your fellow Mudokons is a large part of the game. Speaking to them, commanding them, and even earning their trust with a bit of toilet humor is needed to gain allies and help others like you escape from RuptureFarms. One downside to your newly acquired friends is the fact that they are extremely dumb. The type of dumb that will continue to walk right into an explosive unless specificity told to ‘wait’. If you handle them carefully, you will reach one of many portals where Abe can use his chant power to open said portal, allowing his brothers to leap in and escape the horrors of the factory. Depending on how many of these little guys you save can also effect the game’s outcome; so don’t leave any behind!
The game also features a couch co-op mode, in which players take turns controlling Abe. While the game isn’t necessarily designed for multiplayer, I actually found it to be quite fun. I would usually argue that games that lack an online co-op option is somewhat of a down side. In this case I don’t mind it, which is mostly due to the fact I really don’t feel the game needs co-op at all, but it is a nice extra.
The audio is both enchanting and foreboding. Deep musical scores and loud metal clanging and banging give you the feel that you are truly out-numbered and alone in this mechanical maze of a factory. The ambient sound effects are some the best I’ve heard in a game to-date. The voice acting is fantastic as well. Featuring some familiar voices such as David Hayter, the voice acting sounds great and well executed. Series creator Lorne Lanning was even brought back into the studio to voice our bumbling and loveable Abe.
In the end, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty feels just as fun, depressing, and undoubtedly unique as the original did in 1997. Recreated with beautiful visuals, the game is truly a work of art. While the platforming may break a few controllers out there, the game is still something all players should experience for the first, or in this case, the second time.