Soylent Green is People! Err…Mudokens!
When I first heard there was a new Oddworld game coming out I couldn’t believe it. As a fan of the early PSone titles I have been waiting for a new Abe adventure for many years and didn’t think the series would ever be revisited. After finding out Oddworld: New ‘n Tasty would be an HD remake of Abe’s Oddysee I was excited enough to consider buying a Playstation 4 just to play it. I never ended up buying that system but fortunately for me about six months after the initial launch the game was released on PC through Steam. Did this game need an update? After about fifteen minutes of playing it my answer was yes.
The story of Abe’s Oddysee and now New ‘N Tasty goes something like this. Your hero, Abe, is a member of an enslaved race called the Mudokens. They Mudokens are bipedal stitch-mouthed race working to survive. You all work for Rupture Farms, a meat processing plant that makes all sorts of food for the inhabitants of Oddworld. While waxing floors, Abe overhears the head of the factory Molluck the Gluckon discussing the new food they’re about to unveil. Turns out Mudoken is on the menu and Abe takes it upon himself to rescue his pals from being turned into ground beef.
The game itself is a 2.5D puzzle platformer with several mechanics unique to the series. You move your hero on a 2D plane across a 3D environment. The most notable aspect is gamespeak, a series of commands that allow you to communicate with other Mudokens and save them from the traps and enemies that lie before them. Abe will come across one or many of his pals and to get their attention you must greet them with “hello” and “follow me” etc. You save your pals by guiding each of them to “bird portals” which you open by chanting near them.
Oddworld: New ‘n Tasty breathes serious life into Abe’s Oddysee. The game’s development has been described as “ground up” (har har) meaning this was more than just a facelift over an existing engine. Playing the game on PC the graphics look gorgeous even on the lower settings and the many environments you come across have some of the strongest atmosphere I’ve experienced in a game. What sets New ‘N Tasty apart gameplay-wise has a lot to do with how each screen works. In Abe’s Oddysee each screen was its own puzzle and every time you moved past the edge the next screen was loaded. Oddworld: New ‘n Tasty has a scrolling screen which is a huge difference in feel to the original. In Abe’s Oddysee puzzles and moments would carry across screen to screen in certain moments but you could use the screen loading mechanic to reset puzzles. Take for example if there’s an enemy you’re required to sneak past and you wake him up. If you’re quick enough you could simply walk back to the previous screen and find the enemy sleeping again when you re entered. Oddworld: New ‘N Tasty prevents this by adding the scrolling but includes checkpoints so you can retry if you end up messing up or dying. The scrolling screen also makes Rupture Farms feel huge. The game always had a dark and large feel to the levels but the ability to see things interconnected gives a hopeless and intimidating size that the original didn’t quite get across by loading screen to screen. New ‘n Tasty also adds a lot of variety to the gamespeak so you won’t be stuck hearing the same four phrases over and over again throughout the game.
Oddworld: New ‘n Tasty has a lot to offer. There are many types of characters and ways to interact with them. The Mudokens have the power of possession, and as Abe you get to possess Sligs, Glukkons, and other antagonists. When possessed each antagonist has unique abilities and adds more variety to the puzzles the game presents as you press forward. One issue I had with New ‘n Tasty is in the platforming. While this was characteristic of the Abe’s Oddysee as well, the platforming is a little sloppy for a next gen type of game and may be tough for newcomers to deal with. A lot of the puzzles require timing. For example, at one moment there is a small platform between two larger ones and between each jump there is a falling sack of meat that will knock you into a grinder. In order to make the jump you have to get a running start but if you jump at what feels natural Abe will overrun the landing and you’ll end up falling into the grinder. It is definitely not impossible to get used to but it’s a lot looser than many other games in the genre. The platforming isn’t where the meat of the game lies, so it’s nothing players will be stuck on too long.
Oddworld: New ‘n Tasty is highly recommended. It sets a standard for HD remakes that hasn’t been met in anything else I’ve played before it. It’s exciting to see that the series is getting attention again as the last title, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath was released in 2005 even though an HD remaster was made in 2010. Hopefully this new title will inspire the series to see more games beyond remasters, but if New ‘n Tasty is leading by example then the future is bright for the next set of games. Abe’s Oddysee may have come out in 1997 but New ‘n Tasty feels right at home in contemporary gaming.
Final Verdict: 4.5 / 5
Available on: PS4, PC (Reviewed) and Linux Via Steam; Publisher: Oddworld Inhabitants ; Developer: Just add Water ; Players: 1-2; Released PS4 July 22, 2014, PC/Mac/Linux February 25, 2015; ESRB: Teen ; MSRP: $19.99
Full Disclosure: This review was based on a retail copy of the game.