Oddworld: New n Tasty Review
+ The characters, especially Abe, have a unique... "charm" to them
+ The story is unlike anything else on the market (in a good way)
- The framerate is very inconsistent, and ranges from mid-20s to 60
- There are some repetitive puzzles
If I told you that we were going to stop a maniacal food company from turning its workers into meat-pops, you’d probably call me crazy. Well, let me introduce you to Oddworld: New n Tasty. Developed by Just Add Water and published by Oddworld Inhabitants, Oddworld: New n Tasty is a remake of 1997′s Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey. Just Add Water didn’t just port the game over with upgraded visuals. Instead, they recreated the game with modern design conventions in mind. Gone are screen transitions and the grainy 2D visuals, and here we are with huge levels, beautiful visuals, and some new puzzles to boot.
This is my first forray into the Oddworld, a planet that is full of strange, alien creatures. A mudokon named Abe is a blissfully ignorant creature working in a meat factory called RuptureFarms. Abe is going about his duties one evening when he ends up eavesdropping on the company’s annual board meeting. To his dismay, RuptureFarms has all but exterminated the local wildlife that is used to make their products, so they are going to start using the mudokons working there. Abe escapes, and embarks on an adventure to discover his destiny.
While I love the idea of having a pseudo-dystopian world filled with greedy industrialists, it is the design of the characters that captivates me. Abe easily takes the cake, as far as charming aliens go. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but his voice and personality are almost pathetic, and it makes me feel sorry for little Abe. He’s just discovered his kin is about to be snuffed out in order to line the pockets of RuptureFarms, but Abe still seems so harmless. Other aliens are like something out of Monsters Inc. or a cartoon. There is one creature called a Paramite that may have inspired the Headcrabs from Half-Life.
Abe’s harmless nature translates to the gameplay quite literally. Typically in platforming games, you can defend yourself against enemies whether it be through vertical velocity (aka jumping) or physically attacking. What can Abe do, you ask? He can run, jump, and chant. In certain areas of the game, it is possible for Abe to chant and physically possess another creatures, and from there he can direct them toward the next pitfall or mine. The thing that throws a whole wrench into this equation, though, is you can only use this ability in certain areas. Most of the time you’ll have to rely on stealth, dodges, rolls, jumps, and general trickery to make it past an area.
It’s not as easy to control Abe as to other platforming games. I believe the correct genre for Oddworld: New n Tasty is “cinematic platformer.” Rather than go into what makes it cinematic, I’ll say that it controls similarly something like the old Prince of Persia games on the Apple II. Compared to other games, Abe moves like molasses and he jumps like he’s wearing a ball-and-chain. There’s a lot of strange mechanics that I had to get used to in order to even get past the first few areas, but in time it becomes easier because the levels are built with Abe’s inadequacies in mind. It creates a sort of skill based difficulty because it forces the player to adjust to the abilities of Abe, but also improve with them over time.
For the most part, the scenarios Abe finds himself in require some careful planning and execution. Make no mistake, if you charge in without a care in the world, Abe will be riddled with bullet holes before he can make it two steps out of RuptureFarms. Unfortunately, some scenes are more repetitive than fun. For example, there are moments where you’ll have to talk to NPCs and mimic them. Call it nitpicking, but these were uninspiring and pointless because there was no point to them; they excelled at breaking my immersion of the game and functioned as a temporary roadblock.
Throughout RuptureFarms, there are over 300 other mudokons that Abe can rescue. Rescuing them is usually a lot more complicated than it looks, but they will be butchered unless you save them. Abe can talk to NPCs through “GameSpeak”, and he can issue various commands through the face buttons on the controller. Getting Abe through a dangerous area can be daunting, but try having 3 or 4 other mudokons waiting for you to tell them what to do. It can quickly get out of hand. Fortunately, there is a quick save and quick load feature built right into the touchpad of the Playstation 4 controller. If you press the touchpad in, you’ll create a quick save. You can then hold the touchpad down to load that spot instantaneously. This makes doing difficult jumps and obstacles much less frustrating.
Oddworld Inhabitants has stated that the Playstation 4 outputs at 1080p and at 60 frames per second. I’m not one to really mind these technical details, but from my experience, Oddworld: New n Tasty has some severe framerate dips. There are short areas where the frame-rate will climb up to 60, but it will go back down to around 30 (or even below) in some areas. This inconsistency is extremely jarring and detrimental to the gameplay because the player needs to have complete control over Abe at all time, and that control is limited when there are dropped frames.
There seems to be some trouble on Oddworld in regards to stability as well. I’ve had multiple occurances of AI, sound, and gameplay glitches where things just kind of… stop working. It happens more than I’d like to admit, and mostly seems to happen with heavy use of the quick save feature. One time an enemy literally froze in his tracks, and didn’t reset after I loaded my quick save. Sure, this made one particular encounter easier, but I don’t want to get off easy just because of a technical hiccup.
Buy, Try, or Avoid?
Oddworld: New n Tasty is a sort of niche title. It’s certainly not very accessible to newcomers like myself, but finishing the campaign is rewarding in itself. Cinematic Platformers are more of a gaming relic than anything, but New n Tasty shows that they can still be relevant. If nothing else, it serves as a wonderful little introduction to the Oddworld, a universe where there are plenty of other games and experiences to be had. I recommend everyone to try Oddworld: New n Tasty to see if they enjoy it first, but those who stick through it will find an adventure that was worth embarking on.
Oddworld: New n Tasty is available right now on Playstation 4 for $30 / €21 / £18. It comes with cross-buy for it’s eventual release on Playstation 3, Playstation Vita, PC, Xbox One, and Wii U!