You know that feeling that something is before its time. That a certain game didn't come out at the right moment simply because we weren't ready for it. Maybe it's a pointless argument to be made, but it comes to mind when we think of the first chapter of the Oddworld story about the enslaved Mudukon Abe in Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee. This game had such exciting design and atmosphere that you really didn't know what to expect from the developers Oddworld Inhabitants.
When the game finally came out it was a dark story of capitalism and industrialism taken to the extreme, but it was also about finding your roots and building up courage, and there was universal praise from the gaming world. But we still felt Abe and his friends were ahead of the times. And it felt very natural that a new version of the original game - Oddworld: New'n'Tasty was announced a few years back. Has the proper time for Oddworld finally arrived?
A huge wave of nostalgia washes over us as we boot up Oddworld: New'n'Tasty. The game may be remade from top to bottom visually, but the spirit of the original remains. The menu where Abe pops up out of a hole in the middle of the screen and you can test your language skills by letting him fart, whistle or greet you with a few simple button presses... it's one of our fondest memories of those days and it's nice to see developers Just Add Water paying homage to it. Simple yet effective. This method is also applied to the graphics, and it's wonderful seeing the factory floors, and forests from the old PSOne game come to life in three dimensions.
Back in the day Abe's Oddysee was limited to two dimensions and it was gorgeous. It still remains very pretty to this day. But we're forced to admit that we enjoy the new look even more. The way the light comes in through fans and trees, and how the backdrops tell of a greater world and adventure on the other side of the trees, it adds to the depth of the experience. You can really tell that Just Add Water have put a lot of effort into creating the right atmosphere and they've really pulled it off.
If there's one thing that could have done with a bit more polish it is character design, as some of the characters come across as cheap cut outs on top of the gorgeous backdrops. Another thing we'd like to have seen would be some innovations in terms of the many different ways Abe can perish. It would have added to the experience in our opinion, but we can certainly understand age ratings may have played a role in this.
Apart from the obvious face lift and shift from two to three dimensions, the game mechanics remains almost exactly the same as in 1997. You move Abe left and right and solve various puzzles, avoid mines, bombs and enemies, and guide him towards freedom. Oddworld: New'n'Tasty is very much a trial and error game. Unfortunately the mechanics can be frustrating at times and a large portion of your jumps will see you land on a bomb or in a hole and thus will result in instant death. The controls weren't great even back then, so you'd think Just Add Water might have done something about it. To add insult to injury some of the checkpoints are placed in a way that will likely see you turn the game off rather than give it another go. You're likely to shake your fist at the game from time to time.
But it's worth a bit of fist shaking as Oddworld: New'n'Tasty is most definitely a game that those looking for a platform adventure need to check out. And it's particularly gratifying to get the sense that the time is finally right for Oddworld. We can only hope that today's gamers are open to the experience and want to get themselves some of that tasty goodness.
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