keskiviikko 30. heinäkuuta 2014

REVIEW - Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty! | PS4 | 2014

GENRE(S): Platformer / Puzzle
RELEASED: July 22, 2014
AVAILABLE ON: MAC, PC, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Wii U, Xbox One
DEVELOPER(S): Just Add Water
PUBLISHER(S): Oddworld Inhabitants

Released on the original PlayStation on August 31st, 1997, Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee is a true cult classic. The only things dragging this surreal joyride influenced by games such as Prince of Persia and Another World down, were its unforgiving learning curve and general level of difficulty, both of which were worked on to pave the way to the success of the even better sequel, 1998's Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus. After 2001's Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee - the first 3D game in the series - Abe stepped down as the main protagonist of the Oddworld series to make way to "the Stranger". Although the first-person shooter Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath was notably well-received by critics and fans, the praises did not come without wishes that Abe would one day return. Rumours of a new Oddworld game circulated for years, until in the summer of 2012, Just Add Water - the British studio responsible for the HD versions of both Munch's Oddysee and Stranger's Wrath - announced they were working on an HD version of Abe's Oddysee. To make it absolutely clear that the game wouldn't be just a simple HD remaster of the 2D platformer, but a complete remake, they renamed the game Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty!. And that's exactly what it is. Welcome back to RuptureFarms.

THE remake

Meat processing factory RuptureFarms is in a financial slump, as they're running out of ingredients with the wild animals of Oddworld becoming extinct. Chairman Molluck comes up with the perfect solution to all of RuptureFarms' problems and taps into his very own staff of Mudokon slaves for something "new and tasty". Mudokon janitor Abe overhears Molluck's presentation and decides to escape RuptureFarms, saving every fellow Mudokon he can before they become the factory's new flagship product.

Nice doggy.
Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee was the last in line of 90's cinematic platformers starting with the original Prince of Persia from as far as 1989 - puzzle-ridden, extremely challenging platformers with realistic movement. The levels were divided into literal screens, and just one mistake usually equaled death. But, it wasn't just a carbon copy of every cinematic platformer with a name - it was a crazy, insanely funny, and innovative game. It wasn't that ultra-popular in its time - it was a 2D game in an era 3D became standard, and the initial reviews weren't THAT good. Although critics praised the game for its best qualities - humour and innovation - they heavily criticized it for its unforgiving difficulty. Abe could switch from slow Mudokon movement to the speed of a Scrab in a fraction of a second, usually whenever there was a mine placed in the proximity, it all depended on just a slight extra tap of a button which could've easily been blamed on the general tension. To survive most of the puzzles in the later half of the game, you would've needed some info on the whole level in advance so that you wouldn't inevitably run into a deadly mistake 99% into it; the screen-by-screen design didn't allow you to scout all that much. The worst part of it all was one of the crappiest checkpoint systems ever - counting out those games which totally lack checkpoints - just one mistake, again perhaps even 99% into a complex puzzle, led to death and at the worst case, the beginning of the whole level. The sequel Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus introduced the Quiksave system, which enabled you to make a temporary save file at any point of the game in addition to the standard checkpoints - kind of like state saving on emulators - and it was therefore a more popular game among critics. Die-hard fans always preferred Oddysee, though, and I've got to admit that it's funnier and it has a better story than the sequel. Now I can finally enjoy it, as every flaw from the original is harvested. There are a few new ones, once again relating to the game's difficulty, but from the far end of the spectrum - the tolerable end. Let's first go into how the game looks and sounds - considering how faithful New 'n' Tasty! is to the original Abe's Oddysee, it's quite important.

You'd actually be surprised how identically the game plays out as the original if you're merely looking at screenshots. The game has been re-crafted from scratch in 2.5D; it looks quite a bit like diversified LittleBigPlanet. The game no longer progresses screen-by-screen, every level has standard side-scrolling design, which - some would say unfortunately - affects some original puzzles the difficulty of which depended on things like Abe not being able to possess a Slig guard that wasn't on the same screen as him. Essentially, it's much easier to possess guards in this game than the original, and you can bend several other rules laid down by the original game at will, all thanks to the new UI - as well as the addition of the Quiksave utility. There's close to no music in the game, save for a beautiful yet a bit unbelonging end credit song by Elodie Adams, an Australian up-and-comer who's a big Oddworld fan. Fans were crucial to the game in general; not only did fans come up with the game's final title and Trophy names, but most of the voice cast is apparently comprised of fans. Abe's (Lorne Lanning) narration is directly remastered from the original game, but the GameSpeak and "dialogue" are completely re-recorded, using lines from both Oddysee and Exoddus, as well as some new ones which will totally crack you up.

Tread carefully.
This review is mostly a short presentation to those people who've played the original game(s), but before going over the few minor things that went wrong with this remake and casting my final judgement, let's do a quick recap of what the game is all about to people who've only heard of the game. Abe's primary mission is to escape the meat grinders at RuptureFarms and venture deep into the wild, dangerous jungles of Oddworld to find an ancient power he can use to put his former employers out of business for good. It's kind of a crazy coming-of-age story. If you want the full experience and challenge, and a better ending out of two possible conclusions, you should save your brothers on the way. GameSpeak allows you to give simple commands such as "Follow me" and "Wait" to your fellow workers at RuptureFarms, and when you have every Mudokon from one level rounded up, you use a spirit door marked by a flock of birds to get them to safety. Mudokon slaves are only found at RuptureFarms; you meet Mudokons in the jungles as well, but you'll have to use alternative GameSpeak to commune with them, by holding R2. They offer you passage in exchange for a password, which is a series of different lines, capped off with a tasty fart. Otherwise the jungle is filled with extremely dangerous creatures whose patterns you need to observe and learn inside out very quickly before you can even dream of making progress. Abe cannot inflict direct damage on enemies. Indirectly, he can do quite a few things - depending on the enemy and the environment.

Provided there are no chant suppressors in Abe's immediate surroundings to shock him out of his socks the moment he makes a beep, and that there aren't enemies on the same ground level, Abe can use the ancient chant of his people to possess Slig guards. Control shifts over to the possessed Slig, who you can use to command Slogs - "dogs", real ugly ones - pull levers that are out of Abe's reach, use Slig's very own vocabulary in the language of GameSpeak to get past RuptureFarms security, and finally, the most important part, you can shoot the shit out of every other Slig you see and then either feed your puppet to a meat grinder, cast him down a bottomless pit or simply blow his brains out with the power of possession itself. Fun! You can also trick two Scrabs - large crab-like creatures - to attack each other; whenever they make direct eye contact, they duke it out until the other one's dead. You'll always have to survive one, though; that's hard enough. Paramites, though small, are perhaps the most volatile and unpredictable enemies in the game; if you see just one, you can rest assured it won't do anything to you as long as you're out in the open, but you can rest just as assured that its friends aren't far away. And when its friends come, you'd better have a boulder ready to dump on the little bastards. Being able to kill enemies and the ways to do it very often depend on the level itself, and sometimes the craziest ideas actually work. Just be sure to take advantage of that Quiksave utility now that you finally have it.

Yep, those landscapes look a wee bit prettier.
Those are the basics. I could tell you all about the grenades, rocks and even the bottlecaps carried over from Exoddus, but if you really haven't played the game, I'll leave the consultation for the game itself, since it really is worth its steep price (21.95€) for anyone; all who have played the original game and all who've never heard of it. It's high time for the latter. But, to those who have played the game, those who outright love it, I have some words you might perceive bad news; the game is quite easy. Not a walk in the park by any means - NO - but in comparison to the original Abe's Oddysee, it's basically a whistle. The harvesting of the screen-by-screen UI alone works for an easier time, not to mention the Quiksave feature and the fact that Abe can now actually escape machine gun fire, very often to make it to a safe place just in the nick of time. I have no actual complaints on the issue, I think the game's difficulty level is just right, and you can always refuse to use Quiksave, just like I refuse to use state saving in emulator games except if I'm in a hurry to go somewhere. I think the greatest flaw of the game is occasionally bulky control, just like it was in the case of the original. Abe's occasional refusals to follow commands - usually at the worst possible occasions - most likely brought on by similar button presses between certain precision moves, and his reaction speed which might take a long while to sink in to the player. GameSpeak is still complex enough to drive you to the random point of frustration, but it's been simplified by having movement pass on to the left analog stick and dedicating the digital pad to the eight different forms of GameSpeak only.

21.95 is steep, but what you get for your hard-earned money is a remake of one of the most unique games of the late 90's, and not just any remake, but an awesome remake which I consider better than the original in every possible way, and very likely the best game in the Oddworld franchise. Quiksave is optional, speedrunners are taken into consideration with online leaderboards, and finally the near-impossible Trophies, topped off with a Plat - I think challenge-mongers will eventually come to terms with the game once they see beneath the surface. Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty! is definitely one of the games of the year thus far.

+ A beautifully re-imagined game, as unique and innovative today as it was 17 years ago
+ Crazy, surreal humour
+ Fantastic puzzles
+ Simplified scheme for GameSpeak

- Otherwise, the controls are still a bit bulky
- One too many ways to bend the original game's strict rules

< 9.0 >

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