by Ingvi Snædal
previewed on PSVITA
I stood on a platform above my Mudokon friends. There were two levers on my platform, undoubtedly connected to the mechanisms below. One was a door situated to the right of my friends, the other a massive meat grinder directly above them. I pulled a lever. It was the wrong one. The meat grinder shot down and pixelated bones and gore subsequently shot out in all directions. My friends were no more. This is just one of the multiple happy memories I have of playing Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee as a kid.
While the third game in the series, Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee, didn’t have quite the same impact on me as the previous two, I was still thrilled to hear that developer Just Add Water announced that a PlayStation Vita version is in the making, taking the franchise portable for the first time. The game will be a port, but not a straight port and with that in mind, I think I have a great excuse to look back on Munch's Oddysee a bit.
Munch's Oddysee introduced new races to the Oddworld series. Munch is a Gabbit, a member of a predominantly water dwelling species that has been hunted to extinction because their lungs are a perfect match for those of the chain-smoking Glukkons. The Glukkons are, of course, the self-centered industrialist pricks we all know from the previous Oddworld games. And Fuzzles are furballs with enormous teeth that proved very useful to the Vykkers as subjects for product testing.
After a meeting with the Almighty Raisin, Abe sets out to help Munch escape. To his surprise, Munch has already engineered his own escape and the two meet outside the lab where Munch was being held. What follows is a quest to free as many members of their respective species as possible, all the while collecting Mudokon eggs whose young are intended for slavery, and attempting to retrieve the last can of Gambit eggs the Glukkons enjoy it as a delicacy.
Although an adequate game in its own right, I didn't enjoy it half as much as its predecessors, and I blame the transition into 3D. The limitations that a 2D side-scrolling platformer forced upon the design team made for some highly creative and innovative puzzles for the player to solve. While the puzzles presented in Munch's Oddysee were also fun, they felt lacking in some way. But now that the series is getting a High Definition reboot on the PlayStation 3 and more importantly PlayStation Vita, will its updated release by Just Add Water be enough to shine on the new platforms?
A Package Deal
Munch's Oddysee's biggest problems when it was released were the repetitive level and puzzle designs. The levels were small and short, and generally featured the same puzzle elements as the level before it, only in a different order or at an increased difficulty. Having to constantly switch between Munch and Abe, guiding both of them through the same obstacles, using the right character to solve the right puzzles, only added to that repetitiveness. On the whole, the vast world that we had been promised was nowhere to be found, and the game was instead broken up into tiny puzzle sequences that, once solved, allowed for transportation to the next tiny sequence. The visuals were good for the 2001 release, and as with every game in the Oddworld series, the voice acting was superb, but as a gaming experience, it doesn't hold a candle to its younger brother, Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath.
Being a port, much of the original’s shortcomings will undoubtedly return, but there are some new aspects to the game. The most exciting of which is that the game will be available on both PlayStation 3 and Vita and that it will feature cloud saving. This feature allows players to continue their saved games on either the PS3 or Vita seamlessly. In addition, the Vita’s touch screen can be used to control the game, using gestures and taps to get around and solve puzzles in the game.
Will these additions make this package worth a purchase to us long-term Oddworld fans? The standalone game may need something more than a graphics overhaul to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience by today's standards. Come release, we’ll have a closer look and find out.