Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! Review
Console generations ago there was Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, introducing us to the beautifully strange planet of Oddworld and its inhabitants. Telling the tale of the titular Abe and his quest for freedom, it combined punishing gameplay with a true feeling of an underdog fighting to come out on top. Almost twenty years on with Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty!, the remake from Just Add Water, the odyssey begins anew.
That odyssey began with a secret. Abe is a Mudokon, a race enslaved by the greedy, all-business, cigar-chomping Glukkons, who discovers their next vein of profit; Mudokon Pops, made from the Mudokons themselves. An escape sequence and a vow to be free later, Abe aims to escape RuptureFarms with as many friends as possible. Laced throughout are themes of nature vs industrialization, preservation vs turning a quick buck, conveyed with such charm and deliberate parody that it rarely feels heavy handed. Much of Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee takes place in the grim RuptureFarms, where creatures great and small go to become extinct, from Scrabs to Paramites to, if the Glukkons have their way, Mudokons. Even so, the game carefully avoids falling into dull or depressing territory, hitting frustrated determination before boredom. How does Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! compare?
In a word, favorably. Remakes occupy a difficult territory; change too much and you lose what made the original worth remaking in the first place, change too little and the remake becomes pointless. New ‘n’ Tasty! smartly retains what the original feels like to play whilst actually mixing up a significant amount of level design. As a 2D, side-on platformer/puzzle game in the PSOne era, Abe’s Oddysee was brutally difficult. A single bullet grazing Abe’s bony backside spelled game over, alongside a distinct lack of checkpoints, meant progress was hard earned. There weren’t puzzles of the typical video game variety; push block onto switch to open door, or position mirrors to bounce light into magic gem. Instead, it tempted you with the promise of saving more Mudokons trapped in seemingly impossible situations; behind a meat grinder, a pit and two Slig guards perhaps. Even after piecing together the solution from Abe’s repertoire of skills, including running, jumping, rock throwing, talking and possession (more on that later), it has to be carried out with such timing otherwise your Mudokon friend is killed. How far back was that checkpoint again?
A remake later with New ‘n’ Tasty, not much has changed. There are now three times the Mudokons to save, many of which appear to be destined to be ground down to Mudokon Pops rather than rescued, despite my best efforts, much as it was back in the day. A potentially controversial change is the addition of a health system, allowing Abe to survive the aforementioned single bullet to the backside, but not by much. Tanking through an encounter is still not an option, but it does make for thrilling, skin-of-your-teeth escapes, with Abe leaping to safety amidst a hail of bullets. As a purist I’m conflicted, as someone who wants to have fun with the game (bizarre, I know), it’s an excellent addition.
Unchanged however, and rightly so, is Abe’s possession ability. For a reason never explained, Abe is able to force his will on a single enemy at a time, taking control of their body, mind and voice. This is mostly, but not limited to, Sligs, roaming around for once with freedom and some lethal weaponry. Exploring as an enemy is fun, behind enemy lines, scouting out the path ahead, pulling otherwise unreachable levers and shooting comrades in the back, making Abe’s life a tad easier. It’s a nifty mechanic that still hasn’t worn thin. What has worn thin though are the possession countering red orbs, zapping Abe if he has the audacity to use the game’s stand-out mechanic. At times it feels as if New ‘n’ Tasty is too quick to restrict your fun, falling back on removing possession entirely over challenging you to use it differently.
Chances are, if you’re aware of Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty!, your mind has already been made up. The feel and art design of the original have been translated superbly to the new generation, and even as a diehard fan of Abe’s Oddysee there’s little to complain about. This is how remakes should be done.