There are several gaming classics that pop up now and again as something that I may have bypassed in my life. Often it’s due to growing up in a different generation to the likes of the Atari and only being a young child during the era of the Sega Megadrive and Super Nintendo, other times it’s just the way things went. The Oddworld series was one that falls in the latter.
Abe’s Oddysee launched when I was still in primary school enjoying replaying the limited variety of Megadrive titles I had over and over. For the sequels, Abe’s Exoddus and Munch’s Oddysee, they had never clocked on my radar as things I may have wanted to play – despite owning a PlayStation.
Fast-forward well over a decade and here we are with Abe; the strange-looking creature synonymous with the PlayStation family of yesteryear finally making his way to the PlayStation of today with the release of Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty on the PlayStation 4 – with other platform releases to come. Now under the steadfast development of the Yorkshire-based team at Just At Water, New ‘n’ Tasty is a remake of the 1997 release of Abe’s Oddysee.
I’ve tossed and turned over this review and how to vocalise most eloquently what I want to portray. You see, New ‘n’ Tasty is unbelievably frustrating to the level that it took all of my restraint not to throw my controller across the room – something that few titles can achieve – but yet, I constantly wanted to come back for more.
Firstly – the frustration; this stems primarily from the controls and the ‘trial and error’ nature of the game. New ‘n’ Tasty, as the other Oddworld titles, is a traditional platformer but with expert intelligence in level design and mechanic variety and execution. However, incredibly often you’ll perish due to one of the many hazards in the game and have to retry. This wouldn’t be so much of an issue if the checkpointing wasn’t so far spaced or the load times between deaths (especially falling) wasn’t as lengthy – two things that don’t lend themselves to a trial and error setup. As they both are though, if you encounter a challenging section it can require upwards of fifty retrys in order to successfully navigate your way through.
Who’s That Abe?
You play as Abe, a Mudokon enslaved in the meat processing plant of RuptureFarms before he stumbles upon the owners, Molluck the Glukkon, plan to turn to Modokon’s into the latest “Tasty Treat” in order to boost profits. ‘Employee of the Year’ Abe has to escape RuptureFarms and embark on a quest to rescue his fellow Modukon’s from both slavery and becoming the Glukkon’s next meal.
If it’s not the archaic implementation of mechanics then it’s the fiddly controls. New ‘n’ Tasty often requires incredibly precise control with little room for error in some of the more complex sections but, especially when jumping, the controls just do not assist with this; often when I wanted to leap forward I ended up jumping straight up – or vice-versa.
I’m more than happy to admit when I find a game challenging if I’m not up to the task, but my frustration was due to a difficulty presented by a few flawed fundamentals of the game rather than an overly troublesome level.
That being said, usually such anger-inducing elements would have me strongly disliking a title, but I felt compelled to keep returning to New ‘n’ Tasty for a little bit more. The enemy types, problematic platforming sections, intelligent level design, and smart additional mechanics (such as being able to possess specific enemies or participate in a call and response type code) all produce an, at time, enjoyable platformer – in spite of the other difficulties.
A glorious vision
The reimagined 2.5D graphical style is marvellous and a stand-out aspect of the game. New ‘n’ Tasty looks fantastic, runs smoothly and features exquisite environments and animations. The game’s audio could have been mixed better – so as to avoid the constant cacophony of beeping mines – and the soundtrack is rather forgettable.
New ‘n’ Tasty is a difficult one to position. I cannot state whether or not it’s faithful to the original (though I’ve been told it most certainly is), but for those of us who have never entered Oddworld before that would be reasonably irrelevant. New ‘n’ Tasty is packed full of an incalculable amount of charm. It draws you into a quirky world with a unexpected protagonist and presents some fantastic puzzling.
However, it’s impossible not to consider the dated aspects of the title that severely hinder it. Some technical hiccups (including a game-breaking bug within the first hour), aggravating controls and disappointing design philosophies muddy the taste somewhat. If you think you can suffer through the pitfalls there are waves of tremendous gameplay moments – but it’s pretty much a one-for-one deal.