Abe continues his return to the modern world with the release of Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! on the Nintendo Switch. A complete remake of the first game, Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, we return to the origin of everyone’s favorite Mudokon as he liberates his species from corporate slavery.
The new title is a complete remake of the original 2D platformer, but this time rendered entirely in 3D and presented in 2.5D. That’s a lot of Ds! The developers, Just Add Water, decided not to use any assets from the 1997 PlayStation title, opting instead to build the entire thing from scratch again. Everything appears in the same places as the original, from enemies to secrets to environmental flourishes.
After releasing on PlayStation 4 in 2014 and appearing on virtually every other console since then, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! is now available on Nintendo Switch for your regional pricing.
GAMEPLAY – WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK
New ‘n’ Tasty is a platforming title that tasks you with escaping the evil RuptureFarms, a meat processing plant, and rescuing your fellow Mudokon before they are turned into the latest and greatest otherworldly snack. You control Abe, a bumbling floor waxer who overhears a meeting of the board discussing that their newest product will be made of his people. You must escape RuptureFarms and gain the abilities needed to return to liberate your friends and coworkers to ensure their survival.
Like most platforming titles, we are not talking about finesse and accuracy on the level of Super Mario Bros. Abe rarely leaves the ground, and when he does, there is the sense of shifting his weight around. He’s an alien species that has spent much of his life as custodial staff. He is defined by the word “klutzy”. He doesn’t have raw athleticism that allows him to leap across chasms and summon the power to fight a great enemy. Often times, he must prove himself to the other Mudokon in order to progress. Oddworld takes the traditional platformer feeling of being able to traverse anything and appears to take that away from you.
Abe controls like it’s an effort. Initially, I felt like bouncing pretty hard off of this title. I wasn’t meshing well with the physics and the relentless level design. It felt tied to the ’90s and was consistently frustrating. But once I got a few levels in, everything started to click. Abe wasn’t meant to quickly and easily escape the factory, so it makes sense that the labyrinthine levels you must guide him through would be tough and unforgiving. I really started to step back and take the levels as a whole, tying my understanding of them closer to the story, before I started enjoying myself.
While you take Abe through the game and encounter non-playable characters, you must utilize GameSpeak, the rudimentary language of Oddworld, to progress. Gate-keeping Mudokon will require a passcode comprised of whistles and flatulence. Diligent employees will need to be greeted before they will obey Abe’s simple “Follow me.” The language starts out simple, and pretty much stays there for the rest of the game. The passcodes you need to supply are easy to force your way through; there are only four possible inputs and you have unlimited attempts to get it right. I found myself making faster progress when I didn’t chase down the passcode before hitting the roadblock; I just kept guessing until the characters let me through.
At times, a section will feature Elum, a ridable companion. These areas contain long pathways with gaps that are too wide for Abe to jump on his own and tight puzzle sections that require you to maneuver Elum around enemies and obstacles. The stretches that have Abe and Elum jumping across multiple bridges and platforms require accurate timing precision and perfect jumps, and an incredible amount of patience. Honestly, remembering and timing the jumps with Elum reminded me of the classic Penn & Teller “Nail Gun” trick. Every failure brought a lesson and another step towards my goal.
Another mechanic that is used, albeit infrequently, is Abe’s chant, which grants him contextual boons depending on where he is. Additional health, the ability to psychically control an enemy character, or even explode bombs and drones are some examples of what the chant mechanic can do. I don’t find this to be particularly helpful or satisfying to use (I’d much prefer a punch button), but the restraints around which Oddworld is designed are what help the game truly shine.
I did learn through this experience that I don’t want to babysit other characters. Maybe it explains why I never gelled with the Yoshi’s Island games. I’d prefer to make my way through my adventure, only caring about myself, and bring freedom to the land with a big dramatic ending. Stopping to free any Mudokons I encountered along the way just felt ill-paced. Almost as if the mechanic were included to impede my progress and lengthen the play-time, as opposed to being a satisfying part of the process.
This is probably why the beginning of the game was hard for me to get into. As I delivered Abe from his corporate prison, any Mudokon I encountered along the way were available to lure away from their jobs and be led to freedom. But that was just a stressful time. If one of them hit a bomb, or an enemy, or got missed because I was running through a level too fast, I took it personally. I wanted to save them all, but in the end, I could only save myself.
GRAPHICS/AUDIO – THE MODERN AGE
Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! is a very nice-looking game. Obviously it’s impressive when compared against the original PlayStation release, but when it comes to side-scrolling platformers, there’s a specific feeling here that is expressed really well. The desolation brought about by the meat processing factory is apparent in the early and end-game levels, and the lands you travel are balanced between ancient civilizations and conquered landscapes. The overall progress of the bad guys is slow but making headway, and each area feels like a place that the Mudokons are losing to their colonizers.
The atmosphere feels sci-fi and grounded, and the cut-scenes look fantastic. I didn’t even notice any performance issues or frame drops, which helped ease frustrations I might have had. The characters don’t really look like aliens that we’ve seen before, and overall I was really happy with how Oddworld looked. The upgrade from the 1997 game is consistent and well done. It’s clear that the developers at Just Add Water were striving to remain faithful to what players remembered while also giving them the polish they deserve, and it really worked.
I found myself listening to the soundtrack again while writing out this review. It’s a method I use pretty frequently, to get into the groove of the game. But this time around, I stopped a few times and just listened to the music. An industrial feel mixed with tribal grooves that would be at home in a Turok title permeates almost every track. I really enjoyed the background music featured in Scrabania, one of two lands Abe must traverse in order to gain the power needed to take on RuptureFarms.
Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty was reviewed on Nintendo Switch. A key was provided by theRednerGroup.