Oddworld: Soulstorm – Oddtimized Edition Review – Quite the Odd Mess (Switch)

The second chapter in the Oddworld franchise just hit the Nintendo Switch. Oddworld: Soulstorm - Oddtimized Edition has a lot to live up to, with a pedigree of games that delighted previous console generations. Does this Switch port stand proudly and freely with its brethren or does it end up in the meat grinder?

Oddworld: Soulstorm - Oddtimized Edition ReviewAbe is back and ready to bring more enslaved Mudokons to freedom in Oddworld: Soulstorm – Oddtimized Edition. The sequel to Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus – New ‘n’ Tasty! , this sequel seeks to bring the magic of the original to the Nintendo Switch. And if I’m being completely honest, it failed. Before you get upset with me, understand something: I was excited to review this game. I was legitimately happy to get to play an Oddworld game, but the state this game is in is inexcusable. 

Developer Oddworld Inhabitants rendered this 3D remake in the same style as its prequel, giving us a puzzle-platformer that plays something like The Lemmings meets Limbo. The mechanics are solid and offer a lot of replay value, but unfortunately the version I played was so buggy, none of that mattered. This version of Soulstorm is called the “oddtimized” edition. It’s a port from the PS5 from a year ago. Nothing that’s had that much time to iron out the wrinkles should feel so buggy it’s nearly unplayable. Still, I am loathe to discredit any game where there is potential, so let me try to explain this odd mess.

As a clarification, I want to stress that I ended up waiting on this review when I heard the release date was pushed back and there would be a Day 1 patch. At the time this review was submitted, no patch was sent out. I want to be clear: if the patch comes and clears up the glitches, I could easily add 2 points to my review score, but as it was when I last touched it, it felt almost unplayable.

Oddworld: Soulstorm – Oddtimized Edition is available on Nintendo Switch for USD $49.99.

Oddworld Soulstorm | Nintendo Switch Launch Trailer | Microids & Oddworld Inhabitants

Story – You Have Nothing to Lose but Your Chains

If you played the original Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus or the PS5 remake of Soulstorm, nothing’s changed here. You play as Abe, savior of the Mudokons, having just freshly rescued everyone from the horrors of the RuptureFarms. Your people are ready to proclaim the day saved and all troubles solved, but a meeting with a Mudokon Shaman reveals that his journey has only just begun.

The story is one of the many elements about Soulstorm of which I have no complaints. It immediately hooked me and kept me engaged with the plot. I saw the way the liberated Mudokons venerated Abe, how he feared falling short of their expectations, and how he hesitated to accept his role as their savior. I felt genuinely upset when I fell short and lost some of my Mudokon buddies because they meant something to me. This is good storytelling.

When a mystic shaman sits you down for a chat, you know you're in for a bad day.

When a mystic shaman sits you down for a chat, you know you’re in for a bad day.

Gameplay – The Odd, the Bad, and the Ugly

The best way I can think to relate the gameplay of Soulstorm is to break it up into three sections: What they got right, what doesn’t work, and my intensive list of glitches that dragged the entire experience down. Normally I wouldn’t devote an entire subsection just to glitches, but Soulstorm is a special case.

The Odd – What Works

First off, the gameplay is genuinely engaging. Most levels break down to running through a 2.5D platformer, going from area to area, ducking fire and sneaking past enemies. You scavenge items from fallen foes and trash cans (and can even craft some better stuff) to use in your efforts to get from A to B. From smoke screens to IEDs, you have a whole list of items to help you move through the levels.

Along the way you rescue enslaved worker Mudokons, controlling their behavior with commands to help sneak them to escape portals. Finally, you have jailbreak sections where you release up to 200 Mudokons in a mass exodus. Your job here is to set up traps and patrol the foreground where enemy NPCs fire on your defenseless friends who are fleeing in the background. 

But the best mechanic of all? Possession. Abe can chant and summon his life force to glide through the level and inhabit the body of enemy Sligs. You can also use it to scout ahead a bit, which is quite useful. While there are limitations, it’s just so fun to run around as a Slig and shotgun your unsuspecting (former) allies.

Overall? It’s fun, it makes you think, and it allows you several options on how to come at any given situation. If you’re a perfectionist, this is where you’ll be coming back time and time again. You just have to see if you can rescue just one more Mudokon to get that better ranking.

Abe and his crew sneakin' past some oblivious Sligs.

Abe and his crew sneakin’ past some oblivious Sligs.

The Bad – What Needs a Little Love

I have to warn you if you don’t own a pro controller for the Switch, you’re going to have a bad time. The controls for Soulstorm are quite floaty, which makes jumping a frustrating exercise in futility if you’re using the Joy-Cons. Most importantly, though, aiming your throws, which is roughly 50% of the gameplay, is near impossible with the Joy-Cons. The analog stick is too far to the right, making it difficult and uncomfortable to hold it steady while also clicking the R trigger. I swapped out after one level and it made things so much better… but still not perfect. Even with a more appropriate controller, the jumping is still floaty and the aiming is tedious and finicky. 

To a much lesser degree, I do need to complain a bit about the obtuse nature of some of the puzzles/levels. It can be difficult to know what the game wants you do next, sometimes. That alone wouldn’t be terrible, but combining it with the glitchy nature of the game means I’m never sure if I’m failing because I’m dumb or because something in the game’s code legitimately isn’t loading in right.

Another big issue is that I’m just not a fan of save points in modern gaming. I understand the idea is to provide a challenge and save points keep one from save scumming, but because they’re autosaves and only work when you walk past the save point, I ended up getting into a couple of situations where the game was dropping me into a failing state, where I and my Mudokon buddies were loading in under gunfire and it was leading to intense lag and unresponsiveness from my NPC comrades. That’s something I could mitigate if I had save slots that let me reload an earlier section of the level. As it stands, my options are to deal with it and lose a huge chunk of followers or just reload the whole level.

If you use your soul to explore ahead, it helps a bit.

If you use your soul to explore ahead, it helps a bit.

The Ugly – Disappointment on a New Level

Okay, prep yourselves because this is the part where I have to get real with you. There are obtuse games. There are glitchy games. But obtuse and glitchy games are a special breed of hell. You’ll never know if you’re failing the mission because you’re bad at the game or a trigger just isn’t loading correctly. Sadly, that’s Soulstorm in a nutshell. Here’s a brief listing of the glitches I had to deal with in this game.

The Screen Goes Black

In the middle of a jump or while I’m timing out a dangerous crossing, I had the screen go completely black on me for up to three seconds. I don’t have to tell you how infuriating that can be in a game where timing is everything.

Possessed Enemies Glitching

Several times I possessed a Slig only to have them run face first into a wall for thirty seconds, unresponsive to any of my commands. Worse yet, I couldn’t cancel out of it, meaning I was stuck possessing the creature I couldn’t control and had to reset the game.

Glitching Sniper

The issue that almost made me throw the game away was the first big glitch that hit me. There’s an area where you have to put out a fire then climb up a small tower while avoiding the laser sights of snipers. These snipers will instantly kill you if you cross their beams. One of the beams was glitched, however. It was stuck behind the wall right at the lip of where I had to go to progress. This meant that I couldn’t see the beam, but somehow was crossing it no matter how I chose to cross that platform.

Every time I died I had to redo the fire and tower area. Eighteen. Times. In. A. Row.  It wasn’t until I quit for the night, researched some playthroughs and saw that sniper didn’t exist in the older PS5 version that I came back to try again and found it magically gone.

The Chugs Are Real

As stated before, there are several times where the game wants you to manage upwards of ten to fifteen Mudokon buddies at time, but can’t seem to process that many along with all the enemies. The accompanying lag makes the game literally unplayable. And please know, I don’t use the word “literal” lightly.

Enemies Change their Mind

Several parts of the game require you to study the enemy behavior and predict their movement. Occasionally a Slig will move to the only exit in the area and then just… stay there. You can hit them with rocks and they turn around, but they don’t move. You’re stuck with either reloading or accepting you’re going to get shot as you run past.

Invisible Barriers

To top it all off, I had a lovely little encounter where, upon leaving a service elevator, my character just walked straight out onto nothing. Thin air. I was stuck jumping around on an invisible floor, unable to proceed.

Oddworld Soulstorm Review Floor Glitch Video (Switch)

Audio & Graphics – The Real Savior of Oddworld

Now that we’re done with all that bad stuff, let me take a minute to gush about the best part of Soulstorm. It is gorgeous. It’s gross and grungy and used and just so perfect, aesthetically speaking. And to pull it all off on the Switch is nothing less that impressive. Just take a look.

Even Abe is impressed the Switch port looks this nice.

Even Abe is impressed the Switch port looks this nice.

A lot of love and care went into taking this original Playstation title and translating it to modern consoles. So much detail in recreating the scenes, the characters, the locations is evident in every moment of the game. The world feels real, it feels lived in, and I am so in on it!

Top it off with music that sets the mood and even manages to subtly enhance the creepiness, the overwhelming odds, the rust and metal feeling, and you have a winning combination.

Oddworld: Soulstorm – Oddtimized Edition was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with key provided by Redner PR.

Disappointment. That is the singular word this game leaves me with. Somewhere, buried under a pile of glitches and bugs, is a competent, beautiful game, but I am just not patient enough to wade through all of it to find that game. Normally I'd consider a glitch or two as just an annoyance that I can look past, but I legitimately didn't want to finish this game because of some of the glitches. Supposedly there's a patch coming that may or may not address this, and if it shows up, maybe this is worth checking out. As stated, this game without the glitches would easily gain another two points on its score. If you're patient and don't mind constantly resetting the game, there's something enjoyable deep, DEEP inside, but I am not the person to dig it out.
  • Beautiful Graphics
  • Good Soundtrack
  • Engaging Story
  • Controls are Floaty
  • Progress Ending Glitches are EVERYWHERE
  • Checkpoints are Annoying
  • Aiming Mechanics are Difficult on Switch
  • Puzzles can be Vague

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