Version tested: PC Windows
Other platforms: PlayStation, Game Boy, OnLive, PSN
1997 was a fantastic time in video game history. We saw the release of the Nintendo 64, and 3D graphics were fast becoming the standard with releases such as Tomb Raider 2, Crash Bandicoot 2, Final Fantasy VII, and the first Gran Turismo.
One title stood out from the rest though, maintaining a classic 2D side scrolling look combined with beautiful backgrounds and character animation, with a unique take on gameplay which focused primarily on taking a slow pace and solving puzzles. This classic was Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee.
You are the titular character Abe, a clumsy but well-meaning Mudokon slave working at RuptureFarms, which is said to be the largest meat processing factory on Oddworld. While on the late cleaning shift Abe accidentally discovers details of a new meat product to come out of RuptureFarms – It’s him and his fellow Mudokons. As Abe you must escape from this hell and rescue as many of his enslaved race as possible.
Abe’s Oddysee is not a fast-paced action game, and it can only loosely be described as a platformer as the main gaming element here is puzzle-solving. The game pulls no punches from the start dropping you right in the middle of Abe’s escape. There is no user interface and there is no heads-up display. Navigation can be difficult through many of the stages leading to incredibly difficult gameplay. The learning curve of this game could be likened to a brick wall, on a slight slant.
The gameplay itself is still unique and good fun. One necessity to finish the game is to utilise ‘gamespeak’, a mechanic which allows Abe to interact with other characters in the game. Abe can lead Mudokons to safety, open up bird portals, and chant in order to possess armed enemies known as Sligs.
The game at times is an incredibly frustrating experience, often a lot of trial and error is required to pass certain screens, and often you find yourself learning the events of certain areas to pass it after 10 or 12 attempts.
Most confrontations in the game require avoidance and cunning. You will find yourself running away, hiding in shadows, pulling switches and making leaps of faith. Some tasks require precision jumping and timing which at times can result in many rage quits.
Abe’s Oddysee does draw you back though, and it has so many redeeming features which will keep you coming back and drive you to finish the game.
There is a brilliant story being told here and instantly likeable characters that you want to guide to safety and share in their journey. All the characters have a fantastic sense of humour too, enemy interaction is often hilarious and talking to other species in game is sweet and entertaining, such as meeting the ‘Elum’ which Abe teams up with later in the game.
The sweet sense of humour in the game is also hidden in the backgrounds and makes use of loads of visual and audio gags. A strange contrast to some of the in-game cut scenes which are extremely violent.
AS the game progresses Abe gains new skills which add another dimension to puzzle solving in the game which keeps it fresh and interesting.
Abe’s Oddysee is a cruel and punishing experience, similar to what our hero suffers at RuptureFarms, but there is a sense of achievement to be had when passing the increasingly difficult areas.
Be warned though, this game has two endings and after all that hard work saving Abe, facing the bad ending is one of the most demotivating moments in gaming.
Abe’s Oddysee is an enjoyable and difficult gaming experience which is endearing and fun but at the same time a frustrating puzzler which will have you tearing your hair out. This is a game which requires time and patience but will ultimately pay off.
I give Abe’s Oddysee a modest 70 for an excellent story and puzzle experience, but many people may not see it through to the end.