Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee
First posted on 03 August 1999. Last updated on 07 September 2009.
Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee is the first game of the Oddworld Quintology. In a lush world of diabolical danger where everyone wants to eat you, you are the skinny guy with no weapons. Run, jump, hide, scramble, and talk your way past the ugliest bunch of carnivorous crustaceans ever created. Welcome to Abe's world of Oddworld!
As Abe, you are not the hunter but the hunted. The story begins with a prologue when Abe, a slave, eavesdrops on Mullock the Glukkon who plans to boost the corporate profits by selling Abe's friends as novelty meat products. Abe is caught and now awaits execution in his cell. Your mission is to help Abe escape from RuptureFarms to the woods in order to find the native Mudokons who can help him. On your way, you must save as many Mudokons as you can before they are killed. It takes both strategy and skills to get the Mudokons out of their sticky situations. In the end, you must lead the Mudokons to freedom with the help of a mysterious Mudokon shaman "Big Face".
Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee is a third person platform side scroller similar to many console titles. The difference is that this game features great graphics and sound. The character animations and cut scenes are stunning. For being an almost 2D platform game, the backgrounds are surprisingly 3D like. The quality in the animation of both Abe and his enemies is easily seen through the more than 2,750 frames drawn to provide movements and transition effects. The designers have also given Abe with some very human characteristics. For instance, when you accidentally run into a wall, Abe smacks into it, falls down, shakes his head, groans, and slowly stands back up. Although the backgrounds are all well drawn, the whole environment often appears too dark on screen. In some parts of the game I have to crank up the brightness and contrast on my monitor to maximum to see much of anything. Movie sequences are played between each level to convey the plot which are otherwise difficult to communicate during regular gameplay.
Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee features a number of interesting technologies to enhance gameplay. "Gamespeak" boosts character interaction by allowing for real-time communication prompted by controller combinations. "Shadowplay" makes the background interactive by allowing Abe to hide in shadows when chased by his enemies. "Living weapons" lets the player to control characters to be used against each other through gamespeak commands or by possessing them. "SmartSound" is a real-time audio engine that matches music and sound effects to the character's emotions and game tempo. All these enhancements are made possible by the ALIVE (Aware Lifeforms in Virtual Entertainment) engine that is developed in-house.
The rules of gameplay are straightforward. You control the little guy through death defying perils a screen at a time, while not letting the other Mudokons die. Trust me, these guys die off like slugs taking a stroll across the Great Salt Planes! Although Abe does not have any natural killing or defensive power, he holds certain magical talents that can aid in your quest. He can possess enemy bodies and open portals to rescue fellow Mudokons and himself. There is also a special power that you do find out about until later in the game. Here is a piece of free advice—save as many of them as you can. As long as you save over 50 of them, you should be fine. Trying to save all 99 of these critters is like trying to beat yourself to death with a blunt child's toy—slow and painful! Do not save less than 50 of them or you end up as somebody's dinner at the end of the game! This game can be difficult and frustrating. There are times when you must try the same set of maneuvers over and over again to get pass a screen, such as run, run, jump, wait, wait, jump, spin, crouch, tap, run, etc. If you miss even a step you have to start the whole maneuver again. Fortunately, you can have as many lives as you want without counting against you. Hints are also given by the marquee scrolling in the background.
Despite some problematic gameplay elements, the designers have added an interesting way of communicating with characters in the game. With ALIVE gamespeak, you can communicate using expressions such as Hello, Follow me, Wait, Whistle, Fart, and Laugh. These abilities are pivotal in solving some of the puzzles. Chanting allows Abe to possess enemy bodies, locate hints, and open portals to transport the Mudokons and himself. Among the odd characters you meet are Molluck the Glukkon, Sligs, Elum, Paramites, Slogs, and Scrabs. Unfortunately, you cannot always possess the guard sligs, otherwise the game is a cinch! Chanting and possession are occasionally blocked by the zapping of the Robot Drones.
On the positive side, the game should hold enough of your interest to keep you going though the tough parts of the game. The graphics and animations are all superb, and the movie sequences are stunning to watch. The gamespeak feature allows for a realistic way to talk to characters within the game. On the negative side, the plotline ranges from thin to nonexistent. This game should have been much shorter. After a while you simply wish the game can hurry up and reach the end. For a 2D side scroller, hardware requirements are demanding. Sometimes the game slows down so much that it is hard to move Abe. For example, in the game where Abe has to jump over pits with falling meat flying all over the place, the game slows down to a point that it is hard to make it over.
Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee is an unusual platform game with few interesting adventure elements. While the game features some great graphics and a novel interface, demanding arcade sequences can make playing this game a frustrating experience.