Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, first released for the original PlayStation in 1997, was a groundbreaking achievement in game design. Oddworld Inhabitants, the developers of the game, put a strong focus on cinematic storytelling long before doing so would become so fashionable within the industry. Often a want to replicate cinema in games simply means more dynamic camera movements, bombastic action sequences and, on occasion, an attempt at more engaging narrative, but Oddworld took the concept in a very different direction, concentrating more on the pre-production and world building methods used in other mediums.
The beauty of Oddworld is in its focus on unique visual design and narrative elements with a message, and most of all a focus on pure entertainment. Starting with Abe’s Oddysee and continuing through to Stranger’s Wrath, the last Oddworld game released before the long hiatus the series took, each game has used its narrative, gameplay and visual design to reinforce a message about a number of topics. These have often revolved around themes of industrialism and the relationship between civilisation and nature. In a rare turn, these messages are displayed openly with an air of humour as opposed to hidden beneath layers of obscurity and misdirection.
Abe’s Oddysee and those that followed it didn’t want to outsmart you with a moral, they wanted to entertain you with one, and to this day I have yet to see another franchise attempt to replicate this style. For this reason it is an absolute pleasure to see the franchise returning, with Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty recreating the first game in the series to introduce new generations to Oddworld as well as giving old fans the opportunity to rekindle their love for Abe the Mudokon and the other unique creatures that players encounter throughout the game.
The story told in Abe’s Oddysee is a fairly simple but very engaging one in which players take control of the titular character, Abe, a Mudokon slave working in the colossal meat processing plant Rupture Farms for a group of unpleasant creatures called Glukkons. Abe is largely oblivious of the horrific conditions he lives in until he accidentally learns of a plan by the Glukkon’s to kill their slaves and selling them as a new treat for their ever-hungry customers. This is when Abe starts his daring escape, begins to learn about the outside world, and the deep connection his race once had with nature.
Rupture Farms is full of Mudokon’s and it is up to Abe to save them, though how much effort he puts in to this feat is entirely up to the player and will have a fairly drastic effect on the way the story ends for Abe. As previously mentioned, New ‘n’ Tasty is clearly conveying a message to the player, but at no point does it ever feel as though this anti-consumerist and anti-corporation messaging is being forced upon you. Rather, Abe’s Oddysee feels like a spoof, full of caricatures and preposterously exaggerated versions of real life circumstances, never afraid to make light of its self with repeated use of slapstick comedy and an amusing ambivalence or simple mindedness to many of the characters dialogue.
Touted as a HD-remake, it may be easy for some to dismiss the release, but Oddworld Inhabitants and new partner developers Just Add Water have done so much more than offer modern visuals atop of what is now somewhat dated gameplay. A number of changes have been made to the game on the whole; some which may not quite deliver, but most of which are a very welcome addition to the experience. So New ‘n’ Tasty is essentially a new game, being built from scratch, using assets from the original game as a guideline and offering slightly altered takes on the puzzles found in the original.