Thursday 27 October 2016

Oddworld New’n’Tasty review: Help yourself to a second serving

Published 08/04/2015 | 19:25

Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee – New’n’Tasty
Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee – New’n’Tasty

CREATING memorable characters is hard. Creating characters that are both memorable and lovable is really tough. Especially when they’re as goddamn ugly as Abe.

Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee – New’n’Tasty (XOne/PS4/PC/Mac); rating: 8.5/10; age: 12+

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But developer Lorne Lanning hit a rich seam of inspiration when he conjured Abe and the inhospitable but grimly entertaining planet of Oddworld for PS1 in 1997. Wired magazine even put Abe on the cover in 2002 as an example of gaming’s glorious future.

Even though Oddworld spawned a further three games, Lanning exited the industry in frustration after a series of contractual disputes with publishers.

But Abe and his pals hold too much of a pull over Lanning and this New’n’Tasty high-def remake tests the waters for a full-blown Oddworld sequel.

Watch out for the awkward jumping in Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee – New’n’Tasty
Watch out for the awkward jumping in Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee – New’n’Tasty

The invention on show here proves it would be a crime if Lanning wasn’t encouraged to renew his love of games with a treasure chest full of fresh ideas. For now, we’ll have to console ourselves with this nostalgic 2D adventure, gussied up, sharp edges sanded down and still brimming with personality in its audio and visuals.

Living as if in a cartoonish Soylent Green world, bipedal reptile Abe discovers he and his fellow slaves at a meat-processing factory are just fodder for the plant’s food chain. So he sets out to escape and to free as many of his kin as possible.

Oddworld bristles with deadly traps and aggressive enforcers, so Abe’s tasks walk a delicate tightrope between self-preservation and risking his skin to assist other slaves.

The original was brutally unforgiving, widely spacing the checkpoints and building gameplay around trial and error. If misjudging Abe’s awkward hop-jump didn’t get you, the offscreen guards often would.

Mind control in Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee – New’n’Tasty
Mind control in Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee – New’n’Tasty

In the 2015 edition, falling repeatedly into a spiky pit or getting gunned down by a cackling guard remains a constant threat. But the new power to quicksave anywhere takes the sting out of the old-school difficulty.

Hopefully before frustration sets in, you will have been comprehensively charmed by Abe and his quirky ways. With no weapons , he relies only on stealth, misdirection and the occasional ability to control enemies’ minds. His limited communication – spanning a short gamut from waving and chanting to, um, farting – becomes part of the appeal as he negotiates the gentle puzzles. Pull a lever here, direct a follower there, encourage an enemy to shoot his fellow guards – it’s all part of a tightly woven fabric requiring consistent timing with little room for mistakes.

It’s punishing, true, and the cumbersome controls should really have been reworked. But it’s a real pleasure to get reacquainted with Abe almost 20 years after his captivating debut.

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