Oddworld – a relatively popular franchise that was pumping out relatively well-received games in the late 90s and early 00s. A franchise that I’d never really had any experience with, but seemed to have some decent popularity in the gaming sphere.
Until now, the only entry in the franchise I’d played was Stranger’s Wrath, originally released on the Xbox back in 2005. I remember the release of that game being a bit contentious; a franchise mostly known for its puzzle platformers making the shift to a first-person shooter.
As it turns out, Stranger’s Wrath marked the last release of the game before the series went dormant. After nearly a decade of regular releases, Oddword dropped off the face of the earth.
…until 2014, when a remake of the original Oddworld title brought the franchise back into everyone’s minds. Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! released as an early PS4 title, eventually finding its way to nearly every console of the last six years…even being back-ported to PS3.
Of course, in the on-going rush to bring everything to Switch, six years after its original release, this remake of Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee is finding its way to the ever-popular console/handheld hybrid.
Developed by Just Add Water and published by Oddworld Inhabitants, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! is set for release on Switch on October 27th, 2020.
Delicious Treats from Unusual Meats
The titular Oddworld is a very…well…odd world, made up of varying kinds of weird and occasionally grotesque creatures. The world currently finds itself in the grip of the Glukkons, a species that seeks nothing but money and power, who have enslaved other races and started turning some of them into food.
Abe, a creature known as a Mudokon, works as a slave in a Glukkon factory. It’s here that he accidentally stumbles upon news of the Glukkons’ next delicious food idea: one made out of Mudokons. Abe escapes from the factory and, while on the run, he discovers the history of the Mudokons and other races of Oddworld, finding the power to help his fellow slaves escape the Glukkon factory before they’re turned into delicious treats.
The story here is relatively straightforward, mostly told through cutscenes that occur every few levels. The prose is interesting, with most of the voiced lines, as well as on-screen text, completely made up of rhyming couplets. I do have to say, an odd touch for an Oddworld (…sorry).
New ‘n’ Tasty does a great job of introducing its world without relying too much on exposition. Abe does have internal monologue that helps define specific characters and events, but the world itself is defined mostly visually. Abe’s journey brings him through the origin areas of many of the game’s creatures, with the way they act and react during gameplay being all that’s needed to understand what they are.
Searching ‘Round and Falling Down
New ‘n’ Tasty is a fairly pure puzzle platformer, and a slow-paced one at that. Gameplay is made up of navigating Abe through various screen, occasionally having to activate certain switches or rescue fellow Mudokons along the way.
The puzzles, at their core, are all about figuring out the correct sequence of actions Abe needs to do to continue to the next room. A door is locked by someone asking for a password? Go over here and get the password. But that room is blocked by a narrow tunnel lined with bombs, so you have to go over here to find an enemy you can mind-control into walking into said bombs.
It sounds like a lot of trial and error, but the way forward is usually easy to suss out with a quick scan of the room Abe is currently in. It’s rare that a puzzle with an obscure answer rears its head. More often than not, if I found myself stuck, it was because there was an action I completely forgot Abe could do (I kept forgetting Abe can mind-control certain enemies).
Some screens, though, are a bit more action-oriented, and that’s where some cracks in New ‘n’ Tasty begin to show. As mentioned, the game is rather slowly paced, and the controls reflect that. When you’re put up against obstacles that require quick movement or copious jumping, things can fall apart fast…especially when it requires the latter.
I still can’t quite figure out how to get Abe to jump over obstacles and pits reliably. It seems to require holding the jump button right before hitting the direction you want Abe to jump…an input sequence that feels completely backward.
In fast-moving segments, this meant I always had to input a jump command slightly before I wanted to actually jump. There are a few moments where Abe has to ride a creature at top-speed across a series of bombs and pits, and these moments unleashed some real anger in me as I would proceed to spend ten minutes attempting and reattempting these screens, falling over and over and over because my inputs just didn’t feel like registering.
Moments like this leave a black spot on my enjoyment of the game. The slower paced screens, where you’re exploring an area to figure out how to proceed, are much more enjoyable. Sure, there was rarely a screen I didn’t die at least once, but those moments felt more my own fault than the game’s.
Older Sights of Aesthetic Nights
New ‘n’ Tasty is a port of a six-year-old game that itself is a remake of a 22-year-old game (and typing that made me feel old), and it can be noticeable at times. The environments and animations still look good, but they don’t quite seem to have the polish of a modern release.
The surprisingly numerous cutscenes feel the same way. Actually, the animation in these still holds up great, with it’s off-kilter cartoonish presentation. The scenes themselves, though, seem low-resolution and a bit washed out in appearance.
One thing that does hold up, though, is the ambiance of the environments. Even if the designs look to be out of a multiple-year-old game…which they are…the feeling that the scenery and lighting often provoke is top notch. Whether going for mystical or oppressive, the environmental design communicates the feelings well.
The game also includes a decent amount of voice acting, mostly for Abe, but with some extra lines for various NPCs. The thing is, the performances are done in weird tones and accents that make them very difficult to understand. A stylistic choice, I’m sure; Abe can be understood with enough focus, but characters such as the Glukkons seem purposely impossible to make out.
Classic Port of an Uncertain Sort
Overall, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty is an older title that holds up well…for the most part. I did enjoy the majority of the time I spent with it, slowly working my way through puzzles and taking in the wild environments.
However, things really do kind of fall apart whenever the action gets any faster than a brisk walk. The jumping controls in particular are a nuisance, creating sequences that nearly made me quit in frustration.
If you’ve been interested in taking this classic franchise for a spin, New ‘n’ Tasty seems to be the best way to do it. Just be prepared for some of that old-school clunkiness.
Review copy provided by Oddworld Inhabitants for Switch. Screenshots taken by reviewer.