"The Wild West is a staple fantasy setting for youth. Before we graduate to mature things like lasers and starcrusiers with hyperdrives and screens that scroll with technobabble, we entertain ourselves with simpler stories of simpler days. A cowboy is all the long arm the law needs; with his six-shooter and trusty steed, he brings pesky outlaws to justice before riding off into the dusty sunset. Stranger's Wrath provides that but in a world that's....well, odd. "
The Wild West is a staple fantasy setting for youth. Before we graduate to mature things like lasers and starcrusiers with hyperdrives and screens that scroll with technobabble, we entertain ourselves with simpler stories of simpler days. A cowboy is all the long arm the law needs; with his six-shooter and trusty steed, he brings pesky outlaws to justice before riding off into the dusty sunset. Stranger's Wrath provides that but in a world that's....well, odd.
You are Stranger: a bipedal furry guy who resembles no animal that I can think of but nonetheless stands to thwart lawlessness in a lawless land. Stranger is, strangely enough, probably the most normal guy in the game, given that towns consist entirely of chickens with Southern accents. Every last one of which sound like the one guy in any social event who thinks it's still amusing to eat a helium ballon and say something stupid. Unfortunately, they're the only ones who possess the necessary know-how to cure your rather unexplained health problems. To further the misfortune, the cure is going to cost you a bag full of the arms and legs of criminals acrossed the country. And so, in need of money and being the only man who isn't evil and not plagued with an ungraceful waddling form of locomotion, the task of protecting the coop-ridden masses (and collecting the rewards) falls on your furry shoulders. Yes, the plot has a delightful tendency to not take itself seriously.
But put away your six shooter, pardner. Rather than the staple weapon of all cowboy-dom, Stranger employs the more simplistic elegance of the high-powered, self-reloading, double-barreled, bug-shooting crossbow. No shotguns or dynamite here; the gameplay centers on using wild critters native to the landscape to kill or incapacitate your enemies long enough to capture them. Live bounties are worth more than dead ones. So to reap the full reward, you'll have to work for your keep. The work is pleasurable, though, and the game's numerous ammo types allow for a number of interesting ways to dispatch your foes.
If the very idea of launching small fuzzy animals out of a crossbow doesn't have you reliving the days childhood bliss where a magnifying glass and some ants were a good time, the effects of such attacks should. Is the guy patrolling the corridor ahead going to alert his posse? No problem! You can lure him to a trap using chipmunks that insult his mother, prompting him into a blind rage and a mad dash to crush your foul-mouthed accomplice. As he strays too close, he will pass by the furry mines you left nearby, which respond to his presence by leaping onto his face and slowly biting him to death. Alternatively, you could launch a spider that does nothing but drink Red Bull off-screen to tie him up in a temporary web and capture him while he's helpless. The ammo types are all inventive, interesting, and give you a great deal of freedom to deal with situations in any manner you wish-- so long as you have the necessary ammo.
Herein lies one of the game's faults, however. The ammo capacity for any given type of creature is low. Abysmally low. Starting somewhere around the level of the IQ of an inbred UFO-sighter, it runs out quickly without careful management. If you run out of something you need mid-mission, you have to backtrack to get it. While hunting for ammo was an intriguing concept early on, but quickly became a chore that was alleviated only slightly by increased ammo stores that can be bought with the proceeds of your endeavors later on.
Stranger's Wrath also implements a surprisingly functional system to switch between first- and third-person views. Obviously, the third-person view is slanted more towards platforming and world navigation, while first person allows use of your crossbow. However, he's not broken in third-person; he can melee the enemy, knocking him unconscious for easy capture. And the only thing in Oddworld better than a horse is galloping through the prairies and canyons of a dusty western afternoon on all fours.
If Stranger's Wrath had nothing else, it's certainly innovative enough to warrant a look. But it has so much more in fun gameplay varied enough to never get stale, and a style that allows you to truly play the part of a hunter stalking his prey. While marred by a few things that seem as if the developers simply dropped the ball, this game has soul and spirit in buckets, and is worth a look by FPS fans looking for something different, or even people who just want a little fun.
Community review by dragoon_of_infinity (October 07, 2005)
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