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Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee (PlayStation) artwork

Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee (PlayStation) review

"With a forebodingly somber score and intricately detailed, pre-rendered backgrounds, Abe’s Oddysee is a sensual luxury, but the gameplay is straight from Out of This World, and just as hard."

What does it take to be a video game hero? Is it flashy armor, Prozac-resistant angst, car-hurtling strength, or a sword the size of Texas? It could be any of these, but I suppose poor Abe will just have to make do.

As far as Mudokon slaves went, Abe had it pretty good as a janitor for Rupture Farms - makers of such fine snacks as Scrab Cakes, Paramite Pies, and Meech Munchies, until the Meeches went extinct. Little did he know that the company’s future was in jeopardy. Profits were down and meat sources were running dry, but boss Molluck had a tasty new treat in mind – Mudokon Pops. It might be time for Abe to find a new line of work.

Armed with a loincloth and sheer determination, gangly, blue-skinned Abe’s first goal is to escape the factory, and preferably not wrapped around a wooden stick. Moving ahead one room at a time, he will have to maneuver past booby traps, treacherous drops, and an army of gun-toting Sligs. The odds are already stacked against him, but this big-hearted Mudokon can’t turn his back and abandon his fellow slaves to the meat grinder. With a little ingenuity and a surplus of luck, Abe just might be able to save a few on the path to freedom.

Abe does manage to escape, but his victory is only a prelude to the heroic destiny that lies ahead. Through the premonitions of a native shaman, Abe sees a purpose for his own pitiful existence, and a future without brooms or floor wax. He will venture beyond the Monsaic Lines, holy caves of the native Mudokons, and into the proving grounds of Scrabania and Paramonia. In these tainted, but still sacred lands, Abe will gain the skills and perseverance to return to the factory and become the savior of the Mudokons and the hope of restoring Oddworld.

Abe is not completely defenseless. He does have a mouth after all, but he isn’t much of a biter. He laughs, whistles, greets, groans, and says, “Follow me.” It’s not the most impressive skill-set, but it comes in handy when Abe needs to distract a Slig or lead a slave to safety. His true special ability though, is chanting. With this rhythmic mantra, Abe can unlock certain doors, activate teleporting bird-portals, and even possess the simple-minded Sligs. Now, combine them all. Possess one Slig, command the slaves to duck, drill the other guard full of bullets, and watch the possessed Slig’s body splatter the room as your power makes a nasty exit.

With a forebodingly somber score and intricately detailed, pre-rendered backgrounds, Abe’s Oddysee is a sensual luxury, but the gameplay is straight from Out of This World, and just as hard. Abe can run, jump, and roll, but this is far from being an action game. The environments are broken into a series of static screens, and each screen brings a new puzzle to be solved. Some will be as simple as leaping across a small gap or rolling under an obstacle. Others will have you dumbfounded, anxiously memorizing enemy patterns from the safety of the shadows. If one thing is for sure, it’s that you will die, a lot. Thank goodness for infinite lives.

The difficulty alone will keep most people from ever completing Abe’s Oddysee, but the maddening checkpoint system will seal the deal for all but the most devoted. One automated checkpoint may be in the next screen over, and then, five screens over. It isn’t long before the difficulty gets dialed to eleven and you will be doing the same multi-screen puzzles so many times that the word ‘repeatedly’ doesn’t quite cut it. Flip a switch in one room, dodge some enemies in the next, deactivate a bomb, make a few death-defying leaps, and just when you get to the end, a rock falls from the sky. It’s all about trial, error, and restarting. Get one section wrong and you have to do it all over again. At least Abe’s Oddysee is a beautiful game, because the scenery will be burned into your retinas.

With buttery-smooth controls, inventive puzzles, and disgustingly lovable cast of character, Abe’s Oddysee is nothing short of stunning. I just hope that you are ready for a challenge. Turning a cliché upside down, Abe’s Oddysee is a game that you will hate to love. It will beat you relentlessly without mercy while you cry in agony and curse its very existence, but in the end, it will be one of the most endearing games you have ever had the displeasure to play.

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Staff review by Brian Rowe (July 25, 2007)

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