"Munchís Oddysee takes basic platformer elements like running, jumping and item-collecting and combines them with intelligent puzzles. Abe and Munch both have different strengths and weaknesses, so getting through each puzzle requires cooperation - you can switch between the characters with the press of a button. "
I've always liked the Oddworld series - platform games with some puzzle mixed in, packed with personality, weird humor, likeable characters, farting and serious commentary on our culture. The third installment has miraculously found it's way to Xbox exclusivity, and is making the often-not-so-graceful leap from the second to the third dimension. While the transition wasn't perfect, Oddworld Inhabitants have done an admirable job of bringing mostly everything that made the first two games special over to Munchís Oddysee.
If youíre one of the poor souls who has missed out on the first Oddworld games, itís okay. At the beginning of Munchís Oddysee you have the option of watching about 10 minutes worth of outstandingly done video that explains the basic story of the first two games. The brief version: There are these greedy guys called Glukkons who will do anything to make money. Their main cash flow comes from hunting animal species to extinction in order to make yummy meat products. Thereís a meat processing plant called Rupture Farms which is staffed by enslaved Mudokons (alien-looking green guys). When Abe, one of the Mudokons, overhears a plan to turn his fellow Mudokons into the next meat product, he embarks on a quest to free all of the Mudokons and do whatever he can to disrupt the Glukkonsí plans. After liberating loads of his brothers and managing to shut down some Glukkon operations, Abe becomes the hero of his people.
As you can tell from the title, thereís a new guy this time around and his name is Munch. Heís a Gabbit (a weird fish-mutant-thing with a huge head and a webbed, three-toed foot) and heís lonely. All of his Gabbit-friends have apparently been hunted to extinction for their eggs (Gabbiar) which are the hip delicacy of the moment. Abe and Munch join forces to search for the other Gabbits, liberate anyone they can find, and free the land from the clutches of the hoggish capitalist bastards.
Munchís Oddysee takes basic platformer elements like running, jumping and item-collecting and combines them with intelligent puzzles. Abe and Munch both have different strengths and weaknesses, so getting through each puzzle requires cooperation - you can switch between the characters with the press of a button. Abe and Munch arenít alone - throughout Oddworld there are groups of Mudokons. They all love Abe, and will obey his every command. Manipulating them is often key to getting through the levels. Besides commanding the Mudokons Abe has the ability to chant to form a Possession Orb, which he can then direct to possess any enemy in the game. Munch has some special abilities too - thanks to a surgically implanted sonar unit Munch has the ability to electrically zap people, or control machinery like cranes, robots, etc. In short, youíve got a lot of tools at your disposal.
Something I particularly liked was that when youíre playing there is absolutely no on-screen interface to be seen. No icons, no little menus, nothing cluttering the screen at all, which adds to the clean look of the game. The levels are big, the texture work is excellent, the characters are all excruciatingly detailed. Munchís Oddysee gets two big thumbs up in the graphics department. The sound is no slouch either. Every character has multiple lines of speech that you can hear by pressing various buttons. Itís honestly the best voice acting Iíve heard in a game. The voices are all very funny and fit each character perfectly.
The difficulty is just about perfect. The puzzles start out pretty simple and gently slope up to the point where they require quite a bit of thought, though theyíre never really true brain busters that will make you want to eat your controller in frustration. However, there were some frustrating aspects to the game. First of all, Abe has some control issues. The line between tip-toeing/walking/running is very thin. If youíre on a ledge and you just want to creep forwards a bit you can push the joystick a liiiiiitle bit too hard and Abe will go running off the ledge. Another thing that might bother some people is that once youíre far into the game the puzzles start feeling a little repetitive. There are also a couple of times where you have to undertake some pretty tedious and monotonous tasks.
Despite these flaws Munchís Oddysee is still a very worthy game. Itís unlike anything else out there. It literally explodes with creativity, personality, and intelligence. Itís got depth and a just-right level of difficulty. Most gamers probably prefer a game thatís all fantasy, but for me itís refreshing to see a game that isnít subtle in itís confrontation of real world issues. In this case the issue is the effect that unhindered greed, capitalism, and consumerism is having on our world. Call me a no-good hippy, but I actual got slightly emotional during the opening scene where Munch was in the ocean calling out for his friends that had all be trapped in nets and taken away to be used for the financial gain of others. While the issues the game takes on are rather serious, theyíre presented in a fashion that will make you laugh or at least chuckle - itís not all grim and pessimistic. So I want YOU make like Abe and RISE UP. Recycle, support organic farmers, support small businesses. Ride a bike instead of driving a car. Fight the power. Or short of that, at least play Munchís Oddysee - itís definitely one of the most overlooked titles on Xbox and at a bargain price of twenty dollars, you canít afford to miss it.
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