Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus (PC) review
"In many ways the same game as Abe's Odyssey, but bigger in scope in every possible way."
Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus is the sequel to the PS1 classic Oddworld: Abe's Odyssey. If you dive into the... odd... hierarchy of Oddworld games, it is considered a bonus game and not part of the promised 4 game Oddworld series. Munch's Odyssey is the 2nd game in that series, and Stranger's Wrath is another side game and not part of the main four. Plus there is a remake of Abe's Odyssey and a remake of Abe's Exoddus is currently in development. I really don't get why you would say you're going to make a four game series, then make a bunch of side games and remakes without making the main games. What is this, Kingdom Hearts?
This foray into Oddworld takes place immediately after Abe's adventures at Rupture Farms in the first game. He receives a vision that more Mudokons are being exploited and soon ventures out to another sprawling industrial complex. This one is manufacturing Soulstorm Brew using Mudokon slaves and one very special secret ingredient... bones dug up from ancient Mudokon burial grounds by blind slaves who don't know what they're doing. Abe is off and running in another 2D puzzle-platformer game in an attempt to shut down yet another exploitative business venture.
You traverse pre-rendered levels as Abe in single screen chunks and move between screens with the aid of a quick transition swipe. Abe's main goal is to travel forward and rescue Mudokon slaves. To rescue slaves, you must lead them to a portal they can use to teleport to safety. Once again, you'll be leading them by talking to them. Abe can say 8 phrases, such as “Hi,” “Follow me,” and “Wait.” Mudokons you talk to react appropriately and talk back to you, and once again the illusion of a real interaction between characters is pretty firmly in place. You'll often have to get past some guards without getting you or you companions killed, and while sometimes you can use the environment to trap or kill guards, you'll often be using Abe's trump card to get rid of them: he can chant and possess other beings.
This might sound overpowered, but is actually quite limited by the fact that the enemies know he can do this and have installed anti-chanting security devices liberally throughout the game. But once you get an enemy on a screen without a device (or destroy the device), you can take control of them and make them do whatever you want them to. You can also talk as the enemies, using their voices to disable security features or command loyal dog-like creatures. The main enemies also have guns, so you can go kill other enemies. And of course when you are done, you can pop them into gibs, Testuo style. Possession is nothing new to players of the first game, but in this one you can possess a wider variety of enemies. Possessing the Glukon big-wigs and ordering the other enemies around in a bossy-man voice is hilarious. You can also possess exploding farts and fly them around, 10/10 GOTY.
The game looks like a straight platformer but plays more like an adventure game. You need to meticulously solve environmental puzzles to proceed. Finding switches to shut down hazards or items to distract creatures or a way to sneak past sentries are all par for the course, as is trying to find the exact right order to move slaves around, possess guards, and take out enemies without getting any of your comrades killed. There are also action elements, such as rolling through blades, running from enemies, and sneaking through the shadows without making a sound. These feel quite different than other platformers as the game seems to have an invisible grid running your movements. It's hard to explain, but when you tap forward, Abe moves 1 movement space forward: it is exactly the same every time. There are only so many spots you can stand on in any given screen, whereas in another platformer like Mario, for instance, it seems like you can stand anywhere. Maneuvering Abe into position while a guard is about to shoot you can feel weird at first, but this system of movement is really just different, not worse, and the predictability of your inputs to the output you will get on screen certainly has its advantages. It can be frustrating though, and it's tempting to blame your many, many deaths on this movement system. In reality, the game is just super-deadly, and you would die just as much even if you had a more analog movement system.
This game is epically long too. It has 3 times the slaves to rescue as the first game, and it genuinely feels about 3 times as long to me. It's enjoyable throughout though, and I got sucked into playing multiple times to get the different endings and ending messages. And just when I thought I was bored of the game, I started a run where you try to kill as many Mudokons as possible to get the really bad ending... and it was a blast. It was cathartic to come up with new and exciting ways to murder the Mudokons you normally put so much effort into protecting, and it breathed new life into another playthrough for me. In the end, I played the game 3.5 times in a row to see all the ending messages, and I enjoyed it each time.
The game's save system has not aged well. You can save at any time, and you can instantly quicksave with the tap of a button. This basically means the game has aggressive autosaving after every little move... but you have to manually press a button each time. This doesn't feel like cheating, it feels like the game was designed around this concept as trial and error is often needed at every little step of figuring out a solution to the game's hundreds of puzzling scenarios. It just feels weird to constantly press a button to save. And if you forget to press it for awhile you may be set back quite a bit even though you are expecting to restart right where you left off. And if the game crashes (which it did about 10 times during my lengthy time with the game) you lose your quicksave, meaning you have to do a permanent save from the menu quite often too if you want to stave off paranoia. You can also quicksave yourself into a corner and either have to reload an old permanent save or use the restart section option on the menu. It just feels awkward overall, but gets the job done. In a modern game, I'd just expect it to have autosave and be impossible to get stuck in so that you literally never think about saving instead of almost having to plot out your saving strategy as you currently have to.
I like this game a lot, but the fact that this game has the Oddworld touch makes it even better. Every Oddworld game I've played has this amazing sense of unique place and themes that are a lot more thought out than many, many other games. Oddworld feels like a real place, and all the entities there, from corporate bosses to idiot minions to wild animals to lowly slaves all feel like they belong there and act like they should act. And they react like they should act to your words and actions to a very high degree. Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time or dropping a heavy footfall when you meant to tip-toe can get you or your friends killed, and you can do crazy things like possess bosses and use them to order workers to kill each other and then see that the workers get a sick pleasure out of this, or possess wild animals, and use them to communicate with other animals and team up with you to clear a path or fight enemies. The whole speech mechanic seems like a gimmick at first but is actually a well thought out system that works as a complex game mechanic and also immerses you into the setting. The pre-rendered backgrounds of this game look like areas that have been around for years; they are lived in and dirty and dark. Unfortunately they are a bit muddy in the Steam version of the game, but they are still gorgeous, as is the unique animation on each of the different creatures.
Oddworld has such a strange sense of theme. You'll cringe the first dozen times you see a guard absolutely mercilessly beat on a slave for no reason, but the game always has a weird laugh right around the corner. The juxtaposition of such cruelty next to fart jokes and characters on screen laughing about stuff is really intriguing, and all of Oddworld is all about these crazy dark themes that are populated with really goofy and weird characters. The themes of greed and exploitation are really serious and treated right, but at the same time toilet humor is also a major part of the equation, and so is crazy gameplay ideas like getting a different ending for mercilessly killing your friends in bizarre ways that make Abe say, “Ooops.” It's an odd concoction to say the least, but it works so perfectly in this and all the other Oddworld games I've played. And the big shots this game takes at the alcohol industry aren't lost on this gamer...
Abe's Exoddus is in many ways the same game as Abe's Odyssey, but bigger in scope in every possible way. The core gameplay is so similar, it almost doesn't feel like a sequel. It's almost like a huge new DLC campaign filled with lots of new stuff. And that stuff is great fun, and as usual, part of the giant ecosystem that is Oddworld. I can't wait to play more Oddworld games, and I loved playing this one. It's a 4 out of 5.
Community review by Robotic_Attack (August 27, 2016)
Robotic Attack reviews every game he plays... almost.
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