Retro Fix:- Oddworld: Abe’s Exodus

Tired of the same old characters and settings? Feel like you’ve shot enough Russians in the face to destroy the entire vodka industry? Seen enough zombies to populate an incredibly annoying protest rally in central San Fransico? Want to face off against a carnivorous wild animal with a hand for a face?In that case, you should try Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus, the classic puzzle-platformer from now-retired developer Oddworld Inhabitants – available on the Playstation, or through Steam and the PSN.

Originally created in 1998, Abe’s Exoddus tells the story of Abe, one of a race known as the Mudokons; small, blue (or green), nature-loving creatures who are being enslaved by the Glukkons; large brown monsters who wear suits and walk on their hands.

Abe must travel through a number of different environments in order to rescue the spirits of dead Mudokons, whose bones are being dug up and used to make alcoholic beverages.  Along the way, Abe must dismantle and destroy a series of evil corporations and free his enslaved brethren from the deadly Sligs, cybernetic slugs wielding automatic shotguns.  The characters in this game are some of the weirdest and most unique you’ll ever see, from the aforementioned Sligs, to their bipedal, ravenous canine companions the Slogs, to the beak-headed, desert-roaming Scrabs.

The environments are well-imagined, ranging from barren wastelands to high-tech facilities, and the story is brilliant, filled with wonderfully dark humour and some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments right up until the last cutscene. The only criticism I have for the story is that it’s very similar to that of the previous Oddworld game, Abe’s Oddysee. While Exoddus has more happening, the basic plot of saving Mudokons and destroying factories remains the same.

The game focuses on platforming and puzzles, hence it’s classification as a puzzle-platformer. The player controls Abe as he runs, jumps, rolls, sneaks and talks his way through a number of different 2D environments, interacting with a wide variety of different creatures. Each creature has its own distinct personality which affects the gameplay. Abe’s Exoddus’s Gamespeak feature allows Abe to converse with other characters with simple voice commands, including “Follow me”, “Wait”, “Work”, and a fart button, which is good for a cheap laugh, but also comes in handy midway through the game when you have to clear away some mines and enemies blocking your path. Abe can use these voice commands to interact with characters and use them to try and persuade Mudokons to follow him to safety or get help solve a puzzle. That, or get them to walk into deathtraps for a laugh.

Abe can also possess most enemies during the game, allowing the player to take control of them and use their abilities to progress through an area of the game. Mines blocking your path? Possess an enemy and make them run into it, clearing it away. Possession can also be used for complex tasks, however – for example, possessing a Slig to shoot its way through a crowd of enemies, or possessing a Glukkon to order other enemies around and complete puzzles without fear of being killed by them. There are a wide variety of ways the possession feature can be used in-game, many of which take advantage of the characters’ different personalities and abilities. This adds some variety to the gameplay.

As well as puzzles using possession and Gamespeak, there are also plenty of action-packed platforming sequences. These aren’t just typical, jump from one platform to the next bits (not always, anyway): Abe is surprisingly agile, which is really useful in certain parts of the game. These parts of the game range from sneaking past sleeping enemies, taking care not to set off alarms, to dramatic chase sections, even a few memorable moments involving ploughing through droves of squishy enemies in the Oddworld equivalent of the classic mine cart level. One of the parts that stood out for me was a part of the game where Abe charges through a pitch-black wilderness, being chased by starving wild animals, jumping and rolling to maneuver bits of terrain.This is all seen as a silhouette against the night sky – it looks great, and is a lot of fun when any hesitation could result in Abe falling down a pit or being eaten alive. Like the puzzles, action sections like this are brilliant fun.

The gameplay, while excellent is not perfect. As hinted at in the last paragraph, many parts of the game are extremely difficult, and it can be frustrating to have to replay the same section continuously because you keep being killed by a grenade-throwing slug. Thankfully, this is eased by the Quiksave feature, allowing the player to set a checkpoint at any point, something which was not seen in Abe’s Oddysee. Furthermore, some puzzles, while not very many, do involve a fair amount of repetition, and drag on a bit.

Graphically, the game is sound for its time. The settings look great and build up the atmosphere of the game nicely, especially in the wilderness-themed levels where the desolate backgrounds and terrain emphasise the sense that Abe is completely alone in a strange and hostile land. This is also achieved by the subtle background music, which perfectly fits the different locations, if erring on the side of repeatition at times.

All of these things combine to make Abe’s Exoddus, in my opinion, one of the greatest 2D platformers ever made. On the Playstation, the game comes on 2 discs, and it lasts a long time, especially if you get the bad ending the first time around and go back to find the secret areas which contain Mudokons you can rescue to help get the real ending. I know not very many people have an original Playstation now, but the game is available on Steam and the PSN, so, if you have some extra money and want to play something creative, challenging, and most importantly, really fun, I recommend this game highly.

- Joe Megson

Thu, July 28 2011 » Retrospectives

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