Years ago, a friend once told me to “believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see.” Looking back, I find that actually applies to everyday life pretty perfectly. Whether it’s a grade school rumor, the hype for an upcoming movie, or even a game that’s been out for years that you ignored only because it didn’t ‘sound good’ to you. In hindsight, it’s for the best I waited so long to play them based off what I had heard because I would not have been able to fully appreciate or even understand what I was getting into. A world I wish would be presented in its entirety already.
The Oddworld series was created by Lorne Lanning and his company (Oddworld Inhabitants) in the mid-90’s. The series starts off loyal to its namesake with an extraterrestrial factory employee named Abe escaping from his place of work in order to avoid becoming next in line of delicious snacks that have been going out of production due to its sources quickly becoming extinct.
Abe is a member of the race of Mudokons that once dominated Oddworld, but has since been reduced to little but slave labor over the years by the Glukkons, the most industrial race on the planet. Right from the beginning, you quickly pick up on the the themes of industrialization and high-profit companies suffering from protest and unions, making the game a little more relatable than a comical satire set in a galaxy far, far away.
As Abe manages to make it out of the Rupture Farms plant alive, a long, unexpected fall off a cliff leaves him unconscious until he awakens to the Mudokon shaman ‘BigFace’. The spiritualist tell Abe of his destiny and sets him off on a series of trials throughout the jungle and lastly, the desert to test him. Once Abe completes his trials, he is given two scars on his hands. As the Mudokon is later revealed his powers to possess his enemies to progress through the game, the combination of both scars brings the Shrykull; the demi-god created from both Paramite and Scrabs, (ancient creatures in Oddworld) gives Abe the last tool he needs to return to Rupture Farms, free his Mudokon brothers and put the evil corporation out of business for good. Throw in important but minor characters like the sligs: bipedal humanoid like creatures with robotic legs and shotguns serving as the Glukkons’ henchmen to prevent Abe and his employees from doing anything stupid like escaping, and it quickly becomes a game of ‘cat and mouse’ in every sense.
Abe’s Odyssey does a great job of introducing you to the bizarre world and its population by having almost everybody hunt you down. With very few allies at your side -most of them just other co-workers- the puzzle-heavy platformer does a fantastic job of keeping you on your toes and making you actually think; a quality many games have disregarded over the years. If you have invested any amount of time into the series, you may not be reading anything you are not already familiar with.
Every section of the game requires precision, brain-wracking, and a little bit of soul searching as you soon find out Abe has a much higher purpose in life than just packaging Scrab cakes. Areas range from jumping over broken floor panels to jumping through chant-operated portals disguised as a group of birds before being shot down. You are given unlimited lives because the the masochistic minds behind this perplex sidescroller knew you would die. A lot. It’s okay though; it gets frustrating, but it has such an innocent, silly charm to it — much like a small puppy getting into your clean laundry — you find yourself coming back to it multiple times throughout the day and breathing a sigh of relief when you finally make it through that one puzzle.
Even after playing Abe’s Odyssey, I have to admit I still felt very much in the dark about a lot of things. When I am engaged in something, I don’t think about what I am actually experiencing as it is happening. While playing, I was aware that Abe was escaping Rupture Farms, that he is special and can channel the Mudokon god Shrykull, (who looks like a complete badass), and that he was able to put a stop to one of the many plants of Rupture Farms.
Looking back on it, (going on 3 days, now) I still have a lot of questions. The fact that I’m learning about things that never quite got to make it into the game as they were intended isn’t helping my cause very much, either. So that’s what this is; a series of editorials to discuss each of the Oddworld games and to find out what could happen next. I’m sure I had more I wanted to say, so I will do my best to put all of my thoughts into complete sentences and make it as understandable as possible throughout this series, but after playing Oddworld and seeing only a fraction of what it truly has to offer, it is still just a little hard to believe.
[+Fantastic story][+Intelligent and humorous][+Gorgeous and varied environments][+Relatable protagonist][-Frustratingly difficult at times][-Replaying areas over and over again can get tiresome]