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The Gameroom

May 1998

Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee

Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification rating: Mature (15 years and over) low level animated violence

Developed by Digital dialect, 1997

Past the conveyor belt and into the meat packaging area he bounded. From where he stood he could see the crouching form of a fellow slave scrubbing away at the factory floor. Renaldo approached him quietly and decided it was time to perform the "Little Bo Peep" trick that had already saved a half dozen fellow workers from an eternity of unpaid servitude — and the impending opportunity to become hamburger meat.

"Hello", he said.

The slave stood up and responded with "Hello".

Renaldo spoke again accompanying it with a gesture "Follow me".

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"OK". Platform games are amongst the oldest game genres for the PC. This long-standing action oriented tradition has had adults as well as kids glued to their monitors and keyboards leaping, running, climbing and jumping away the hours long before the days of 3D graphics and first person perspective. The tried and true environment of a 2-dimensional world displayed in profile has produced such familiar titles as Sonic, Rayman and Duke Nukem. Just try and explain to some people that Duke Nukem 3D owes its origin to two earlier incarnations both of which were platform based, and you'll get some queer responses. As far as games history goes, the Duke really is an old man.

These games are usually as 2-dimensional in their content, as they appear on your monitor. The emphasis is on eye/hand co-ordination and no small amount of repetitive action. As a result, most platform games lack a central purpose other tan jumping up and down and throwing bananas at your PC controlled opponents.

Thankfully an offshoot style quickly developed that incorporated the essential elements of good story telling, characterisation and a sense of purpose lending a conscious sensibility to 2D games that gave them an extra dimension: entertainment. Unfortunately these platform adventures were few and far between, but include such classic titles as Prince of Persia (Jordan Mechner, the now aged Another World (Delphine) and my personal favourite oldie Flashback (Delphine). Not only are platform games of this variety few and far between, but there hasn't really been one for absolutely yonks.

Despite the fact that these titles happily ran on a 386 and we now live in the age of Pentium, it is with great pleasure that I add Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee to this group creating a quartet of platform adventure gaming classics. Excellent high quality platform game adventures with more than just the standard actions of running around, jumping across great heights and then plummeting to an early death.

Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee is a sumptuous graphic feast and as you'd expect the minimum system requirements to be in excess of a Pentium 120 with 16Mb RAM and at least a quad speed CD ROM. Even then you'll find your PC will struggle with some of the graphics its trying to throw up on the screen. People with faster machines in all departments will be rewarded with a surprisingly immersive adventure that demands attention.

Abe is the unlikely hero of this tale. He's a scrawny little blue Mudokon fella wearing naught but a loincloth. Aside from his psychic abilities, carries no weaponry and has just escaped from slavery at Rupture Farms — the "biggest meat processing plant on Oddworld.." where profits on their existing range of fast food meat products is beginning to slide and the decisions of the annual board meeting reveals the plan to transform the current batch of slaves into pie filling in order to compensate financial losses... Okay, so I'm not going into the story details because they're such a crucial part of the Oddworld gaming experience with surprises abounding and to give away plot details would spoil too much of the fun. I'm not that kind of guy. However, I must remark upon the animated cutscenes which the player is presented with upon completion of certain tasks.

These are superb and essential to propelling the story forward. The cutscenes aren't just tacked on to help fill out the CD. Just imagine a piece of high quality video animation that provides an informative narration focusing on the Abe character and then segues seamlessly into the gaming screen. You start playing in the highly detailed background that was effectively the final frame of that animation. Gratefully these cutscenes don't interfere with the pace of the game, provide scene setting and plot development and are frequent without being dominating. It is a difficult but well-achieved balance.

The player's wits, rather than force, is required to solve many of the puzzles ranging from sneaking past armed guards in order to complete a specific task to assisting other Mudokon slaves to escape from Rupture Farms. Once Abe has escaped from the meat processing plant a new set of challenges develops for the player to tackle. You can make life easier for Abe by using his inherent ability to spiritually possess gun toting enemies and control them directly to slay other guards or to walk them into traps thus eliminating threats from your path. Apart from falls from great heights and the usual demise of your character in this style of game, it's reasonably free of violent content. There is a far greater concern for puzzle solving than simply annihilating the opposition.

The interface for the game is the standard cursor keys and a dozen or so miscellaneous keys including the numericals so, as is typical of platform games, is easy to learn and control. On screen messages early in the game make learning it a breeze. Sound effects match the visuals for quality as you'd expect. Abe has a small vocabulary controllable by the player which is used to assist in puzzle solving. Just don't forget to instruct escaping slaves to ‘wait' at crucial points or they'll stumble into traps that Abe easily avoids and become instant Mudokon hamburger.

The only true failing point is that it lacks any variations in difficulty level. There is no implementation of Pathetically Easy, Easy, Normal, Hard, Mega Hard or Ultra Friggin' Super Human or any way to modify the game to suit your skill level. You just have to cope with what's been given to you.

Abe's Oddysee is the first of five proposed titles under the Oddworld inhabitants banner. Four sequels in the pipeline sounds somewhat extravagantly optimistic but it seems there has been considerable thought on the part of the developer as to the content of each new title. Future episodes will feature new characters in widely differing circumstances hopefully making each Oddworld title a fresh experience rather than falling to the trap of releasing and regurgitating a prior success with overly familiar faces.

Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee takes an anachronistic adventure platform game and breathes fresh life into it. Mario, Sonic and Rayman are crashing bores by comparison, so stand aside, you three, Abe's passing through to deliver the meat.

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ISSN 1328-8008
Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Filed: 5-Mar-1998 : Last tested: : Last updated: : Last compiled: 10-Aug-2014
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