As Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty's opening cinematic began to roll, I had an immediate sense of déjà vu. Which is not surprising because, as I quickly realized, it's a remake of the 1997 classic, Oddworld: Abe's Odyssey. But it was surprising to me, because I hadn't put one and one together and figured that out.
But it was with some delight that I met this shouldn't-have-been news. I absolutely loved Oddworld: Abe's Odyssey when it first came out, so the prospect of playing it again warmed me cockles. Yes, the original game had some occasionally unforgiving gameplay that could cause molar fracture due to teeth grindage, but its terrific graphics, challenging platform-puzzling action and wicked sense of humor were the much bigger upsides to the game's downsides.
Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty has had quite a comprehensive overhaul, but maintains much of its original trappings. Its impressive rendered cut scenes and static backdrops of yore have been turned into today's realtime graphics. The new Oddworld is a seamless experience of skits and gameplay that create a convincing world and really does live up to its cinematic platformer billing.
Under the hood, developer Just Add Water has taken the elements that made the original game fun, and woven in modern-day gaming mechanics and sensibilities. Newly-placed checkpoints sympathetically reduce the original, sometimes frustrating distances between them. That essentially negates one of the bigger complaints of the original. A quicksave feature also adds an additional pleasantry to the proceedings.
The most impressive changes, however, are the ones that aren't immediately apparent. The game feels like an authentic copy of last century's version, and it largely is. However, subtle tweaks ensure that you're not dropped into quite as deep an end as you were the first time around. Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty isn't necessarily easier, but there's more of a feeling of the difficulty ratcheting up more gradually this time around.
One thing I am a little puzzled by, though, is that with all the due care and attention that's been lavished on much of the game, the controls do feel like they need tightening up. Abe is one of those animation-dependent kind of dudes. When he walks and jumps, he wants to finish his animation cycle. That can make him feel non-responsive – something that was true in 1997, and is unfortunately still true now. I get that this is a legitimate platform control format, but I don't care how many frames of animation a character has, he should be responsive.
But Abe isn't. He feels heavy and just doesn't always seem to jump when you want him to. Maybe it's just me, but a number of times when I wanted to change direction, Abe would continue forward – like he'd reached some kind of point of no return in his forward animation motion. The same sort of thing happened with jumping, where there's sometimes a perceptible delay between hitting jump, and Abe taking off. It's something you can work around, but it does get frustrating when it feels like you pressed jump at the right moment, yet Abe hurtles into whatever lethal hazard it was that you were trying to avoid.
Control issues aside, this new version of Oddworld is otherwise absolutely beezer, to cop an old English word that means jolly good indeed. It's a visual tour-de-force, featuring a beautifully rendered dystopian environment that's lit impeccably. It looks stunningly rich, yet never feels showy. The deep background perspective shifts take their cues from the source material, but much detail has been added to bring the world fully to life. It looks amazing, but Oddworld presents itself in such a natural and easy way, you almost take it for granted.
Matching the cosmetics is an excellent story that provokes thought and elicits some black humor laughs, aided much by the high quality voice acting and sound effects. Again, they feel much like the original, but the audio detail has been beefed up considerably.
Ultimately, Oddworld is a fine example of how to do a remake. It gets a ding for the controls, but otherwise this is a splendidly madeover classic that packs plenty of new sizzle, but still has that same great taste.
A stunning realization of a living, breathing, smoggy and not very pleasant world.
Top-notch. Great voice acting, and very well articulated effects that have a sense of humor.
This is where the game falters a little. The heavy-feeling and sometimes unresponsive controls can cause frustration through needless deaths.
Oddworld starts out easy, but soon turns up the heat. Much of its tricky original puzzles have remained intact, so that means later levels are not for the uninitiated.
Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty is what the original game always wanted to be: a truly cinematic platformer. It looks fantastic, sounds brilliant and is great fun to play, despite its occasionally clumsy controls.