Reasons to Return to Oddworld


The original Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee released in 1997 and remains as one of my favorite games of all time. It possessed a unique mix of platforming and puzzle solving and was set in a dark, satirical sci-fi universe that was both creepy and hilarious. The graphics were stunning, with fully rendered backgrounds, which still hold up today. I was so inspired by the mythology and art direction of Oddworld that I created an entire world of my own in my childhood sketchbooks, loosely based on the story of Abe and his escape from Rupture Farms.

The sequel, Abe’s Exoddus was just as good, if not better, and the franchise went on to spawn two more entries: Munch’s Oddysee, a launch title for the original Xbox, and Stranger’s Wrath, also for the Xbox, which broke away from the series’ staple gameplay for a quirky first person shooter experience. Though developer Oddworld Inhabitants had many other concepts and projects on the table, they decided instead to focus entirely on creating films set in the Oddworld universe, a questionable move considering there haven’t been any Oddworld films and nary a mention of such a project since Stranger’s Wrath was released in 2005.

Though the planned Oddworld Quintology will likely never be completed (Abe & Munch’s Oddysees are apparently the only two games that are part of the main series), there has been quite a bit of news surrounding the Oddworld universe as of late, and many reasons for fans like me to get excited.

Last year developer Just Add Water announced that they were working on various Oddworld games, an unexpected but exciting revelation. First came the Oddboxx, a collection of all the first four games made available late last year on Valve’s Steam Network, and later on other online marketplaces. Unfortunately for Mac users like me, various technical issues made it difficult (and costly) to port the game to the Mac OS platform, though Just Add Water said that if there was a high enough demand, they would consider making it available on Mac as well. As that hasn’t happened yet, things were looking grim, but at last week’s GameCity Nights in Nottingham, UK Just Add Water announced that the Oddboxx would be coming to other consoles, including the PSN, assuming of course, that it actually ever works again.

Though, this may not seem like big news, Xbox 360 users who never owned the original console but wanted to play Munch’s Odyssee are now able to do so thanks to a recent patch Microsoft has uploaded. I actually purchased Munch’s Odyssee a few years back since I hadn’t gotten to play it (I was a Gamecube guy), and was incredibly disappointed when I discovered a bizarre glitch made all the game’s dialogue and sound effects seem like they were coming from some muffled echo chamber, essentially rendering the game unplayable. Well, according to Oddworld Inhabitants’ website, that issue has finally been resolved, though those who have never played Munch’s Oddysee but own an Xbox 360 might want to hold off from scouring eBay for a copy. Just Add Water is apparently working on an HD remake of the game in addition to the previously announced remake of Stranger’s Wrath.

Speaking of Stranger’s Wrath HD, that game will likely only be available on the Playstation 3, as Just Add Water has stated that file upload limitations on the Xbox 360 makes it impossible to turn Stranger’s Wrath into an Xbox Live Arcade title. They say if Microsoft increases the upload limit they’d be more than happy to make the game available on XBLA as well, but knowing Microsoft that won’t happen. Hopefully the original version will be made available on XBLA as part of the Oddboxx, though at this point it’s all speculation. Playstation 3 users should be able to play the HD remake sometime this year, that is of course, assuming their console actually starts working properly again.

Joining Munch’s Oddysee and Stranger’s Wrath in the HD remake department is a new version of the original Abe’s Oddysee, now simply titled Abe HD. The game, which hasn’t been officially announced for any one console but will likely be made available on PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, will not only feature HD visuals and Achievements/Trophies, but an upgraded physics engine as well. Considering the slew of awesome HD remakes of classic games that have been released as of late (click her to read my review of Beyond Good & Evil HD), this is likely to be an amazing reinterpretation of one of the greatest games ever made.

The most exciting announcement? Just Add Water recently revealed that they are also working on a new Oddworld game, or at least resurrecting a previously shelved title called Oddworld: Hand of Odd (which I assume refers to the Mudokan paw print on Oddworld’s moon). The game was originally planned as part of the official Quintology, but scrapped for various reasons including Oddworld Inhabitants’ shift to cinematic endeavors. Just Add Water is now bringing the game, a real time strategy title that pits Oddworld’s native Mudokans against the evil Glukkons and Sligs, back to life. Fans may be disappointed to hear that the series is once again veering away from its platforming roots, but the RTS genre seems like a very natural fit for the universe and will likely be a lot of fun to play. Just Add Water has said that the game will likely only be available on PCs and Macs as consoles aren’t suited for the RTS genre.

HD remakes are very popular as of late, so in all likelihood the HD versions of Abe’s Oddysee, Munch’s Odyssee and Stranger’s Wrath will sell reasonably well. HD remakes are generally reasonably priced and available online, and Oddworld is a well-known and well-respected series. Hand of Odd is another story.  Fans like me will definitely pick it up, but it probably won’t be very stiff competition to StarCraft, and will probably only be a very minor success. Though considering Just Add Water is working off all of Oddworld Inhabitants’ old assets, I doubt it will cost them that much to produce, so they’ll at least make their money back.

All in all, very exciting news for Oddworld fans and gamers in general. Oddworld is one of the greatest series in videogame history and is definitely proof that games can be art. If you’re a longtime fan or are interested in checking out the series for the first time, the next few years are likely to be an exciting time. Check back here for more Oddworld news as it’s released.

Post contributed by Alex Hilhorst. Questions for the author? Send an email to monco60@earthlink.net. Follow him on Twitter: @thehilblog.

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