Few games have ever given me what a post-Voyack Internet has deemed ‘the feels’. And at that, rarely are they conventional emotions, ones reserved for the higher, older arts. But when I had finished tooling around on demo 1 with a grinning, roaring Rex, it was time to see what this Abe business was all about. And the rest is history. Without a doubt, Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee and its franchise descendants offered up one of gaming’s most intoxicating and evocative ambiances. They hit me in the chest cavity; a weird mix of underdog triumphalism and dastardly rooting for oppression to reign. After all, in this corporate analogy of bio-mechanical, consumer-driven indecency, where’s the impetus if everything is a-okay? Suffice to say, if there was one intellectual property I could ogle endlessly, it would be the pipe, lever and temple-ridden strata of Oddworld.
After a couple of rather fine reduces, particularly on Vita, Just Add Water and Oddworld Inhabitants have gotten around to releasing their ground-up remake of the original Abe’s Oddysee in New ‘n’ Tasty on PC. The Mudokon mistreatment is back, and just as good. With a few system and mechanical overhauls, the classic puzzle platformer makes the grade. She’s a brighter miscreant this time around, which has upset a few mouthpieces in trading soot and darkness for less soot and a tad more neon, but this transition is no less deliciously lurid or awe-inspiring.
The most immediate element in New ‘n’ Tasty is ditching the original screen lock for camera panning, tracking Abe along most horizontal and vertical axes. Unlike the original screen segments, often feeling self-contained within the rubric of a true puzzle, the seamless scrolling adds a smoothness that doesn’t detract from the experience and. Levels involving Abe’s ruminate proxy Elum, which require long stretches of terrain traversal are benefited, with the panning helping to emphasise the inertia, rather than parcel it into blind sections.
Analogue control takes over from Abe’s original digital input, which can still be simulated via the keyboard. However, Just Add Water have done relative right by the old dogs and offered up a number of tweaks to controller input in lessening the looser, more fluid physics in the thumbstick era. Deadzone slider, run toggles, mouse aiming for projectiles; there’s just enough there to cover the bases. Not to say a totally digital controller option would not have gone astray, but I had no issue with the fresh feel and consider myself an Oddworld purist.
Once those two aspects have been grappled with, New ‘n’ Tasty is more-or-less the same game we all enjoyed in 1997. Levels have been artistically overhauled, adding more depth and animation to a lot of the scenes. As much as I played Oddysee and Exoddus to death, I can’t offer a savant-like comparison directly from memory, but levels do feel as cohesive now as they did then. Rupture Farms, Scrabania, Paramonia, the abhorrent Stockyards; while they have had a face-lift, each locale and its inherent quirks and dangers remain as distinct and nuanced as they were two years shy of twenty years ago. I always felt like Abe’s Oddysee was the natural intersection of adventure games and platformers; distilled from the early Chahi works, or the Bermuda Syndrome precursor. That sense of puzzle-heavy trepidation, where purposefully flat-footed traversal underscores the reluctance of an often unwilling or ill-equipped protagonist. Nothing is lost in the New ‘n’ Tasty redux, with Abe — despite the addition of a minute health element — as utterly mortal as he ever was, dodging the same dastardly lifeforms and biomechanica we know and love.
I will pay special tribute to the fauna of Oddworld, ones finely animated in New ‘n’ Tasty’s high-definition. They’ve always been a marvelous and grotesque gaggle, and seeing the Scrabs, Slogs, Paramites and the Slig guards receive meticulous attention tickles my design synapses. With the exception of the bulbous Slog, Oddworld’s creatures have always been a rangy, gangly mob. Seeing them rendered at a crisp resolution, each extremity and fang and protrusion on show, makes me hopeful that we won’t just get Exoddus HD, but that the shelf of unused Oddworld possibilities at Lorne Lanning’s place just might come to light in this modern clime.
As an Oddworld fan, I am well-serviced. While I look forward to the eventual Vita outing of New ‘n’ Tasty for the sake of portable collection, my time spent with the PC version has been nothing but pleasant. Mechanically, the core is as intact as the original game. Visually, the game is brighter, more luminescent, but as markedly beautiful as ever. With a control update and a few bevels here and there, Just Add Water’s effort has paid off. Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty does everything you would want from a redux. Follow me.