Classic first entry into the Oddworld universe. Abe's Oddysee does a good job of creating it's own world with several strange alien species. The main character Abe is a Mudokon, a three fingered bipedal creature with vaguely reptilian features. Mudokons are a slave race who are exploited by evil Glukkons. As the story goes Abe is a slave-janitor at a meat packing plant called "Rupture Farms," who decides to escape when he finds out the next meat product happens to be made of his own race. Highly complicated (and at times frustrating) gameplay follows.
The game is played in a platforming Prince of Persia style. Each screen is essentially a puzzle with a series of actions that must be performed before you can advance. Abe is a pretty versatile character, who can run, jump, hang from ledges, and roll in a ball along the ground.
The point of the game is to rescue other Mudukons along the way, which you do by leading them to an escape portal made up of flying birds. To do this you have to use "game speak" to talk to them. There are two levels of game speak, the first is a series of commands like "Follow Me" or "Wait," seems logical enough. The second is a group of whistles which are usually used to pass certain points in the game in these Simon-Says type puzzles (it goes like this, you hit a point where there's another Mudukon who whistles a tune and you have to copy it.) The whole game speak thing can get a little annoying at times but for the most part is a nice break from the rest of the relentless and dangerous puzzle solving.
Along the way of course you meet bad guy inhabitants. Your most immediate and dangerous enemy is the Slig, which is this air breathing squid thing with mechanical legs who act as guards for the Glukkons. Sligs will blow you away on sight and you have no weapons to directly fight them with. So to get past them abe has the ability to "Chant," which causes a "spirit ball" to form which allows you to possess the slig. Then you can make the Slig shoot the other Sligs or make him fall off a cliff or something. Sligs can also talk and their speech tends to sound somewhat mechanical, although you can make out various words like "Looser!" and "Shaddap!" In those areas where you cannot posses a slig you have to sneak past them by hiding in shadows or running when their backs are turned.
In addition to Sligs are various dangerous animal species that you cannot possess, including Scrabs and Paramites. Most of the rooms in the middle of the game involve getting past them in one way or another, whether that means baiting them with pieces of meat, jumping onto ledges where they can't reach you, making two Prarmites fight to the death so you can run away, etc.
Control is spot on and be glad it is as some of the rooms are extremely difficult with one mistake meaning instant death. And die you will, often, a lot, in nearly every screen. This is one of those games where you have to figure out what to do by trial and error, repeatedly doing the same actions over and over, dying every time until you get it right. While the game does a good job of laying out each room in a logical manner where you can get the general idea of what you need to do at first glance, more than once I was frustrated into quitting the game by the zero-mistake gameplay. It's one hit kills for abe, the minute a Slig shoots you or Scrab nails you that's it. Thankfully the designers saw how hard the damn game is and decided to go the unlimited lives route so you won't have to worry about collecting continues. However the game only saves at certain points (Even though you can save at any time, but when you die you have to start over again at a certain point, perhaps a few rooms back.) So you end up doing a lot of areas over and over again only to get to the same point you died at last time just to eat it again. It gets very tear-your-hair-out frustrating. Oddworld demands a certain amount of patience that few members of the human race are capable of.
Thankfully the gameplay is also maddeningly addictive. It becomes a case of "Just one more time" as you get closer and closer to your goal with each try, accumulating in an orgasmic release of joy when you finally get it done. There's this part where the screen is nearly completely black and you have to run through several different screens while avoiding chasing Paramites that you can barely see - I must have played through these five screens like 150 times before I finally got it. But when you finally win it's the best feeling in the world. How the hell did they do that?
The world that the game creates is intricate and detailed. Nothing is out of place, everything in the game is there for a reason and "fits." The game's presentation is truly remarkable. It's been my experience that most entertainment packages of a "cult" nature rarely live up to the hype, be they movies, books, games, etc, this is one of the few that's worth it. But Oddworld is not for everybody - anyone looking for exploding zombie heads and not prepared to be humbled by multiple upon multiple game deaths need not apply.
Graphics: Very detailed backgrounds. All characters are made of GCI rendered sprites that was a big thing in the late 90s and look fantastic (if a bit pixilated.) Each is animated extremely smoothly. It looks as if a lot of time was spend designing everything in the game to fit into the game's world, and the result is pretty awesome.
Sound: Not much music in the game, most of it is background noise depending on where you are (nature sounds, industrial machinery, etc.) Where there is music it's applied for dramatic effect. Gamespeak and sound effects are very clear and easy to understand.
Gameplay: Die ten thousand times until you figure out how to proceed. You either love it or hate it.
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