As a fan of the Oddworld series and specifically Abe’s adventures, I was ecstatic when the remake of Abe’s Oddysee, New ‘n’ Tasty, was announced. It created an opportunity for fans to enjoy the game with some new visuals and smoother controls, while also affording newcomers the opportunity to experience it for the first time. Not only that, but it also suggested that a remake of Abe’s Exoddus would eventually be released too. Oddworld: Soulstorm is that remake; it’s a recreation of Abe’s Exoddus from the ground up that is mostly faithful to the locations present in the original game, but unfortunately also suffers from a few bugs.
The story picks up after the events of New ‘n’ Tasty. Abe and other Mudokons he rescued from Rupture Farms are laying low and enjoying their newfound freedom. However, this is short-lived as their hideout is attacked by a force of Sligs and Mullock the Glukkon. As Abe escapes the Monsaic Lines, he encounters a Mudokon slowly dying from a gunshot wound. He gives Abe a mysterious item and urges him to find “the Keeper” and also to “save all of them”. He then sets off to rendezvous with the rest of the Mudokons, while also seeking out “the Keeper”.
The story starts off in a relatively mysterious manner and slowly unravels as you make your way through the levels. It doesn’t follow the original plot of Abe’s Exoddus to the letter, but instead takes elements from it and spins a new story, which is actually quite enjoyable and portrayed quite nicely. The characters also have more screen time and dialogue, resulting in a more fleshed out experience.
The gameplay in Oddworld: Soulstorm has changed quite a bit since New ‘n’ Tasty. Whereas the movement in the former felt a bit stiff and fairly exact, Soulstorm feels fluid and quite fast. Abe is able to dart around areas and even has a double jump ability, which helps with reaching some higher areas. It can be a little unpredictable though as sometimes you’ll miss a ledge even when Abe connects with it. It’s also a little buggy when navigating monkey bars, as a double jump may connect one time but may overshoot the bar the next.
One of the biggest, and familiar abilities makes a return to Soulstorm with Abe being able to possess and control Sligs. The host can be used to kill other Sligs, pull levers in heavily guarded areas or destroy barricades. After they’ve served their purpose, Abe can kill them by causing them to explode or can opt for the non-lethal option of knocking them out. Making use of the possession ability can be a bit tricky since there are a number of Chant-Suppression devices, which gives you a zap as soon as you start chanting to possess someone. It’s a bit of a bummer, but it also challenges you to change your thought process to get past an area.
This is where the new crafting system comes into play. Throughout levels, you will find a number of lockers, dumpsters or bins to rummage through for crafting materials. Based on what you find, you’ll be able to craft something that will assist you with getting past the next area. These range from smoke bombs to IED mines.
Aside from item use, Abe can also sneak past guards and roll under low obstacles to avoid being shot. The only way to get through is to make use of all of these methods, but it’s given that eventually, you’re going to die. You’re probably going to die a lot, too, but this is part of the freedom that the game gives you to try different approaches to see what works. The checkpoint system supports this as they’re quite forgiving. After almost every section, you’ll find a checkpoint, however, sometimes they’re placed somewhat weirdly. It’s not so much that they’re hard to reach, but they tend to be at the beginning of a section where a host of items can be collected. Dying means having to rummage through containers to grab all those items again, and because you can’t reactivate a checkpoint after hitting it, this can become a little annoying.
If it wasn’t enough of a challenge to just get through a level on your own, then why not try rescuing a few Mudokons on the way, which you’ll have to do. If there’s something that you want them to do, you’ll have to tell them, but don’t expect them to have the smartest AI. They’re so lemming-like, as they march towards certain death without a care in the world. You can even equip them with items to defend themselves, which the game asks you to do a few times during some of the levels. They can be a bit inconsistent though. Sometimes they move too slowly and end up getting killed in the process, so it’s up to you to time everything perfectly. I did also experience a bug when having some Mudokons following me in one of the earlier levels, where a section required Abe and his followers to hide in a row of lockers to avoid getting detected by a Slig. However, when hiding in the locker, one or two followers stood still as if having just lost a game of Musical Chairs, even though there were lockers available. As mentioned before, this happened in an earlier level and not again, so it may have been an isolated incident.
It’s worth exploring levels though, as there’s a checklist of tasks for each one. This tasks you with finding items like Royal Jelly or searching a certain amount of lockers or finding all of the Mudokons. The latter is possibly the most important as it contributes to your Quarma. At a certain point of the game, if you haven’t saved more than 80% of Mudokons, you’ll get a bad ending. However, if you’ve saved more than that, you’ll gain access to two additional levels and a chance to get the best ending possible. It’s a nice reward for really trying to save as many of them as you can!
Visually, Oddworld: Soulstorm looks fantastic. Instead of having a single view of an area and then walking off screen to the next area, you are now treated to a camera that follows you wherever you go, except through doorways. This framing gives the player a real sense of scale and sets some incredible backdrops when it zooms out ever so slightly. It also loads incredibly quickly, making restarting checkpoints a breeze. The audio is a little middling. While there’s more dialogue and great voice acting present, there isn’t much in terms of music. For the most part, you’ll be hearing the sound of machinery, which is a little normal given the history of the franchise. However, it feels a little more empty than usual.
Oddworld: Soulstorm is great. It’s more of a reimagining of Abe’s Exoddus than it is a remake, but it’s an enjoyable one. There are some bugs with followers getting themselves killed and how jumping can be a little unpredictable, but it’s easy to give it a pass because of how good everything else is. It may not be a game that will wow everyone, but it’s a fantastic journey for newcomers and a worthy entry in the Oddworld franchise.
Oddworld: Soulstorm is Available on PC and PlayStation, and is due to come to other platforms in the future.
This review is based on the PlayStation version of the game and can be purchased here for £49.99
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