Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus

25An action-puzzle hybrid with plenty of character.

The first game in the Oddworld series, Abe’s Oddysee, featured a strange lush world which combined familiar creepy-crawlies and slimies into strange hybrids, at once repellent and endearing. Our hero, Abe the Mudokon, was a walking fish with a frog’s face and a stooped posture. The end result wasn’t just a collection of clever artwork, but a convincing and memorable ecology.

In Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus, the second installment in this series billed optimistically as a quintology, Abe has to shut down a brewery that’s distilling the bones of dead Mudokons into the addictive Soulstorm Brew. Some of the first game’s stunning Sierra-esque outdoor vistas are missing, but the retro-industrial look with bright signs and bold logos amid muted tones is back with a vengeance. This is Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland under the yoke of heavily armed post-industrial fascists.

The mechanics of the game aren’t changed much from the last title. Abe’s Exoddus is very much a series of staged puzzles. Most of the challenge comes not from figuring out what to do, but from executing it. You’ll have to time the length of an invisibility effect perfectly, you’ll have to line Abe up pixel perfect at the bottom of a ledge, and you’ll have to tap that jump button at exactly the right moment. One slip and it’s “Play It Again, Abe.” Luckily, the maddening console convention of save points has been abandoned and you can save the game at any point.

The biggest problem with the Oddworld series is a perfect parallel of the gameworld itself. Just as the Mudokons are some fantastically freaky guys suffering under the yoke of oppressive taskmasters, the Oddworld games present a fantastically freaky world fettered by linear and often frustrating gameplay. This strange world is far too rich and vibrant for these 2D constraints and platform gaming conventions. And while the side-view format does lend it some charm, a 3D engine would have so much potential here.

System Requirements: Pentium 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Win95

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