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Review by: Jordan Thomas
Published: November 30, 1997
Dusk. The murky horizon embraces the sprawling terrain. Swirling tendrils of fog trickle around massive, moss-covered trees. Primordial cries of hunger and fear echo throughout the jungle. A small amphibious creature of indeterminate origin hops blithely around the steaming swamp. The carefree little croaker blinks, just once. Too bad.
With a roar that rocks the surrounding flora to its foundation, a massive multi-legged beast crashes through the reeds, and consumes the hapless hopper with a resounding chomp. Unsettling crunching noises ensue.
Welcome to Oddworld.
Teeming with life, the vast planet houses some of the strangest and most dangerous life-forms ever to be conceived during Mother Nature’s “experimental” phase. In this particular adventure, dubbed Abe’s Oddysey, you get to play the proverbial runt of the litter.
Meet Abe. He’s friendly, versatile, and utterly clueless. He’s also a slave. Abe narrates his story in his wonderful voice, similar to a goblin with a cold. Abe’s employment, such as it is, is held by Rupture Farms, the most brutal and ruthless meat factory one could ever have the misfortune to stumble upon. He worked hard, and was happy in his own oblivious way. And then, while staying late one night to wax the marble floors, he stumbled upon a terrible secret.
The Glukkons own Rupture Farms. These sinister corporate reptiles are beings of cold blood and an even colder disposition. As Abe eavesdrops, they unveil their master plan to bolster plummeting profits. With Scrabs and Paramites disappearing rapidly due to Rupture Farms’s “aggressive marketing strategy”, the Glukkons need a new item to plop wetly on their customers’ plates. Unfortunately for Abe, this new dish is him. He and his Mudokon buddies are fated to be hacked apart and served up, the newest addition to the bloody menu of Rupture Farms. Hey, it’s good for the economy!
Needless to say, Abe decides to beat a hasty retreat. The player’s adventure begins as our hero sprints madly through the Farms’ dark halls, past the crates of cutlets and barrels of bowels. The game is a side-scroller by nature, a genre which usually limits gameplay through rigidly defined areas to explore. Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysey is the divine scroller, and a veritable monument to game design genius.
This said quality is directly reflected by almost every element of the game. I must take a moment now to personally commend the artists and animators who put their creative brilliance into this visual feast. The cutscenes sport the very best character animation, texturing, facial motion, and background artwork I have ever seen. When I fired this game up, I felt like I was embarking on something greater than a nice computer game. The perfect cinematic engineering of the in-game movies establishs a gloriously epic feel. Further animations are integrated seamlessly into gameplay.
Between two-dimensional movement through the levels, there are three-dimensional transitions, which rotate, zoom, and fly through the Oddworld, the final frames of which freeze into actual levels! I was very impressed, to say the least. Every creature, every background, and every sparkly special effect is expertly created, and the overall visual effect is so spellbinding that it’s scary in a wonderful way.
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