The story is unbelievably involved for this type of game and once you get into it just a little way, you’ll be hooked. The game doesn’t depend on accumulating points to win (what!?!) nor does it bombard you with unconnected puzzle screens or mindless game play designed to merely extend the game length artificially. This is one deep continuous struggle by an oppressed slave (who didn’t realize he was oppressed until he overheard the gruesome plan that spelled out doom for him and his whole race of Mudokons) to save himself and other (sometimes) unbelieving fellow beings. Make no mistake, Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee is tough despite it’s cute and somewhat bizarre characters and environment.
The controls are fairly easy to learn as Abe can do over a dozen actions such as run, sneak, throw, jump, crouch, hop, roll, hoist, walk, mount, chant and use GameSpeak. This latter ability, Abe’s Mudokon language, consists of direction giving and rude noises. Learning when, where, why and to whom to use the eight possible GameSpeak options is an absolute necessity for completing the game. Locations within the game are just as diverse and craftily designed as the inhabitants of Abe’s world and include the RuptureFarms slice and dice meat packing factory where Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee begins, the territory that surrounds the factory (Stockyards and Free-Fire Zone), Monsaic Lines (holy caves of the Mudokons), Scrabania (a good place to practice moves), a couple of Temples that serve as homes to the Scrabs and Paramites (both on the endangered list thanks to the goons at RuptureFarms) and Paramonia, part of Oddworld’s threatened wilderness.
The charm of the game is enhanced constantly by the actions of the various species (friendly and non-friendly), each with fantastically designed individual traits and personalities who must be handled with care to make them function in a helpful way. An endearing feature of the game is the way Abe’s “death” is handled by simply plopping him back at the beginning of whatever section you were playing. Be prepared, however, to repeat these sections numerous times as more often than not the game springs a surprise that quickly ends in Abe’s demise and can only be learned through trial and error. (See Enjoyment section below).
The innovative backgrounds and environments have to be seen to be believed. The consistency and plot-integrated cut scenes nearly exceed in brilliance any that I have seen before.
Every single being or creature that you encounter in the game has a unique blend of sound effects and the music is astonishingly linked to the action on the screen. Perhaps a bit more variety would have been nice but the exquisite way in which it merges with game play is uncanny. Abe’s speech is worth the entry fee alone.
Overall presentation (from story to character actions) and intense game play far outshines any minor flaws perceived in the game. And those minor flaws (if any) are very difficult to identify. The game has nearly a perfect blend of sound, music, visual content, humor and nearly every emotion you can think of and all come into play during this game. If there is a flaw, it might be in the fact that the game is so frustratingly hard in places or that it forces you to learn of game traps by trial and error, thus guaranteeing sections will be replayed many times. If you are intent on saving all 99 of Abe’s Mudokon buddies, be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time glued to your computer. More than two dozen objects come into play and game play is not constricted to just repeating the same tired moves over and over. This game requires some mental agility to figure out the challenging puzzles and predicaments Abe finds himself in and not just tricky, slapdash, mindless puzzles either. There is an incredibly unique integration between Abe’s on-screen actions and the advancement of the story. Speaking of which, marvelously directed, meaningful and totally absorbing cut scenes splice the story together flawlessly and with flair. These amazing sequences have to be seen to be believed. To sum up, I have never been an ardent fan of side scrolling action puzzle games but in the case of Abe’s Oddysee I’m not only willing but downright eager to put aside my lukewarm feelings towards this type of game and unequivocally state that I hope the designer’s promise to fully flesh out other aspects of Oddworld in four more installments becomes reality. I, for one, will be at the head of the line waiting to pick up my reserved copy at my favorite software store.
The game isn’t really designed with replay value as a high priority. You’ll get enough replaying of most sections by the simple requirement to get through them safely. However, the game is so uniquely charming and fun, replaying it for pure enjoyment is a viable option.