If there’s one franchise that is in dire need of a new entry, it’s Oddworld. As we sit and watch annual releases of such high profiles properties as Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, and Need for Speed, we haven’t seen a new adventure in the Oddworld universe since 2005’s Stranger’s Wrath. We have seen a couple of the old titles re-released on PSN as PSOne Originals (Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus), but those were just straight ports of the late-90’s originals. So when do we get a new title? Developer Oddworld Inhabitants has said they are working on a new game, but when that will arrive, no one knows. In the mean time, they have decided to re-release all four games with a hi-definition coat of paint as part of a package dubbed OddBoxx. Initially only to be made available on PC, it was later decided to be launched on PSN as well. This first to hit Sony’s platform? Stranger’s Wrath...
Stranger’s Wrath was not only the fourth entry in the series, but the biggest departure as well. Where the first three games were puzzle platformers who’s unique GameSpeak feature helped set it apart from its genre breathern, Strangers Wrath went a whole other route. Part First Person Shooter and part Third Person Action Platformer, Stranger’s Wrath carried an Old West motif - Oddworld style - and was dramatically different from the quirky and endearing Mudokons and the platforming gameplay that fans had been accustomed to.
"Old and new players alike, this is one PSN game that shouldn’t be missed."
Wrath tells the tale of the Stranger, a bounty hunter in need of a mysterious, life-saving operation. The procedure isn’t cheap though, so the Stranger sets out to get some moolah (the in-game currency) the only way he knows how: Collecting bounties. It’s a simple enough premise, but unbeknownst to the Stranger, it will eventually lead into something much more personal.
The amalgam gameplay actually holds up pretty well considering this is a six year old, last gen title. Most of your time will be spent in the third person, traveling from one location to the next as you seek out your bounties. While the level design does have a pseudo-open feel, it’s still a linear affair, so there isn’t any difficulty in figuring out where to go. There is some interaction with the various natives that help give the game some of its charm, with their humorous quips and southern twang. But the vast majority of the characters you’ll meet come in the form of bad guys that need to be wrangled. At this point, things switch to first person (which is done on the fly, as needed). Players can opt to kill the foe outright, or stun him, then capture him for a cash reward. There is a bit of risk though, as capturing enemies makes the Stranger vulnerable for a short time. If you are quick enough (as the bodies degrade and disappear), you can grab their corpses instead, though the reward is significantly less if you opt for the ‘Dead’ part of ‘Dead or Alive’.
Here’s where the hook comes in. The Stranger uses a modified, double barrel cross bow with live ammo. Literally. To keep it stocked, ammunition comes in the form of critters that he needs to gather up during his journey. Each barrel can be a different ammo type, and each one has a different effect, which adds a measure of strategy to how you approach each confrontation. Chippunks act as a distraction, drawing the attention of any foes within its vicinity. The Fuzzles are little furballs with teeth which can be laid as proximity traps or shot directly at an enemy. Stunks will stun a whole group of enemies while Boombats are like rockets. There’s nine different types in all, and only a certain amount of each can be carried (except the Zappflies, which are unlimited). This is where the fun truly lies. The third person part is decent enough, with the character interaction being the highlight, as the controls can be a bit floaty at times when hopping across the platforms and such. But the FPS side with the varied ammo, forming different combinations for each situation, never gets old.
We’ve seen many games get remastered for today’s hi-def consoles over the last few years, but Stranger’s Wrath is easily among the top of the heap. The visuals found here could stand toe-to-toe with most of the new games hitting store shelves today. The cinematic cut scenes are simply gorgeous, while in-game the textures are smooth, the colors pop, and everything is completely jaggy free. Given the wide range of quality we’ve seen with these HD makeovers, from the great to the downright ugly, this stands as a testament to just how much love Oddworld Inhabitants put in for the re-release. If this is an indicator of we can expect, Oddworld fans are going to be in for a real treat when the rest of the Oddboxx titles make their way to PSN. AAnd those with love for all things 3D will be pleased to hear that a patch is coming in February that will add stereoscopic 3D, as well as some other features like PlayStation Move support.
Re-releasing older games is always a positive as far as I’m concerned. At the minimum, it gives today’s players an opportunity to either re-experience the stories and characters they love, or visit these worlds for the first time. How these experiences measure up to today’s releases is directly proportional to the quality the game originally had, combined with the amount of care the developer or publisher puts in to the re-release. Some hold up really well, accentuated by the remastering and other goodies the team decides to add. Others...well...they don’t fare so well, and sometimes can hurt the fond memories fans hold so dear. Fortunately, Stranger’s Wrath falls into the former. It’s a shining example of not only how good the original release was, but how much passion Oddworld Inhabitants still has for it. Old and new players alike, this is one PSN game that shouldn’t be missed.
Release date : 2011-12-27
Publisher : Oddworld Inhabitants
Developer : Oddworld Inhabitants
Gameplay : Action-Adventure
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