An undisputed gem of the early PlayStation era, Aisling Timmons discusses Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey.
It’s only as an adult can I appreciate how much went into the production of the game.
Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey was released in 1997 by developer Oddworld Inhabitants. Hailed for its incredible graphics and originality at the time of its release, the visual aspects and unique storyline are still as impressive today as they were over twenty years ago. The cutscenes alone make for a very compelling short film. Not only do the dark, industrial visuals set the tone for the accompanying story, but the soundtrack is perfectly placed throughout to add in elements of foreboding. Throughout the cutscenes, Abe speaks almost entirely in rhyme and it’s evident that the creators put as much work, if not more, into telling a creative and new story rather than just creating some dystopian platform game that appeals to the masses. It’s only as an adult can I appreciate how much went into the production of the game.
The player’s task is to guide Abe through the depths of RuptureFarms, a meat processing facility where enslaved Mudokons like Abe are put to work. Abe discovers that the Glukkon are planning to turn his fellow Mudokons into their latest product, Mudokon Pops. He decides he has no other choice but to make a break for it and escape. When I was younger, I never paid much attention to the plot of the game, I simply liked Abe as a character and the simple fact that he wanted to help his friends. Now, fully understanding the storyline, I like him even more. After the first cutscene, the player takes control and helps Abe through a series of beginner platforms where the objective is to free a small number of slaves. I say beginner only because restarting the entire game at any point during the first few levels won’t be too much of a loss to you if you happen to have any casualties. These levels are seemingly intended for trial and error and to get used to the controls. After you help Abe and several of his fellow slaves escape, a cutscene with Abe meeting a Mudokon shaman is shown. This shaman (who always terrified me as a child) helps him to reconnect with his spiritual powers that all Mudokons had before becoming enslaved. Abe then sets out on a mission to return to RuptureFarms and free every Mudokon from the facility. Before this, however, you must guide Abe through two other levels, Paramonia and Scrabania, in order to unlock these spiritual powers. These levels provide some respite to anyone finding the gameplay difficult as they mostly involve puzzle-solving, as opposed to danger and fighting Sligs(the robot crabs with machine guns).
I would be lying if I said that the gameplay was not frustratingly hard. The various platforms are littered with save points and Abe is given an infinite number of lives with which you can experiment and figure out the best way to complete each level. However, it’s the sheer amount of experimentation needed that is the frustrating part. Abe has to operate levers which allow him to do a multitude of things such as opening doors. Along with this, Abe has to verbally tell his fellow slaves to follow him. If this is timed wrong or if you have not cleared the level of any Sligs you can end up leading your poor unsuspecting comrade to their deaths. Each level is complete once you have freed all the Mudokons from the area. Ultimately, the amount of slaves you save determines how the game ends.
Abe can be forgiven for having such difficult gameplay as you just never get bored watching it. The platform format definitely makes it easier for you to remember where you previously messed up, so restarting and replaying levels has a lowered amount of frustration attached. The idea of remaking the original never made sense to me, mostly because I did not feel like it was necessary considering just how good the original graphics were for their time, but I am certainly very interested in seeing Abe explore his world more and save more of his fellow Mudokons.