Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty is such a rare beast in today’s age of remasters, reboots, and HD-ified wallet gouging remakes. It’s actually needed and it actually works. Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee was an aging game in dire need of a reworking, a reworking that could bring it to a whole new generation of fans. Developer Just Add Water has really gone back to the drawing board here, rebuilding Oddworld from the ground up.
Everything is present and correct as fans would expect it, but it’s been grabbed by the ears and thoroughly dragged into 2014. The visuals are looking tastier than a slice of Paramite Pie and the whole experience has got a sheen of quality to it you’d expect from a blockbuster title. It’s unique in its billing as a cinematic platformer, but it loves up to this and more.
Taking off my rose-tinted spectacles for moment, Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee on PSOne was an incredible game, and yet parts of it were so eminently flawed. Back in the day it was easier to gloss over its rough edges, but time of course waits for no Mudokon. Boot it up now and you’re in for a world of pain, a timely reminder that maybe games haven’t got a little easier after all, they’ve just got a whole lot more forgiving.
Don’t worry Abe fans, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty can still be a brutal experience, particularly if you take advantage of the new higher difficulty levels . But for newcomers to the series or those who grew too frustrated to get far with the original, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty makes a great entry point.
For those unfamiliar with the Oddworld universe, it’s a surreal slice of gaming with a warped storyline and and even more warped cast of characters. It’s rare for a video game universe to have such a strong personality to it but Oddworld New ‘n’ Tasty achieves it with aplomb.
Protagonist Abe is a Mudokon slave toiling away for the Rupture Farms meat processing factory, who overhears a plan from the Molluck, the chief Glukkon, to turn Abe and his fellow Mudokons into ‘Mudokon Pops!’ The Glukkon’s have nearly extinguished their supplies of Meech Munchies, Paramite Pies, and Scrab cakes, swiftly turning to Abe’s race to get out of the red.
It can be grim, it can be violent, and you won’t be able to avoid those menacing overtones, but at it’s heart it’s a commentary on the ravenous appetite of commerce, delivered with enough humour and glum wit to carry the player through and keep you smiling wryly.
At its heart Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty is a 2D puzzle platformer, sending you into the wilderness to try and save your fellow Mudokons from the production line. Much of what you’re doing will require some head scratching and, while not massively skill-based, a knack for timing becomes a must. Abe is surprisingly light on abilities, so much of New ‘n’ Tasty’s levels involves trying to avoid enemies, hiding in the shadows or tactically taking them out with your ‘takeover’ ability. This is a mind control ability that lets you take direct control of enemy sligs, although its use is generally limited to occasions when the ‘takeover’ blockers aren’t on-screen.
While occasionally punishing the godlike addition of a quick save button on a console game should stop you pulling your hair out, particularly following the original Abe’s Oddysee’s rather stingy checkpoint system. I say that casually but the citizens of Bristol so very nearly had a rogue PlayStation or two fly out the window and come crashing down on them.
The controls are the first port of call, and these have been smoothed out no end, making for a much more playable experience. You’ll still die plenty from mistiming rolls or prodding a bleeping mine, but you’ll swiftly come to understand the sense of inertia and weight inherent in Abe’s movement. His movement is still very much animation focused but it rarely feels unfair now. In fact that slight delay and mechanical movement is necessary for some of the finer puzzles, much like Lara Croft’s tank-like controls in the original Tomb Raiders.
Rather than the original’s 99 Mudokons to rescue, this time there’s instead a rather mammoth 299 in Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty.. Admittedly many of them are just stood around in larger groups waiting to be rescued, but there’s a lengthy challenge in here for those who want to perfect their runs.
Much of the world’s layout remains identical and faithful to the original, although a few concessions have to occasionally been made for the new smooth-scrolling screens. Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee had players engaging in single-screen puzzles at a time, moving left or right to other screens, but New ‘n’ Tasty frees things up a bit to surprisingly good effect.
Sometimes finding all of the missing Mudokons can be a little obtuse, and the potential for ruining a perfect runthrough is huge. On my playthrough of the first level I unwittingly rolled into the exit with no option to reload a previous save or checkpoint, only to be told 45 of my fellow Modokens had been culled for my misjudged efforts.
All told the main adventure will take you around 10-15 hours on your first run-through, all of you’re intending on rescuing all 299 Mudokons you can in all likelihood double this if you’re not using a guide.
Looks-wise Oddworld is a bit of a corker, the softly dappled lighting, varied lighting, and subtle perspective shifts add up to richly detailed and visually engrossing title. It’s a strange sensation but playing Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty feels like the original coming to life, breathing life into its pre-rendered world. Running on the Unity engine, some of the art on offer is absolutely gorgeous, and the vibrant colours and lighting can lead to some stunning scenes.
In terms of the quality of this remake Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty is almost unrivalled. Just Add Water has gone above and beyond what fans of the series were expecting, and as a piece of fan-service it’s second to none. It’s the puzzle-platformer equivalent of remaking Baldur’s Gate in Frostbite 3; a graphical and gameplay tour de force worth any fan of the genre’s time.