“Hello.” “Hello.” “Follow me.” “Okay.”
It’s hardly the most inspired conversation in the history of mankind but in 1997 it was all some of us could hear for weeks after wrapping up Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee. Leading a horde of Mudokons to freedom from the tyrants at Rupture Farms is a timeless play-die-repeat challenge that’s still up there with modern stablemates like Super Meat Boy in the echelons of controller-throwing frustration.
Back in its heyday, Abe was the benchmark for trial-and-error gameplay. The only way to win was to die over and over again until you got it right. Mistime a jump over some landmines? Explode into chunks of Mudokon meat and try again. Accidentally lead a friend into the path of a meat grinder? Try again. Run into the sight of a gun-toting Slig? Try again, again and again.
Therein lay Abe’s original appeal. That appeal has transitioned across beautifully to New ‘N’ Tasty, rebuilt from the ground-up by original developers Oddworld Inhabitants and long-time collaborators Just Add Water, responsible for the HD remakes of Munch’s Oddysee and Stranger’s Wrath.
Rather than simply overhaul the textures, JAW have seen fit to rebuild the entire game in what can only be described as a labour of love. 2D sprites have been replaced with 3D models and pre-rendered backgrounds have become activity-packed 3D enviroments. New voices replace the crusty recordings of yesteryear. Most importantly, a 2D side-scroller has become a beautiful 2.5D world rich in detail, replacing screen after screen of gameplay with long, fluid runs of platforming.
For the nostalgic, revisiting this world is a pleasing shock to the system, an entirely familiar and alien experience for those who have walked the corridors of Rupture Farms before. Abe, once a character with fixed stride lengths, now has complete freedom on a two-dimensional plane. The absence of the original’s ‘hop’ button is sorely noted when looking to make a precise jump over a landmine or two, but being able to sneak while crouching and chuck bottlecaps to distract enemies are both welcome additions in its place.
There are countless other tweaks, both to Abe’s abilities and the environment, in order to bring Oddworld up to speed with what modern players expect. Lifting some tricks from sequel Abe’s Exoddus, New ‘N’ Tasty includes a rapid-fire quicksave function on the touchpad, which you’ll be using an awful lot, as well as some tweaks to Gamespeak, the system used to communicate with fellow Mudokons. You can still fart, in case you were wondering.
The biggest nod towards reinventing Abe for a new, modern generation is the introduction of varying difficulty settings: Abe now has a health bar. The hardcore can play on the classic one-hit-kill setting, as Odd intended.
Some changes give and some take away, but at its heart this is still very much a game that takes after the original. The black comedy that comes with each miscalculated jump, each mistimed attempt at bomb defusal and each dash into a hail of gunfire is as hilarious as it is teeth-grindingly infuriating and cringeworthy. Abe’s charm as a character and the brilliant, time-tested atmosphere of the world around you are key to holding your attention through each cock-up.
Just Add Water’s efforts must be saluted. Despite the changes made to shape the game into something more accommodating than its 1997 counterpart, New ‘N’ Tasty captures the spirit of what made the original so fun, frustrating and original.
The anti-industry, pro-green sentiment of the storyline is more relevant than ever in today’s post-crash, anti-fracking world; Abe is the green movement’s most distinctive and undoubtedly smelliest spokesperson.
Some of the changes may irritate the more staunch Oddworld hardcore. Sod them. As a whole this is a comprehensive and highly recommended HD remake that puts others to shame; it is The HD Remake for others to model themselves on. A delicately handled piece of gaming nirvana, far from a rushed cash-in, treated with the love and respect that its forerunner deserves.