Growing up, owning a video game console was a matter of strategy. You had to figure out which friends held onto their Nintendos, which cousins were rich enough to own a Sega, and which platform had the types of games you wanted. For me, the choice was easy: PlayStation, far and away the only console I wanted as a kid. I was raised on a healthy diet of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Crash Bandicoot and Spyro among others, but for all my love of the system, I never gave Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee a chance. However, 17 years after that game’s release, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! has rolled around to give me an opportunity to replay a missed classic.
With a polished remake lovingly crafted by developers Just Add Water, I honestly can’t compare New ‘n’ Tasty to the original from nostalgic memories since I had no experience with the series before this (aside from some dabbling with Stranger’s Wrath, which was pretty awesome). Whether or not you’re a fan of the series, though, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty is a fantastic platformer/puzzler that indicates I missed out on something incredible when I was a kid.
For those not familiar with the story, the game follows Abe, an enslaved Mudokon who works at RuptureFarms, a factory that mashes up various species of animals into tasty treats until they drive them to extinction. With profits falling, the owner of the factory, Molluck the Glukkon, decides to use the enslaved Mudokons for his next product. When Abe accidentally discovers this, he escapes the factory and sets out to free his fellow Mudokons.
Much of Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! mimics the original game, including the story, and it’s surprising how well it stands up over time. The story is told primarily through Abe’s rhyming narration, which adds a ton of charm and character and makes our protagonist a surprisingly humorous and sympathetic creature.
Seeing as this is a recreation of a PlayStation-era title, the gameplay is reminiscent of games from yesteryear, putting a heavy emphasis on creative thinking, mounting frustration and clunky controls. Since Abe is pretty much defenseless, he’s stuck running, jumping and rolling his way through the world. It’s a shame, then, that the controls aren’t as intuitive or reactive as they should be since these are the only things Abe can do.
The jumping mechanics especially feel like a throwback to older games, and not in a good way. Abe can only jump a predetermined length, which is extremely short, and it feels like you have to hit the jump button a few seconds before you normally would. This is especially problematic when running and jumping off of ledges, as you’ll end up throwing Abe over the side of various cliffs or into a handful of gruesome traps.
However, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! has more than a few advantages over the original that ease the extreme difficulty for newcomers. For instance, rather than being used for occasional contextual button mashes, the touch pad is used as a quick save/quick load button, and I’ll just say it: that feature saved the game. While it’s obviously completely possible to beat Just Add Water’s revamp through the use of checkpoints alone, the challenge rises considerably (and smoothly) throughout the experience, and some later levels would take years to beat without this simple addition.
Even back in 1997, the setting of Oddworld featured some impressively beautiful landscapes, and their updated versions on the PS4 offer some breathtaking visuals. The creature designs live up to their odd names, and the cartoonish style injects some levity into the surprisingly dark tale of anti-consumerism. In fact, the in-game graphics tend to look much better than the cutscenes do, but thankfully New ‘n’ Tasty is light on show and pretty heavy on play.
Although it seems like a platformer/stealth game at first, each section of the game comes across more like a puzzler than anything, asking players to rack their brains for solutions to whatever scenario they’re presented with. It’s a refreshing take on puzzle games, presenting itself as a flowing experience rather than disjointed rooms with random challenge after random challenge. Not all puzzles are completely mind-destroying (you’ll find yourself mimicking whistles and farts to get a switch flipped pretty often), but the mechanics all work together to keep each new section interesting and challenging.
One of Abe’s most useful ability is his chant, which can possess enemy Sligs and allow Abe to either use them to solve puzzles or destroy each other. He can also use it to open up portals leading back to RuptureFarms to rescue his fellow Mudokons. This is important, as the number of Mudokons rescued affects Abe’s fate in the end, although you come across more than enough fellow workers throughout the campaign without searching too hard.
Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! also allows players to scroll through entire levels seamlessly rather than breaking them up into tinier sections, making it easier to see what lies ahead and plan accordingly. While many of the changes made for this version seem like they make the game almost too easy, believe me when I say that the challenge is still definitely there, especially towards the end when Abe breaks back into RuptureFarms for the last time. You’ll be thanking every deity in existence for that quick save button in no time.
Since this is the modern generation, leaderboards are also available online, showcasing the fastest completion times and how many players have 100% completed the game. There’s also a halfhearted multiplayer option that just switches control of Abe from one controller to the next each time he dies. It’s not terribly engrossing, but it’s a seamless way to play together with a friend.
Although the price point is pretty steep at $30, there’s a ton of content and a decently long game in store for newcomers, and an incredibly well done remaster of a classic for old fans. Although I missed the Oddworld train when it first arrived, New ‘n’ Tasty has served as an excellent introduction to the series and will more than please fans of the original. If anything, this game serves as an example of why the series should come back in a big way. The updated graphics open up the lush, detailed world in so many ways, the 2.5D gameplay holds up well and the story is impressively serious while at the same time remaining goofy.
Even though I was frustrated when faced with many of the puzzles and challenges thrown at me, I never stopped coming back to Oddworld because so much of it works. Should Just Add Water decide to either remaster other entries in the series or move on to create new titles and fix the wonky controls, I would jump at the chance to give them a try. Whether you’ve been a fan for decades or haven’t tried the series until now, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty is the perfect combination of the old-school focus on fun with a shiny new engine that showcases what the series can do in the present generation.
This review was based on a PlayStation 4 copy of the game given to us for review purposes.
Recreating a classic PlayStation game with style, Just Add Water have shot new life into the Oddworld series with Oddworld: New 'N' Tasty!