Published on March 9th, 2016 | by Lee Davies
Review: Oddworld: New ’n’ Tasty (Wii U eShop)
Format reviewed: Wii U eShop
Other formats available: PS Network, Xbox, Steam
Developer: Just Add Water
Publisher: Oddworld Inhabitants
Website: Official Website
Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty is a ground-up remake of Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, released way back in 1997 on the original Playstation console, and Windows PC. The game follows Abe, the main character, a Mudokon slave, who is chosen by fate to escape his captors at Rupture Farms, a meat processing factory. He inadvertently overhears plans from his boss, Molluck the Glukkon, to put Abe and his fellow Mudokons into the meat grinder, to make Tasty Treats, as a final effort to rescue Molluck’s failing meatpacking empire. Abe is tasked with the challenge of emancipating his downtrodden species, but first he has to escape Rupture Farms and help out the other endangered species of this Oddworld.
Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty is a game that has been built from the ground-up for this generation’s powerful consoles, so this old-school game should have stunning visuals, and that’s the case. Oddworld looks breathtaking in places, utilizing its 2.5D stylized graphics with stunning backgrounds, shadowing, and other special effects.
Gameplay operates in the typical way a 2-dimensional puzzle platformer does. You travel across separate screens, solving puzzles, navigating obstacles, and avoiding enemies. If any of these activities are inaccurately portrayed, then it’s death for the poor Mudokon. And you will see the many deaths of Abe during your playthrough of this game. Abe can run with the Analogue stick, jump with B, and perform context sensitive actions with Y, like entering a doorway for further progression, pulling levers to drop items, open trapdoors, etc. Using the L trigger allows Abe to sneak past sleeping enemies. Throwing items, such as stones, bombs and meat, is awkwardly done with the R analogue for aiming, and the R trigger for the actual toss. Escorting your Mudokon friends to safety through telepathically induced bird portals requires you to hold down on the ZR and ZL to induce such a spiritual enlightened state. Before this though Abe needs to speak to his kin by the use of the D-Pad button. A system called GameSpeak allows Abe to command his fellow mates to follow him, stay put, and activate mechanisms, as well as praise or scold them. Abe can also use his telepathic ability to control Sligs (one of the few enemies). Once Abe successfully possesses a Slig, it can be used to attack other enemies and activate mechanisms dangerous for Abe himself, and then destroy them.
Using all the gameplay ideas from above, Just Add Water and Oddworld Inhabitants have created some wonderful puzzle environments that require a steep learning curve, and will challenge even the most diehard puzzle platformer players out there. This is even more so true on the Wii U due to some unforgivable problems that break the game in crucial areas.
My main criticisms that I throw toward Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty start with its jerky frame-rate. This is most noticeable during cut scenes, which run in a very stilted, staccato fashion. It’s so bad at these times it really makes you wonder what the developer did with its time porting this game to Wii U. Not only during the cut scenes, but that jerky frame-rate is evident throughout Abe’s campaign during the more graphically demanding sections.
If the jerky frame-rate wasn’t enough to put you off, then I direct your attention to the abysmal input lag, that becomes a persistent threat to your patience. Frankly, the input lag in Oddworld is game breaking, and I find it difficult to believe that no game tester brought this up as a concern, someone must have said something, in that case the developers knew what they were pushing out the door. In one case, you can defuse bombs that flash between green and red. Squat down, and press the action (Y) button to defuse the bomb. An easy puzzle I hear you thinking. Not in Oddworld, after repeatedly dying when I was clearly pressing the Y button during the bomb’s green phase, I showed the conundrum to my family, after their numerous deaths, I realized that the input lag was so substantial that the only way to safely diffuse the bomb was to press the Y button during the red phase (even the sign above Abe is telling me to press it during the green phase), and then wait for the input lag to kick in, and watch Abe move when its green. Abysmal, frustrating and game breaking. Another example of a time precision puzzle is the case of pulling a lever to turn on an electric fence that will fry one of Abe’s tormentors, who’s walking a patrol sweep. Wait for it, he’s nearly there, pull the lever, input lag, too late. This input lag affects most things in a game that relies on precision platforming, timed lever pulling, timed object throwing, etc. It just adds an extra level of frustration to the game that should not exist. My son now refuses to even allow me to load up this game, in his presence, due to its unfairness. I play alone (and frustrated).
Not only is there game breaking input lag, but the whole control system is overly twitchy and old-school. Precision platforming is often required, but the jump button isn’t time dependent, so the jump is the same length every time regardless of how long you hold the button for. There are fast running sections that require you to jump over numerous platforms and avoid the pitfalls. But, at times, if you time the first jump a hair’s width too late, it makes the second, or third, jump impossible. There’s no room to adjust after a jump. It makes the control of Abe seem very antiquated, and stuck in the past. It feels as if your controlling a PS1 game, with bad input lag, and no nuance, or finesse to the analogue and jump controls. The amount of times the analogue stick registers a jump instead of a sideways movement, and a resultant frustrating death is so disappointing. I really wanted to enjoy this game and its puzzles, but I am prohibited to do so by god awful controls and lag.
The story is of a fight for freedom over the oppression of a totalitarian dictatorship, but its hard to feel anything for the characters when they are as paper-thin as they are in Oddworld. Abe is such an uninteresting, unfunny character, that I don’t really care what happens to him. The game does nothing to propel his character forward, except the occasional slapstick routine where he falls down a hole. The humour throughout the game is, quite frankly, not amusing. I was brought up on slapstick comedies, like Laurel and Hardy, or Harold Lloyd, and should have no reason to not chortle at the offerings here. But, the slapstick humour is badly timed, and strangely lacking any compassion for any of the game‘s characters. You feel disjointed and removed from Abe’s plight due to the way that the game handles him as a character. The rest of the game’s cast is unnamed, other than 3 others, they’re all just meat for the Rupture Farms grinder. The remaining story is told, and unfolded, through rhyming poems that are interspersed between the load scenes. But, these rhymes are as uninteresting as the characters portrayed in the game. No names, no personality, no humour, it’s just predictably boring.
Off TV play is the only use of the GamePad that exists. The GamePad mirrors the TV at all times. There are no menus that use touch for the selection process, which begs the question why this game doesn’t support other controller inputs. Off TV play is very useful, but so would the option to use a Pro Controller for TV use. Whilst playing Off TV I found several, oft repeated sound glitches, and completely missing sounds, such as explosions, or even dialogue. I thought the game was broken, but trying the same sections again on TV just went to show that through the TV speakers everything was in place aurally. So, whilst Off-TV play is a nice addition, expect some missing audio frequently.
The last frustration is down to the loading and saving options. Loading between areas is overly long, and this becomes increasingly frustrating when the area you’ve just traversed is small, which many are. Some take as little as 10 seconds to traverse, then wait and watch another 20-30 second loading screen. Checkpoints are numerous enough, but also far enough apart to make you repeat pointless sections many times over. But help is at hand, due to the new ‘Quik Save’. Sounds promising, yes? No. At any time you can hit the – button to Quik Save (I haven‘t spelt it wrong, Oddworld loves this kind of play on lettering), but this doesn’t seem to work every time. So, the best way to make sure the game has Quik Saved is to pause the game, then Quik Save from the pause menu. In menus, the D-Pad is not used, I always use the D-Pad to quickly navigate menus whatever the game (especially ones that do not utilise the touch screen of the GamePad). So, no touch screen use, and no D-Pad use in menus. Using the Analogue stick to navigate menus seems foreign and cumbersome to me. Anyway, Quik Save the game and back to it. Next, inevitably die from some simple jump, due to twitchy controls, and wait for the incredibly long death scene, and longer revival scene. Hold on, the game doesn’t start me at the Quik Save, it’s put me back to last checkpoint. So, every time I have to enter the pause menu and manually load up the Quik Save data. Quik Save, hmmm, pushing the limits of truth there. Quik Load, definitely not. After 10 deaths, on what looks like an easy puzzle, and Quik Saving and loading between, it’s a wonder I haven’t ripped all my hair out.
Co-op play is advertised on the Main Menu, but its merely a pass-the-controller to let the next player take on the frustration from you. Taking turns does not a co-op game make.
Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty has some beautiful vistas, a lack of compassion for its protagonists, but exceptional puzzles that don’t baulk at being insanely difficult, and that’s a massive positive for some truly demanding platforming action. However, the control system and the game’s input lag just confound the need to have the spot on accuracy that is required to successfully traverse all areas. This game is like using predictive text, for heaven’s sake I didn’t type that.
Oddworld: New ’n’ Tasty (Wii U eShop)
Summary: Broken. Wonderful visuals and puzzles are completely destroyed by game breaking input lag, a jerky framerate, and an antiquated movement system that would require a complete overhaul to recover.