“This is Rupture Farms.”
It only took a few words to introduce Oddworld some thirteen years ago. Players delved into a game universe unlike any other, one filled both with dark humor and lighthearted fun. While there hasn’t been a new game in the series for five years, Oddworld Inhabitants has grouped together four games into something called the Oddboxx. Unfortunately, the package doesn’t live up to the lineage from which it comes.
The Oddboxx includes Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus, Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee, and Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath. I know, that is a whole lot of Odd. Both Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus were available on the PC upon released and are available on nearly every digital distribution site today. As such, I won’t spend too much time on them in this review.
Both are excellent examples of puzzle platform games. Players guide Abe in side-scrolling fashion to save his fellow Mudokon slaves from a grizzly demise. In classic (read: hard) fashion, only the basics are explained such as controls and interacting with on-screen characters. This leads to a very challenging but rewarding experience as you learn how complex the game truly is.
Just don’t expect them to look good at modern resolutions. They were designed to run at 640x480 and there is no in-game option to run in windowed mode. I suggest looking at either a third-party application to force windowed mode or using your graphics card configuration utility to prevent it from being stretched to your LCD’s native resolution. It is worth the effort, but as you will see it’s indicative of a much larger problem.
Let’s move along to what should be the biggest selling point of the Oddboxx: the inclusion of Munch’s Oddysee and Stranger’s Wrath. These previously Xbox-exclusive titles have finally made the jump to PC. A whole new group of players (or those returning due to fond memories) have been given the chance to experience these very eccentric titles. It’s been a bumpy ride since release and remains so even after a couple of patches.
First, we will focus on Munch’s Oddysee. The creativity of Oddworld Inhabitants really shines through in this entry of the series. Players control both Abe and a one-legged, aquatic creature named Munch. The two unique play styles do an excellent job of keeping the game fresh and compelling. Just like the original two games, Munch’s Oddysee makes you feel for the characters by excellent writing and quirky voice acting. It’s unfortunate that it’s riddled with technical issues.I love my mouse and keyboard, but wouldn’t you agree that it’s vital for a console port to have support for game pads and controllers? Munch’s Oddysee does support them, but it’s missing the ability to remap how the button configuration. This would be fine except default controls are horrible. One example: the game assigns movement to the left thumbstick with camera controls on the D-Pad instead of the right thumbstick. I ended up using third-party software to remap my controller actions to keys on the keyboard and then customizing the “keyboard“ controls.
Once I get the controls sorted out, I try to change the game’s resolution. Sadly, here is another oversight by the developers. There really is no excuse, but I don’t have an option. I continue on using the default (read: low) resolution. As I start moving around in the very first cave of the game, it crashes to the desktop within one minute. I hadn’t even left the introductory area. I restarted the game thinking it was a fluke; no, it wasn’t. This happened every time I played the game. Thankfully, a patch was issued three days after the game’s release that fixed this one problem. Steam auto-updated my game and I tried it again. It worked! After leaving the cave, I was able to start playing. The rest of my experience was uneventful and I was able to enjoy it.
Now, we can talk about Stranger’s Wrath. I have to confess a special love for this game; it sits firmly as one of my top five games of all time. Not everyone shares my tender feelings for it, though; Stranger’s Wrath was a huge departure from the rest of the series in both form and function. Instead of a puzzle platform game, it is a third-and-first-person shooter with action-adventure segments. Instead of Abe, we control a bounty hunter named Stranger who needs to earn enough money for a life-saving operation.
Stranger collects live ammunition that he dual-wields in a crossbow. This ammunition are critters that perform various functions such as a spider that binds enemies, a skunk-like creature that incapacitates enemies by making them vomit uncontrollably, and a squirrel-like animal that will lure bad guys to a specific location. Between the variety of ammunition and large areas that allow you to plan your approach, Stranger’s Wrath provides plenty of reasons to replay the game.
Sadly, I had almost as many problems with it as I did with Munch’s Oddysee. First, the controls are only customizable by editing a config file outside of the game. Thankfully, it’s not as much of a problem with Stranger’s Wrath because the keyboard and mouse work well. A recent patch added options for custom resolutions, windowed mode, and even V-Sync while making the game run smoother.
I didn’t have stability issues with Stranger’s Wrath and I was able to play well; it took only a few moments to remember why I love the game so much. I had to forgive many small cons, though. Stranger’s Wrath doesn’t allow me to type in a profile name; rather, I was forced to use the direction keys to select letters from an on-screen keyboard, console-style. In fact, the mouse can’t be used on any of the menus in any of the games.
Problems were overwhelming upon the release of Oddboxx in December. It’s easy to forgive some of the shortcomings in Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus. After all, there is only so much that can be done with 13 year old code. Plus, we’re about to see an “HD remake” in the near future of one of them. However, Stranger’s Wrath and Munch’s Oddysee don’t deserve such lenience. It’s taken numerous patches to make the games playable, but much work still needs done.
The glaring lack of customizable controls and the inability to correctly change the game resolution make Munch’s Oddysee a disappointment. Stranger’s Wrath still has a ways to go, too. It should have been an excellent way to end the year, but Oddboxx was half-broken on release. Patches have helped, but it’s still a hard sell. Stranger’s Wrath is almost worth it (as a stand-alone order) but I’d wait for the Oddboxx to show up on the other digital distribution outlets. That might signify that it’s finally ready for release.