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Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee

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Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee
PlayStation cover art
Developer(s)
Publisher(s)GT Interactive Software
Director(s)Lorne Lanning
Producer(s)Frank Simon
Designer(s)
  • Paul O'Connor
  • Jeff Brown
Programmer(s)
  • Christophe Chaverou
  • Eric Yiskis
Artist(s)
  • Gerilyn Wilhelm
  • Robert D. Brown
Composer(s)
SeriesOddworld
Platform(s)
Release
September 18, 1997
  • PlayStation
    PC
    • NA/EU: October 31, 1997
    Game Boy
    1998
Genre(s)Cinematic platformer
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee is a platform video game developed by Oddworld Inhabitants and published by GT Interactive. It was released in 1997 for the PlayStation game console, and computers running MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows in North America, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. Emulated versions for the PlayStation 3 via PlayStation Network were released in 2009, 2010, and 2013.

The game centers on the titular Abe, a meek Mudokon slave at the RuptureFarms meat processing factory. When he discovers that he and his fellow Mudokons are to be slaughtered, Abe decides to escape and liberate as many enslaved Mudokons as he can. The player assumes the role of Abe as he attempts a perilous quest to emancipate his downtrodden people.

Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee was widely acclaimed for having innovative gameplay, good art direction and engaging cutscenes; however, its steep learning curve and system of only saving at checkpoints received criticism. It was the first game in the planned five-part Oddworld series, which includes the direct sequels Abe's Exoddus (1998), Munch's Oddysee (2001) and Stranger's Wrath (2005). A remake of the game, titled Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty!, was developed by Just Add Water and released in 2014.

Gameplay[edit]

A gameplay screenshot showing Abe riding on the Elum for increased mobility.

Abe's Oddysee is a two-dimensional platform game in which players take control of the character Abe to travel across separate screens solving puzzles, navigating obstacles, and avoiding enemies. Abe can die in a variety of ways, such as being attacked by an enemy, touching a hazardous obstacle, falling from too great a height or into a bottomless pit, or holding a grenade for too long. If Abe dies, he will respawn at the last checkpoint. As well as jumping to navigate areas and crouching to roll under obstacles, Abe can break into a run to jump over large gaps or escape enemies, or tiptoe to avoid disturbing enemies, adding a stealth element to the game. Abe can use throwable objects such as meat, rocks or grenades to bypass enemies or destroy obstacles, though grenades have a timer and will blast Abe into pieces if he holds one for too long.[3][4]

Abe has the ability to telepathically control Sligs, a type of enemy NPC, but can only use this in safe areas; in most areas, flying orbs, known as chant suppressors, will stop Abe from using his telepathy by zapping him. Once Abe successfully possesses a Slig, he can control their movements to attack other enemies, use gamespeak that can only be used by sligs, and activate mechanisms too dangerous for Abe, even destroying the Slig when he no longer needs it. Abe's body is immobile and vulnerable whilst possessing another character, whereas if his host is killed, control will return to Abe.[5]

Along the way, the player encounters other Mudokons that he can rescue. By holding down the GameSpeak button and pressing various commands, Abe can command them to follow him, stay put, and activate mechanisms, as well as praise or scold them. Sometimes Abe will have to go through certain procedures to persuade a certain Mudokon, such as responding to whistles. Mudokons can be rescued by safely leading them past traps and enemies to bird portals, which can be activated by chanting. If the player rescues at least 50 Mudokons (of the possible 99) during the course of the game, the Mudokons rescue Abe in the good ending of the game.[6][7]

Throughout the game, Abe is attacked by Sligs, Slogs, Scrabs, and Paramites, and Bats. Sligs will shoot on sight, but cannot see through dark areas; Slogs will bark loudly if they hear the player, and will chase them without regard for anything else. Scrabs will attack anything in their territory, including others of their own kind; whilst Paramites will attack when in packs or when cornered and are docile otherwise. Bats are enemies that occasionally appear, flying erratically in a small area, usually with other bats, and they can be killed with rocks. [8][9] Elums are bipedal creatures that Abe can ride and communicate with by GameSpeak, although they will be distracted by dripping honey. Late in the game, Abe gains the ability to transform into a demigod called 'Shrykull', which can eviscerate all on-screen enemies. Abe can gain a limited number of transformation uses after rescuing enough Mudokons at the same time.[10] The traits of these creatures are often used to create puzzles, where you must take note of each creature’s strengths and weaknesses, and take advantage of them in order to survive.

Plot[edit]

Characters[edit]

Abe's Oddysee focuses on a variety of species that inhabit the game's setting of Oddworld: the Mudokons, a species with a rich history and culture who have been slowly transformed into meek, obedient slaves, leaving many who are born into captivity ignorant of their kind's past; the Glukkons, a species that covet power and money, lacking any morals or restraints on achieving their goals, and who have established large industries that have stripped Oddworld of its natural resources; and the Sligs, who have escaped enslavement by willingly serving as guards and hunters for the Glukkons. The game mostly focuses on Abe, a Mudokon slave employed as a floor waxer, who acts as both the narrator and the game's protagonist. Abe is described as a "klutz", and is portrayed with his mouth sewn shut, possibly to prevent his outcry.[11] During his adventure, Abe is joined by Elum, a stubborn, loyal assistant. Abe and Elum were originally envisioned as beginning Abe's Oddysee together, living off the land until thrust into an industrial factory; but the developers determined that the story would be stronger should Abe come from a factory existence and gradually learn to become self-sufficent.[12]

The primary antagonist of the game is Molluck the Glukkon, the ruthless CEO of RuptureFarms, a massive meatpacking company and one of Oddworld's most profitable businesses.[3] Molluck and his fellow Glukkons are often portrayed as wearing smart clothing or suits, and sometimes smoking cigars. They rely heavily on the Sligs and a highly advanced security and surveillance system to maintain control of their Mudokon slaves.

Story[edit]

Molluck the Glukkon observing his plummeting profits. The game made extensive use of narrative cutscenes, as many staff members had backgrounds in 3D animation and film production.[13]

While working late at RuptureFarms - a large-scale meat-processing plant on Oddworld - Mudokon slave Abe inadvertently overhears the plant's owner Molluck the Glukkon in conversation with his fellow Glukkons.[3] Because of his business failing, due to the decline in the animals that supply meat for the plant's products - one of which has now gone extinct - Molluck proposes making a new product out of Mudokons.[14] Frightened at learning his species will be harvested for meat, Abe decides to escape from the plant, causing him to become a fugitive in the eyes of the Glukkons.[15] Managing to overcome the Glukkons' security force of Sligs, Abe escapes and reaches the region known as the Free-Fire Zone.

Upon looking to the sky, Abe sees a moon with its face in the shape of a Mudokon handprint,[16] but becomes so focused on it that he falls down a cliff and smashes his head. A shaman of the Mudokons, whom Abe calls Big Face due to the mask he wears,[17] helps him to recover while explaining that only he can save his enslaved brethren from RuptureFarms. In order to do this, Big Face states that Abe must undergo spiritual trials in the lands of the Paramites and the Scrabs, and traverse a set of labyrinthine, abandoned temples. Upon doing so, the shaman marks Abe's hands with a scar, each representing the two species,[18] granting him the power of the Shrykull, an invincible demigod.[3][19]

With this ability, Abe returns to RuptureFarms, rescues his Mudokon brethren, and deactivates most of the factory's power. Molluck discovers this and decides to flood the entire factory with poisonous gas, Abe races to the boardroom to try to deactivate this, using his powers to destroy the Glukkons summoned to the plant, under the pretense of an emergency board meeting. Before he can tackle the gas, Molluck manages to capture Abe, and prepares to send him to a meat grinder. If the player failed to rescue 50 Mudokons throughout the game, Abe succumbs to his fate; if the player manages to rescue at least 50 Mudokons, the freed slaves summons magical lightning to zap Molluck, with BigFace rescuing Abe and bringing him home to a hero's welcome.[20]

Development[edit]

Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee began production in January 1995 under the working title of Soul Storm.[21] After GT Interactive acquired publishing rights on September 12, 1996, the title was changed, first to Oddworld Inhabitants: Epic 1 Starring Abe[22] and eventually to Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee.[23] The game had a private showing at E3 '96, and journalists in attendance hailed it as one of the highlights of the show.[21][24] A more large-scale unveiling took place at E3 '97.[25] Though the original release date of May was pushed back to September,[26] the version of the game shown at E3 '97 in June was remarkably similar to the release version, and Abe's Oddysee had a reportedly smooth development cycle with few late changes.[23]

The first footage creator Lorne Lanning saw of Abe's Oddysee involved a pack of meeches chasing Abe.[27] He said he was happy with the animation at the time but when development was nearing completion, the studio discovered that there was not enough disk space to include all of the species featured in the game.[27] The meeches were removed from the final game and identified in the story as extinct. Another sequence under time and budget constraints concerned the moon that Abe witnesses after his escape from the Stockyards. Lanning explained that the CG sequence that occurs between Abe escaping RuptureFarms and entering the Stockyards was originally accompanied by footage of a meteor shower creating the shape of Abe's handprint, in order to imply "greater forces that are really behind it, that are trying to send him symbols".[28] The budget for the game was $4 million,[29] and GT Interactive dedicated $10 million to its marketing budget, the publisher's largest to date.[30]

According to Lanning, the "GameSpeak" mechanic was partially inspired by the audio puzzles of Loom.[24]

Abe's Oddysee was the first major GT title that the UK development team, that had been taken in by GT following the acquisition of Warner Interactive, became involved with. The testing process of the game was unusual for GT Interactive as the British team did gameplay testing whilst normally American games were only tested in Europe for language and other compatibility issues.[citation needed] The game's soundtrack was composed by Josh Gabriel, and its sound design by Ellen Meijers.[31]

When Abe's Oddysee was in production, the developers found that an executive at publisher GT Interactive tried to sabotage production because he did not like the game being made. He took footage of the game to his boss, who loved the direction the game had, and chose to provide more funding at the expense of the executive who wanted to shut it down.[32] Lanning later explained that in 1997 during Oddysee's production, the video game industry was seen as making toys, and not taken seriously; they were "happy to make a living, but they weren't necessarily going out and bragging about it".[32] Games began to be more about shooting and violence and blood, but Oddworld Inhabitants was "the antithesis to that" and said "we can make people feel better rather than just feel like they won".[32]

A Sega Saturn version of the game was announced,[33] but never released.

In the initial PlayStation version of the game, upon "perfect" completion of the game — completion with all 99 Mudokon slaves rescued — an extra full motion video (FMV) "Guardian Angel" can be viewed, which depicts a captured Abe harassed by "The Shrink": A mechanical creature with a sophisticated artificial intelligence.[34] The FMV, which is absent from the PC version and later PlayStation releases of the game, introduced a new character to the Oddworld mythos. The character was reputedly part of an early advertising campaign, which included television commercials, but was eventually abandoned.[35]

Release[edit]

On the left is the original "Mudokon Pops!" packaging in the U.S. and EU versions, with the altered version to the right (as seen in Abe's Exoddus) that was seen in the Japanese version.

The game saw its first release on the PlayStation, MS-DOS, and Windows first appearing on store shelves on September 18, 1997,[1] before fully releasing the next day (September 19[2]) on a day dubbed as "Odd Friday" by the developer and publisher;[36] over 500,000 units were originally released worldwide.[37] The Japanese version followed in October.

For the release in Japan, the title of Abe's Oddysee was changed to Abe a GoGo by the publisher SoftBank. Other changes included the art for the "Mudokon Pops!" packaging, which originally consisted of a severed Mudokon head speared on a stick. Due to undisclosed current events in Japan, the design was changed to a more ambiguous, "happier" image of a Mudokon popsicle.[38] The design for the protagonist Abe and other Mudokons was significantly altered. Certain Japanese pressure groups were offended by the Mudokons having four fingers and most of them working in a meat-packing factory, due to a historic Japanese subclass of meat packers who were looked down upon in society. Four fingers, or showing four fingers to another person, came to insinuate the other was a member of the subclass, because it suggested the meat packers who lost fingers at work. Oddworld Inhabitants had to alter the design of Mudokons to three fingers, or else face legal battles and large fines.[39][40] Also in the Japanese version, the game does not let the player choose to play Scrabania or Paramonia. Instead, the player is forced to play through Paramonia first.[citation needed]

Oddworld Inhabitants made the altered designs a permanent feature; subsequent versions of Abe's Oddysee released outside Japan included both the changed packaging and changed Mudokon hand. Future games and media (including New 'n' Tasty!) also recognize these changes as canon, although Abe's Exoddus features four-fingered Mudokon sprites, and scenes from Abe's Oddysee shown in the game were not altered.

The Game Boy port was released as Oddworld Adventures; it was developed by Saffire and published by GT Interactive in 1998. The game is a significantly cut-down version of Abe's Oddysee, with only a few similar levels and a condensed plot (Abe starts out as a native Mudokon, so the opening levels in RuptureFarms are absent from this version).[41]

An emulated version of the PlayStation version was released for the PlayStation 3 via PlayStation Network on October 22, 2009 in North America,[42] on April 15, 2010 in Europe,[43] and on November 13, 2013 in Japan. An Onlive version was also released in 2011.

Reception[edit]

Upon its release in 1997, Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee received mostly positive reviews. Edge described the game as "a tight 2D platformer that's packed with great innovative touches and some great character design".[47] GameSpot called it "the ideal platformer, balancing its action and puzzle elements perfectly to make the game intelligent, engaging, and, best yet, fun".[50] Animation World Magazine applauded multiple aspects of the game, saying it "features some of the best graphics and animation we've ever seen" and commenting on the "sophisticated gameplay".[56] GamePro gave it a perfect 5.0 out of 5 for graphics and sound and a 4.5 out of 5 for control and funfactor, asserting that it "bursts onto the scene with the kind of unique gameplay and killer graphics that will rocket it straight into the PlayStation hall of fame."[57] PC Gamer said that "[the] charming and innovative Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee reminds us that any genre can be revived if you put enough care and creativity into it."[53]

The graphics struck many reviewers as being excellent.[48][53][54][57] PC Zone remarked that "the developers have created an outstanding visual environment for Abe to leap around in."[54] However, the imaginative AI and visual designs of the assorted creatures drew more extensive praise.[48][50][51][52][53][54] GameSpot found the AI "goes a long way towards making you feel as if you're interacting with an actual world and its inhabitants."[50]

The game's difficulty, agreed upon to be extremely high, was its most controversial aspect. Some reviewers lauded the intelligent nature of the challenge and said the frequent checkpoints and unlimited lives keep the game from becoming too frustrating.[7][48][50][51][52][53] Next Generation, for example, commented that "Action gamers are likely to be disappointed by the occasionally slow pace, but speed is traded for a considerably more cerebral set of challenges that require a great amount of persistence, observation, and thought."[52] However, others found that flaws such as sensitive controls, slowdown, and trial-and-error level designs make the difficulty frequently annoying.[54][57][58] Though GameSpot reported that the PlayStation and PC versions of the game are "virtually identical",[51] most reviews for the PC version directed criticism at the lack of an ability to save at any point, since this was a standard feature in PC games.[53][54][58] Edge said that "Oddworld demands a certain level of commitment to progress",[47] while Science Fiction Weekly claimed the game's "innovative game play makes for a steep learning curve. This initial difficulty in figuring out how to play is aggravated by a save feature that often forces players to redo difficult sections."[59] PC Zone stated that "progress does seem to rely on trial and error, which involves much replaying of levels and gnashing of teeth. All this can be frustrating at times, especially when Abe is plonked right back at the start of a level when he dies".[54]

Abe's Oddysee proved to be a commercial hit: Lorne Lanning reported global sell-through in excess of one million units by late January 1998. He noted that Europe was a top market for the game, unexpectedly surpassing the United States.[60] As of 2001, it has sold 2 million units.[61]

Awards[edit]

The game won many awards,[62] including the "E3 Showstopper 1997" from GamePro in August 1997 and the "Best Director" award at the World Animation Festival in 1997.[62][63] In the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences' first annual Interactive Achievement Awards it was nominated in the categories "Console Adventure Game of the Year" and "Outstanding Achievement in Sound and Music".[64] Electronic Gaming Monthly's 1998 Video Game Buyer's Guide awarded it Best Voice Acting of 1997,[65] and their 1997 Editors' Choice Awards gave it "Best Sound" and a runner-up slot for "Best Graphics" (behind Final Fantasy VII).[66]

Sequels[edit]

Abe's Oddysee received two direct sequels. Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus was released for PlayStation in November 1998, taking place directly after Oddysee. The game continues the style of gameplay from the previous game with several improvements, such as the ability to use GameSpeak with different species and possess explosive clouds of wind. Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee was released for Xbox in 2001, bringing the gameplay into 3D environments as well as allowing players to play as another character, Munch.

Remake[edit]

A remake of Abe's Oddysee was developed by UK studio Just Add Water. The game was built using the Unity game engine and was released on July 22, 2014 on the PlayStation 4 on the PlayStation Network in North America, received a European release on July 23, 2014 and was subsequently released for the PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita and Wii U.[67]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]