Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee HD - Review
It's somewhat ironic that this first foray into 3D gaming for the Oddworld series has aged far more than either of its 2D predecessors. Even at the time of its release in 2001, for the original Xbox, Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee paled in comparison to the two previous Abe games that came out for the Playstation in the late '90s. Now, just over a decade old, Munch's Oddysee appears even less impressive. Meanwhile, the original game's 2D platforming seems to have lasted, resulting in a HD remake, titled Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee New N' Tasty, being resulted some time later in the year.
Unfortunately there's nothing new and tasty about this HD remake of Munch's Oddysee, save the usual overhaul of new textures and an improved frame rate. The gameplay is still a rather awkward template of applying the first two game's platforming to a 3D world, without really considering the impact of how the 3D space changes things considerably.
For the uninitiated, Munch's Oddysee follows the story of the last Gabbit, Munch, who, along with series stalwart Abe, must save his species by getting hold of the last can of Gabbiar, which holds the last supply of Gabbit eggs in Oddworld. Along the way you'll have to free enslaved Mudokons, along with Fuzzles (think those things from Critters), the catch being that only Abe can communicate with fellow Mudokons and the Fuzzles will only follow Munch. In reality this means lots of time ferrying characters to and fro, making some levels feel like one big escort mission. It's not that this wasn't something you had to do in the earlier games but now it's tied to a shallow Pikmin-esque system which never seems to do all that much.
Character interaction is reduced to a minimum - follow, wait, attack - and is, to be perfectly honest, pretty dull. In most cases Mudokons won't attack, even when they're being fired at, without being specifically instructed to do so. Abe's possession ability has also been stripped back, with only Sligs and Glukkons being viable targets, and the latter only serves effectively to hit a switch before returning to Abe. In theory this has been replaced with Munch's set of skills which are primarily swimming and operating cranes - thrilling I know. Admittedly, some levels are more interesting than others, especially later on, where you must keep swapping between each character to progress, and you can get into a flow, where the process becomes reasonably enjoyable, but the game never seems to build on its central mechanic.
The setting is also a huge disappointment, with many of the levels feeling like rehashes and repeats of earlier ones, just with a different puzzle, or enemy set-ups, to tackle. The wilderness levels, which comprise about half of the game are perhaps the biggest let-down. Even with the knowledge that this was an early Xbox release the place just looks bland and you never get the feeling that you're immersed in Oddworld. Also, these outdoor sections can occasionally suffer from some really annoying glitches, several times I'd be running around and the ground textures would start changing colours or popping out of the floor and clipping through the environment. Whether this is a problem that plagued the original release I can't say, but it's especially frustrating considering this is a high-definition re-release.
Of course, a lot of this would be forgivable if the story was still there but frankly, it's not, and while the humour is a good as it ever was it ends up being really thin on the ground. As you progress, the game seems to be imply that Abe and Munch start out as awkward allies and by the end have forged a friendship. The problem is we don't really see that, because there's so little story. Heck when they first meet they barely acknowledge each other and just start following each other around. The replacement for the lack of cut-scenes is a newspaper spread with a few funny headlines that usually bookend each level, but these just seem like a cheap, watered-down version of the brilliant news channel clips that featured in Abe's Exodus. It's a real shame because the series has managed to blend a sharp critique of capitalism with a humorous story, without coming across as preachy.
For those that come to Munch's Oddysee without any prior knowledge of the series then they'll probably find a lot less wrong with. At its very worst it's still an average(ish) platform/puzzle hybrid with a quirky pair of main characters. However, as part of the Oddworld series Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee still remains something of a disappointment.
© 2013 LudoLogic