Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee

Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee
Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee Cover
Platforms PlayStation, Windows
Genre Pre-rendered platformer
MtAMinutes to Action 4
Keep Playing? Old school gamers only
Buy from Amazon

Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee, a puzzle-platformer developed by Oddworld Inhabitants, was released in 1997 for the PlayStation and PC. It uses pre-rendered graphics for its backgrounds and sprites, and has a large list of actions that can be taken by the player, including making the player character speak.

I remember playing the demo of this game at Toys'R'Us, and being impressed by its graphics and gameplay features, as well as the odd feeling of it all.

Oddworld is now available through Steam for play on the PC, and that's where I got the copy I'll be playing. Although it can be played with the keyboard, I will be using a gamepad because I find it very cumbersome to use a keyboard to play a game designed for a controller.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I select Begin and the first hour of Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee begins. I get a cutscene narrated by Abe about Rupture farms, a meat-packing plant where he works.

01 - The Mudokons (Abe's race) are slaves in the factory, Abe was employee of the year.

03 - Abe finds out that the company plans to start using the Mudokons as meat. The guards see him and now he's wanted, the Sligs (guards) are ordered to shoot him on site.

04 - I have control. I can walk, run, sneak, and jump.

05 - I can also choose from eight things to say by holding either the run or sneak buttons and then pressing the action buttons. After fiddling around for a while I hoist myself up to the next floor and a Slig runs in behind me but can't reach me. The platforming is a bit like the original Prince of Persia, you walk to an edge and pull up or drop down, or jump over gaps with a preset jump distance. A sign says "No talking to fellow employees." All the Mudokons' mouths are sewn up.

Oddworld Abes Oddysee Wanted Poster

06 - The next screen houses a sleeping Slig, I sneak past him onto the next screen. Each screen contains a scrolling message bar in the background; this one tells me to press the action button to pull a lever; when I do it opens a trap door and kills a fellow Mudokon. Abe says "Oops."

07 - I had to sneak back past a sleeping Slig and pull another lever to turn off an arc of electricity so I could get past. I come across a sign that tells me how many Mudokons there are, how many have died and how many have escaped. Then I get killed, because I was trying to sneak past a sleeping Slig, but I pressed the action button to pull a lever while still holding the sneak button, which made him talk and wake up the Slig.

08 - I remember when I first played this game I was really impressed that talking would actually wake up the Sligs. Because I had to start over, instead of dropping the Mudokon down the trapdoor, I tell him to follow me, and he does.

09 - The same Slig kills me; pulling the lever woke him up.

10 - I got past him and go down a lift. I found a bird portal, to where I can lead Mudokons, so I head back to get him, but the lift squeaked and awakened the same sleeping Slig. Life's tough.

11 - This time I'm headed down with the Mudokon, he sneaks when I sneak so we make it past the sleeping Slig.

Oddworld Abes Oddysee Grinding Area

12 - I lead the Mudokon to the bird portal but the birds fly away.

13 - So I leave him and go through a door.

14 - Aha, I have to chant to open the bird portal. I find a couple more guys I can save.

15 - Two Mudokons rescued, now I feel good about myself. Then I use a lever to drop a Slig down a trapdoor while the scrolling message tells me "The end justifies the means."

16 - I run off of one screen, straight down a hole on the next. Fortunately the checkpoint was on this screen, so I get to try again right away. I have to jump over two gaps while dodging falling meat. Then I have to deactivate a bomb by crouching next to it and pressing the action button when the light blinks green.

17 - With a pull of a lever from a safe position, I drop another Slig down a trapdoor, seems to be the only way to kill them. Oops, I call out to a Mudokon and he gets up and walks toward me and gets shot by a Slig. Then I fall in and get shot too.

Oddworld Abes Oddysee Workers Die

18 - I'm back to the meat dodging jump, but I press the jump button at the wrong time and die.

19 - Arcs of electricity are deadly. This is definitely a trial-and-error game. For example: I touch the bomb at the wrong time and it blows me to smithereens.

20 - Shot by Sligs again. Dropping from the ledge wakes them up, so I can't sneak past. I tried to duck under their bullets but it's no use.

21 - Died again. I'm not sure where I'm supposed to be going from here.

22 - These Sligs are really in my way. There are two of them, and there's a trapdoor I can open but only one of them walks over it.

23 - I got past, but my escapades brought about the death of a fellow Mudokon. I dropped one Slig down the trapdoor, then dropped down and ran past while the other Slig looked the other way, but he turned and shot at me after I had pulled myself up and it killed the other Mudokon down there.

Oddworld Abes Oddysee Casualties Escapes

24 - Ooh, there are these meat saws I have to stop with lever, but I used one to kill a Slig!

25 - The background message says "Only 1,236 work related accidents this month, keep up the good work!" There are dark shadows I can hide in; the Sligs will walk right past me if I'm standing in one.

26 - I get in a lift and a pre-rendered cutscene plays of it going down. It's quite seamless because the backgrounds are pre-rendered and Abe is inside the lift and can't be seen.

27 - Whoops, I killed a Mudokon by dropping a barrel on him. How was I supposed to know that's what that lever did?

28 - Now I got killed. It's very dangerous to run onto the next screen, it's best to sneak because if there's a sleeping Slig, you wouldn't want to wake him.

29 - The problem is I have no offenses against the Sligs except the environment. I'm killed again.

Oddworld Abes Oddysee Escape

30 - I got a grenade but they aren't good for offensive weapons because they detonate too slowly. I find this out the hard way by trying to kill a Slig with one. I get shot long before it blows up.

31 - A sign says "Escape and all 28 workers on this level will die." I use the grenade to blow up some mines so I can drop down.

32 - A cutscene shows me hiding in a container of meat and being shipped outside.

33 - The next sign tells me that 26 Mudokons are now dead. I saved two, so the other 26 on the level died because I escaped. I had to bypass a motion sensor by standing still when it passed over me. Then I fell in a pit and got stabbed and eaten by a Slog, which is like an alien guard dog.

34 - This time the motion sensor detects me and a bomb falls on my head. I pass it again, but I come to a jump that's far too long for me to make.

35 - The Slog kills me again. I can't seem to make that jump.

Oddworld Abes Oddysee Lever

36 - The motion sensor senses me and I get bombed, twice in a row.

38 - I die on the alarm a couple more times. It requires patience, and it's hard to be patient on it when you have to do it over and over because you can't get past the next screen.

40 - I die several more times on the alarm and the Slog.

41 - If I chant the Slog reacts by freaking out and not moving, but I don't see how that helps me because I can't move while chanting, and I get killed by it again.

44 - I do a little research and find that chanting can possess Sligs, which I didn't know. I also find out that Abe can do a long jump by jumping while running, which I had tried but could never get it to work.

45 - The long jump enables me to get past the Slog, although I still had to drop down, but was able to long jump to grab onto the other edge before the Slog got me.

Oddworld Abes Oddysee Long Jump

46 - I come across fireflies and a sign that says "chant here" so I do and the fireflies form a message that says, "These lights will guide you." I do the same on the next screen and they tell me to sneak in and out of shadows.

47 - I try to chant to possess a Slig but a robot thing zaps me. It doesn't kill me but it keeps me from possessing the Slig. I can't avoid waking the Slig because of a mine that I have to jump over.

48 - I hide in the shadow and then sneak out behind the Slig, but he turns before I'm off the screen and shoots me. Then I get past him but drop down and awaken the next Slig, who shoots me.

49 - Everything except sneaking makes noise and alerts the Sligs to my presence. It's annoying to replay, because so much of it is waiting for the Sligs to be in the right places.

50 - I got shot even though I was in the shadows! Oh, I see, the shadow was shorter, I should have crouched.

52 - I get past, but I'm hanging from a cliff and I don't know what I'm supposed to do. Should I just drop off the bottom of the screen? I don't really want to, if I die I'll have to do that whole thing over again. I finally do drop down and it is the right thing to do.

Oddworld Abes Oddysee Moon Jump

53 - I find a bomb that is already off. I can turn it on, but why would I do that? I do anyway and end up blowing myself up. *sigh*

54 - On the next screen are two Sligs and a shadow in which to hide.

56 - Shot by Sligs again. I think I have to lure them back to this bomb to kill them, or at least one of them.

57 - As soon as they see me they kill me, so I don't know how to do that. Ok, I got one, I used the long jump to climb up a ledge and he ran after me and into the bomb. I try to get past the next one but he sees me even though I'm in the shadows! Great, now I have to lure the first guy back again.

58 - I get shot again. I blow the first one up again and... get shot while hiding in the shadow. I don't understand.

59 - Got shot again.

60 - That's it for me.

Oddworld Abes Oddysee Scorpion Run Away

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 4

Favorite Thing: Oddness.

Least Favorite Thing: Try-and-fail gameplay.

Design: I'm a huge fan of pre-rendered sprites and this game owned that. The design is distinctive, the animation is smooth and varied, the backgrounds are detailed, and the segue between pre-rendered background and pre-rendered cutscene is seamless. The sound effects are nothing special, but the voice work is great, giving Abe character as well as producing several memorable quotes.

Story: The story is launched by a fairly long cutscene before gameplay starts, but is furthered by scrolling messages in the background of the factory, as well as another cutscene at what I assume to be the end of the first level. The story itself is darkly humorous, and gives the player a good incentive to progress through the game.

Fun: I don't know if fun is the right word for this. There are many aspects of this game that I appreciate, but the trial-and-error kept me from having a good time playing.

Keep Playing: I'm not sure, I'd like to have this game under my belt, but it's a little tough to get through.

You Will Like This Game If: You have a dark sense of humor and you like old-school game design.

Thoughts: I really wanted to like this game. It seemed to have everything going for it, including the odd, dark sense of humor, the pre-rendered graphics, and the puzzle-platforming. If only it didn't shoot me in the foot by being so frustrating. I can't help but compare it to Braid, which has similar trial-and-error puzzles, but doesn't punish you every time you try something.

At the same time there is something there that intrigues me. Most video games encourage the player to do whatever they want without consequence, but in Oddworld every action has a result. For example, one major challenge is to avoid alerting the Sligs, but most of the user actions will call their attention. If you press the action button with no actionable object within range, Abe says "I dunno," which will get you shot quickly. The same goes for walking without holding the sneak button, jumping, talking, and dropping from ledges. You feel responsible for your actions, as doing one at the wrong moment will get you killed. In another situation, you happen upon a lever with no obvious effect. Pull it, and it kills a Mudokon by dropping a barrel on his head. Most games would have you pull every lever you see, but this game seems to say, "You shouldn't be pulling levers if you don't know what they do." The game states the point a little more explicitly with the sign warning you that escape will cause the deaths of many of your fellow slaves. On the next screen, a sign informs you that the punishment was indeed carried out. Is your life worth the lives of 28 others? Of course you can save many of those before you get to that point if you know what you're doing, but not all 28.

One other thing to note, not the game's fault, but it looks pretty bad on high resolution LCD screens. Pretty much all old games have this problem, and this one is no different.

As I mentioned before, there are many things about this game that I like (graphics, sense of humor, innovative gameplay, consequences for your actions), it's just not much fun. But then, who said a game has to be fun to be good?

Oddworld Abes Oddysee Stunned