Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath Review
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 console.
If someone wanted an example of a game franchise that carries more personality, charm, and laughter than any other series, the Oddworld series is your best bet. Every character you can choose to play as, any NPCs you meet, and the multiple environments are all filled with so much character that it would have made Dr. Seuss blush. With the recent popular spin on remastering classic games in high-definition, the developers at Just Add Water and Oddworld Inhabitants decided to bring Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath to the current gaming platforms. It was a huge hit with fans of the franchise back in 2005 when it was released on the original Xbox; now, in 2012, bringing it to the PSN on the PlayStation 3, players who missed out can experience it in high-definition. With a new HD remake on the horizon nearly every couple months, does Stranger’s Wrath age like fine wine or will it leave a sour taste in our mouths with dated gameplay?
In Stranger’s Wrath, you take on the role of a bounty hunter named Stranger and are thrown into a world full of mischief and mayhem. You find out that you need to collect moolah, or in-game money, to afford an imperative surgery for Stranger, the reasons of which are unknown to players and must be unraveled by delving further into the game. In order to get this surgery you’ll need to complete bounties on baddies all over town. The element of the unknown is what many players, myself included, are undoubtedly most attracted to in this game; you are put into the role of Stranger without knowing much about him or the surrounding landscape. This has always been a strong point of the Oddworld games, leaving you with questions all throughout the journey. Call this a carrot-on-a-stick complex, similar to the show LOST, except here you are thrown first-hand into a mystery and given one goal – a structure that is perfect for this game.
In terms of gameplay, there isn’t just one genre to this by any means. It’s part platformer, part first-person shooter, with elements of stealth and third-person action. To traverse the game at a fast pace, after consistent running for a couple seconds, Stranger will then get on all fours to speed things up. Once in a combat situation, you can headbutt enemies to daze them or do a whirlwind type of an attack, or jump into first-person mode for some intense shooting. The map displays a vision cone on each enemy similar to Metal Gear Solid, so you can hide behind objects and tall, long grass to strike at the right time before they take notice of your presence.
Now what makes this different from your typical action game is what you use for ammo. No bullets are found in this game; instead, you collect live critters to load on your handy cross-bow, using this eccentric ammo on any foes that dare cross your path. Want to set a trap and stalk your enemies until they walk into it? Go ahead with the smack-talking Chippunks and vicious Gremlin-looking Fuzzles. Feel the need to use some crowd control for fear of being overwhelmed with enemies? The Bolamites are perfect for wrangling up some of your opponents in webbing. With a total of nine different critters to collect or refill/buy from a vendor you will be able to take on foes whichever way you prefer. The gameplay is what you make of it and offers hours of laughter from the outcomes you chose.
To make the needed moolah, it isn’t just about killing the bad guys and going after the bounty – you actually want to collect the bounty live if at all possible. Doing this will ensure that you are collecting as much moolah as possible during your adventures. As you take down your foes, you’ll see stars collecting on their heads, swirling around in typical cartoon fashion. Once you see three, it’s time to jump on them and scoop them up. Take notice, however, that while doing so, it makes you vulnerable to attacks from other enemies, so there is an element of strategy involved. The bosses you run into are not any that you will soon forget either. Each one has their own one-liner and quick jab, as well as other creative features that only the minds of Oddworld could come up with.
Stranger’s Wrath also includes an upgrade system for the crossbow, armor, ammunition, and storage. All of these can be upgraded to allow for an easier run-though and even unlocks other items like binoculars and the “Knuckle Dusters” (aka brass knuckles). Just Add Water even threw in an additional difficulty level for those of you who enjoy an even greater challenge in your gaming – and it does its job beautifully! I normally start my games off on the higher setting to test myself and I found that I was dying often. At the most difficult setting, I had to employ both skill and strategizing in order to beat the game – it was a refreshing challenge.
The visuals were great in the original 2005 release on the Xbox and this HD remake is just icing on the cake. Just Add Water and Oddworld Inhabitants increased the detail on over 80 characters, giving the inhabitants of Stranger’s Wrath a complete facelift. The textures and reflections in-game are just beautiful; Stranger jumping in water and running across terrain doesn’t feel like a half-baked remake of an older title but rather like a current gen game altogether.
The biggest visual treat in Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath is the addition of 60 frames per second and in crystal clear 720p. This is mighty impressive as most triple-A titles on the market struggle to offer these features in a workable fashion. The environments range from a busy town bustling with half-chicken half-humans to wide open areas full of life and color. It’s a mix between cartoonish visuals that are pleasing to the eye and sharp landscapes filled with lifelike lighting and lens flares. It’s set in a Wild West flavor with buildings nailed with planks of wood, contraptions of the Old West laid out over the planes, and Stranger himself is even sporting an outfit Clint Eastwood would appreciate.
The music is composed by Michael Bross, offering the right sounds for all situations – whether at ease or in the heat of battle. The gem in the sound department is by far the chatter among the characters. Whether it’s the ammunition squeaking and growling, Stranger letting out a groan or two, the town folks talking about the latest bounty, or the enemies discussing who is more stupid, the game is alive and never stops. As if remastering the game into full HD wasn’t enough, Just Add Water also touched up on the sound quality as well – from 8-bit 11KHz to 16-bit 44KHz erasing what the Xbox was limited to in its original release.
My only complaint with this stellar remake is the camera. While the developers put everything under the microscope to improve the game in every way, they failed to address the camera issues the game has. While roaming the lands or climbing buildings, the camera has a tendency to drift off on its own resulting in some messy actions. For example, you’ll be climbing a ladder and timing your jump, and the camera gets stuck on the landscape or over a rooftop. While you do have control over the camera with the right stick, a platformer should have a user-friendly camera so it’s not something you should have to worry about in your adventure.
Not every game is given a second chance; with Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath in HD for the PSN, no one has an excuse to not give this game a go. Its previous publisher on the Xbox neither developed nor marketed the game adequately in order to reach the number of people it could have. With Just Add Waters’ fine touches and microscopic attention to detail in this remake – no, remaster – everyone needs to play this gem of a game.
Wanderson75.net rates this a 4.75/5
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