The only way to conjure a product more smelly that Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee would be to eat nothing but a strict diet of beans, White Castle Hamburgers, and prune juice without relieving yourself for a week.
Microsoft has decided to port over their Xbox exclusive title to GBA. This GBA version plays out similarly to its Xbox counterpart but has an overhead view. The game is only one player, but that is a good thing because I would feel bad if another person had to waste their time playing this game.
The gameplay is so boring and slow, I’m not even sure if there is a story. Cut scenes are very confusing and unclear. Oddworld is like a weaker version of Pikmin. Abe can tell other creatures what to do. These creatures can be told to do simple things like stand on switches or kill enemies. However, to pull these moves off, awkward button combinations are needed. When an enemy draws near, the player might hit the wrong button combination and tell his partner to stand still instead of attack. Similar to Rogue Spear, button combinations are a hassle and should be simplified to a single button.
It is Abe’s goal to reach the end of each level. Besides using the help of other creatures, Abe only has a few other moves. One of them is the ability to jump. This sounds simple enough, but jumping is very choppy and unresponsive. It can be very difficult to line up a simple jump into the small opening of a cannon. Because of the tedious and clunky jumping, even the simplest of platforms can be a major annoyance. In addition, the game’s overhead view can make it difficult to measure the height of platforms.
Besides from jumping, Abe can also regrow booger looking plants on the ground. Most of the puzzles in this game involve a door that requires a certain number these booger plants to open it. Once one of these plants has been collected, Abe can make it regrow through a horrible sounding chant. If the player wanted, he could keep regrowing a single plant until he obtained enough to open the door. This is a poorly designed aspect of the game.
Abe supposedly can also pick up and throw some objects. I used the word “supposedly” because it is very difficult to pick something up. The player has to position Abe exactly on the proper pixel that the behavior is assigned to for the command to register. The only way to pick something up is to walk over it and repeatedly press the grab button. Luck, more than anything, is the deciding factor here. Also, Abe cannot swim so he makes his little friend, Munch do that.
With all this said, let me repeat al the moves Abe can perform: jump, throw, and tell computer-controlled characters what to do. I don’t understand how Microsoft can expect a game to be fun when there are only a limited number of moves and they are so poorly executed. People play games to do something that they cannot do in real life. They don’t play games to do fewer things. Plus, Abe moves very slow and unresponsively. The slow and boring gameplay, the shoddy controls, and murky graphics make this game painful to play.
The graphics are so muddy you would think your GBA was buried in a bog after a monsoon. Everything blends together so it is difficult to tell where one thing begins and ends. The lack of any detail makes everything look like a blob. Some of the animations are horribly underdeveloped. One of the worst animations I’ve seen on GBA is when Abe gets shot out of a cannon. I’ve seen better effects on Atari. Occasionally, there are rooms where the controlled character walks away from the screen instead of sticking to the overhead view. Very strange and uncomfortable sprite scaling happens here. This just looks awkward. The sound effects are repugnant too. This game does contain some voice work, but everything sounds like a computer with a cold. Plus, sound effects like Abe’s chant are very digitized. Don’t be surprised if players prefer the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard.
The bottom line is Oddworld is not a good game. Opening doors by collecting plants and telling other creatures to perform simple tasks through inconvenient button combinations just isn’t that fun. I’m not necessarily saying that these gameplay elements will make for a bad game, it is just put together very sloppily. However, if you must play an Oddworld game, you’re probably better off with the Xbox version. Or better yet, play Pikmin or even Lemmings instead.