Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee

Developer: Oddworld Inhabitants
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: Nov. 14, 2001
Systems: Xbox
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web Site

In honor of my broken Xbox 360, all this week I'll be going through some old original Xbox games I have lying around.

In a nutshell: An odd little 3D action-adventure.

0:01 The game is introduced as "an A.L.I.V.E2" experiment, whatever that means. Some little misshapen tadpoles swim through green water and get caught in a net. Suddenly I'm at the menu screen. Weird.
0:03 Nice that there's a backstory options that explains the world of Oddworld from the Abe's games. I watch them again just to relive some of the greatest in-game cut scenes ever made.
0:06 "I just had to escape. I just had to be free. And I didn't even know I had a destiny." The voice-acting is so sweetly earnest... it's priceless.
0:09 All right, this backstory is taking a while... on to the game. "One time there were lots of us," says Munch. Not anymore. He's a little hard to understand through the bubbly accent.
0:10 Poor Munch. First he's the last of his kind, then he gets lured into a trap. Then he's abducted by Ficus(?) Labs. The grand raisin, who's telling this story, instructs Abe to find the big well and then promptly falls asleep.
0:14 I like the quick, springy jump. I don't like how dark everything is... I can barely see my character in the caverns.
0:18 So I need to find 50 "Spooce" to move on, but I don't really, because I can regrow collected spooce with a flick of the L trigger. That makes the whole thing seem kind of pointless, thus far.
0:20 I just lured a Mudokon over to a "chant circle" and told him to open a gate for me. Er, couldn't I have done that myself?
0:22 Two big annoyances so far: The camera isn't too smart and uses the d-pad to reorient instead of the standard right analog stick; activating things with the A button makes you jump unless you stand in the exact correct spot.
0:23 Abe's plaintive wail as he's launched from a well is too cute. "WAAAAaaaah. Oof!"
0:25 OK, now I'm guiding groups of six mudokans to chant together. Why can't I chant too? Or is Abe too important for that now? I want a hands-on leader.
0:27 Throwing Mudokans is fun but, again, half the time I jump instead of picking them up. Bad design there, fellas.
0:30 I'm loving the voice acting that accompanies every command. It's so darling... I could listen to them all day. "Just sit tight, be cool." "Yeah, whatever" Keee-yoot!
0:35 Battle is a matter of simply holding B to sick your mudokans friends on enemies. Easy. But Abe himself doesn't seem to fight... he just stands there getting hurt. Talk about a lazy leader.
0:37 Abe on espresso = quick dashing fun!
0:38 Finally at the big well. "I wonder how Munch is doing." Who? Oh yeah, the guy in the title! I remember him!
0:39 Cut to a cut scene. Abe being pushed on a stretcher with an ominous "cut here" on his noggin.
0:40 They stuck sonar in Munch's head. The doctor is whining about having to spend 20 hours a week picking up critters. Munch and his sonar are going to be his new critter finder.
0:43 Munch can use his newfound power to free critters in the cut scene, who in turn free him and then devour the doctor. Awesome!
0:50 So far, Munch is slower and less interesting than Abe. All he does is rescue little Fuzzles guys and trade them in for "Quarma." Snooze.
0:52 OK, Munch just got more interesting with the Zap power up that lets him take on bad guys by himself. But it takes like a million zaps to take out a lowly intern. Le sigh.
0:55 Seven of my twenty fuzzles died in battle. Sniff.
0:56 Damn Munch rocks in the water. He swims like Abe walks.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes
Why? Despite some minor control problems, the game builds an endearing world that feels like it's building to something past the somewhat long tutorial I've seen so far.

This review based on a used retail copy purchased for $5. Five dollars. Can you believe it?

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