Slowly seven years have passed since the Oddworld Resident team applied a new glaze to Abe’s Odyssey. Fresh and delicious! Tastefully tasteful, and respectful of the original build, he revamped the 1997 puzzle platform, and saw enthusiastic reception from fans – it was only a matter of time before Abe’s Exoddus got the wrinkle stitch sooner or later. That day has just come, but Oddworld: Soulstorm is much more than just a field reconfig. Lorne Lanning and his gang rethink the Mudons’ exodus from the ground up, and extend to story and gameplay as well. Let’s see what the end result was!
Without going into more serious spoilers, all you need to know about the history of Oddworld: Soulstorm is that it’s a direct sequel to the original game (or remake). Abby and his 300 followers fled from Rupture Farms, and news of his heroic deed spreads like wildfire among his comrades in nearby factories. Glucons carrying rudiga clay can’t leave that that far, so Abe literally finds himself in the big business. So it is time for the escape traffic to become a real revolution, and the first step required to do so is to hook up an accelerating train.
This is the story of Abe’s Exoddus somewhat at the time, but Soulstorm mixes events up completely. Some familiar “pauses” also appear in the remake, but the plot runs on an entirely new track, and the tracks waiting to be explored are very different from the original. Once again, our mission will be to free our siblings, cure them of the toxic side effects of the Soulstorm Brew and eventually destroy the deadly drink production lines, but the gray game fans in the 1998 game wouldn’t even know it.
What might shock any veteran at first is also Soulstorm’s biggest innovation: the wide, three-dimensional paths. Well, Abby is still moving around on two planes, but the presentation called Oddworld Inhabitants 2.9D makes it look like we’re just getting out of a small, locked room into the big world. There is a real depth of space, and while we’re in the vast majority of cases going to be clumsy up front, background events also often become part of the gameplay. In this case, we can hide from laser snipers for distant snipers, see the most distant sections of a certain path, and sometimes the camera breaks its perspective to focus on an amazing event or just the current main opponent.
So the scene, in its dirty and rusty military way, is so cool, but the passersby is where the technical team really puts itself. The pre-presented videos between two chapters always push the story even further, and no matter how weird it sounds, bluish-green skin tones, bone-thin, shimmering, and even sometimes miserable looks absolutely gorgeous. The big picture also stands out in that these strange characters have given expressive and strange human facial expressions to the point where it is almost impossible not to sympathize with them. It’s really special because the comic rhetoric and weird looks of the characters are actively working against the original drama, but the team in charge of the competition has somehow achieved a miracle in the field nonetheless.
But as I mentioned earlier, the visual and track design hasn’t just been radically revamped: Fans of Abe’s Exoddus won’t know the gameplay. Basically, Soulstorm is also a comic platformer honed into stealth and mystery, where instead of our skill, we have to rely primarily on our minds and patience, but the execution is completely new. Like previous ‘n’ Tasty, Soulstorm left invisible grid control for the original games, instead we have a more fluid motion system for modern console games.
This all sounds great on paper, but the truth is the informal movement has brought a lot of pitfalls. Rarely recently has there been a serious problem with just managing the modern development of an experienced studio, so it’s just surprising that this Oddworld, sharpened with precise movement and timing, is frustratingly bumpy-bumpy. I often had to wrestle right with the console to convince Abby to hang onto a platform curb or swingarm, and then let’s not even talk about the landmines whose disabling might have shortened my life by years – Abby and then in particular!
This technical intuition, which is difficult to explain in many aspects, is due to the game. Take, for example, the completely expanded toolbox and the Kraft system (Abbey can now assemble a number of tools) that also offer great new capabilities, but don’t go without flaws that destroy the nerves themselves. It happens that eliminating opponents in front of you with a discarded hard candy or exploding soft drink is often an easier way to solve the puzzle, but an awkward (and often inaccurate) targeting system won’t help us. Also, the artificial intelligence of our comrades does not make our task easier. I dare I swear that in some mud, he’s just looking for a good reason to throw himself in front of the machine guns. No one can explain why an unfortunate man or two awaiting their release stopped unexpectedly in the open field after Abby and his subsequent companions hid safely behind a smokescreen that represented safety.
We swallowed this well twenty years ago, because in the worst case, we can press a button or two and can actually reload the last quick rescue – not like in Soulstorm! Here the game is called trial and error, but there are still those who think that it would be a good idea to remove the basic function of fast save. Instead, we have a checkpoint system that, in addition to being unreasonably rare in some places, is in many cases completely illogical. For example, I will never understand who will place a checkpoint in front of dozens of boxes and cabinets, after which we will have to search one by one for the raw materials needed for the embroidery. Once you finish this one-minute detour, you can start a puzzle session, as about once or twice you are guaranteed to gnaw at the lawn, so you can start all your other attempts by re-swallowing the previously looted containers – this scenario happens regularly.
In vain is its amazing and sometimes completely imaginative itinerary planning, when its layout is sometimes completely irrational and there is no flow in it. I often felt as though the Soulstorm tracks came in random order – for example, after several hours of gameplay, that is, after several chapters, I stumbled across a training session trying to teach basic mechanics (precisely simple stealth) that I had been practicing multiple times before. I suspect that during the development of the seasons that started the game, something might have veered aside, as the first three or four levels are regularly lousy. Later, with the advent of the expanding toolbar and more imaginative puzzles, the game starts off better, but I have to admit: if I didn’t plan to write the test, I would probably leave Abby to his fate after the first hour.
However, anyone who perseveres despite the difficulties and releases all the clay materials with steel nerves can get a quieter end result, which also brings with it some extra paths. To do so, however, we must end the story with a positive korma, and in Soulstorm, not only our lost comrades but also our slain opponents can turn the balance of fate aside. So you have to fight hard for a good ending (being a pacifist is no easy feat), but the reward speaks for itself. In the words of my colleague Baloo, I’ve decided my hair is more important than the Platinum Cup, so I can’t help but be better prophets than me by just testing the game.
So this is Oddworld: Soulstorm. A thorough redesign that covered her fun exterior inwardly plagued with frustrating mistakes and ill-advised decisions. I appreciate that Oddworld residents are still on the market today for their thoughtful platform launch that requires steel patience, but this could have been made a lot more enjoyable. There’s no major underlying problem with that, but there is a lot of little tech support nerve-wracking and weird recklessness the game is still out of date. Then of course there might be a mistake with me, and I can no longer look through a pink lens to distort one of my childhood favorites, but if that’s the case, I look to Munch’s Oddysee or Stranger’s Wrath remake – they seem more to me.
Oddoworld: Soulstorm appeared on PC, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. We tested the game on PS5.