It’s weird to see a game from the ’90s feel so timely, but Abe’s Oddysee’s dark, comedic skewering of capitalism and environmental issues has only grown on me over the years. So luckily for fans, we have the enhanced and improved remaster of the 1997 original that started the series, now called Oddworld: New ’n’ Tasty. It gives the original a fresh lick of paint and a few smart upgrades that make this puzzle-platformer a bit less punishingly difficult. But is this simply for fans of the original, or is this still a tasty treat even in the modern-day?
Abe is a Mudokon from the titular planet Oddworld. Mudokons are an enslaved race, forced to work in the factories of RuptureFarm, making food for the planet’s corporate overlords. One day after being particularly inquisitive, he finds out sales of their regular products are on the decline, so the next food product the Mudokons will be forced to make is actually from the flesh of Mudokons themselves. So Abe sets off to free all his enslaved friends, but without offensive abilities or attacks, Abe will have to rely on his smarts, a series of well-placed levers, and the occasional bit of mind control to escape the chopping block. There are 299 of his friends to save in total, and how many you save along the way will ultimately determine which ending you get.
While Abe might not be able to fight, he can run, jump, and sneak to evade enemies with his friends in tow. He can also speak, and using different commands such as “Wait” and “Follow Me” he can recruit Mudokons and try to escort them to portals and escape in one piece. A couple of the elements from later games are retroactively placed in this version of the game as well, so this is certainly the most accessible it’s ever been. Of course, the levels are also littered with traps, meat grinders, pits, and many other hazards that are great for killing the game’s many monstrous enemies, but can similarly make very quick work of friends if you’re not careful. Figuring out the right way to drop enemies into a pit while saving everyone is tough, but the trial and error employed in each room and scenario is incredibly satisfying as you finally nail that perfect run. This core concept ensures that the gameplay still holds up, and is incidentally the reason it’s still such fun to play.
Crucially, this is a tough game but not a cruel one. Environmental storytelling paints a picture of a dark world in disarray, and through the smoke, you’ll often be able to pick up hints as to what each button or lever will do. You also have the ability to control the minds of enemies, using them to take out other enemies or simply to make them explode or throw themselves into the abyss. Abe might not be powerful, but between interacting with his environment and the many voice commands at your disposal, you have a really versatile moveset that was considered revolutionary back in the day and still impresses now. Still, thanks to great character design and atmospheric sound you’ll often feel helpless and scared, but it gives you a stronger sense of accomplishment when you finally find a way out of the many dire situations you’ll find yourself in.
As you escape the initial industrial complex, Oddworld also reveals a change in atmosphere with some beautiful levels, and as you explore further you’ll be rewarded with the game’s many secrets. Using the huge moveset at your disposable, you’ll have to poke in every corner to find all the Mudokons, some of which are hidden in the most devious but rewarding places, with challenging puzzles to boot. This is still a slightly clunky game, however, as Abe is definitely not as nimble as other platforming heroes. Sometimes the controls can feel like a hindrance to fun, with items and jumping in particular still often feeling out of time, especially when riding creatures, and can cause some of the most frustrating moments. But often it’s just a case of patience and paying attention.
However, this is a frustrating game by design much more than by mistake, so while a couple of things could have been made to feel more fluid, this is still a good interpretation of the original’s gameplay with enough smart choices to make it less punishing than the original release. The difficulty has also been brought down overall, with more checkpoints located throughout, but fans of the original will find that ‘Hard’ difficulty here is the nearest thing to the original experience. Cut scenes could definitely be sharper as this port originally hit consoles in 2014, so it’s starting to show its age, but this is still a great looking title for the most part.
Oddworld: New ’N’ Tasty is a smart upgrade of an old game and this is the best it has ever looked. It was both a great and charming game to begin with, and its story has only become more prescient. The best game in the series and now as hard or forgiving as you want it, fans looking for an entry point into the Oddworld games or for a tough puzzle platformer with a sense of humour should absolutely check this out.
A few smart upgrades and gorgeous visuals give Oddworld: New ‘N’ Tasty a fantastic modern-day shine, and the smart puzzle platforming gameplay and dark sense of humour remain intact. While this port isn’t quite new anymore, it’s definitely still tasty.