Abe brings his critique of capitalism to Nintendo Switch: here’s our review of Oddworld Soulstorm and his social satire
After a long wait for our previous one reviewhere it is Oddworld Soulstorm he had time to get up Nintendo Switch. And as good old Don Abbondio would say, it is “late in all ways”. There is no way to get around it: those who cared about the return of the bizarre Messiah Abe and all his rambling company, if in possession of the necessary platforms, could very well have demonstrated their loyalty to the Mudokons elsewhere. However, with the ambition of the development team, it is true that some waiting is understandable; what is extraordinary, perhaps, is that it has come to an end.
Oddworld Inhabitantsunder the aegis of the “legendary and lucidly limpid Lorne Lanning”, He raised the bar. For those who are not aware of the purpose of the game, contrary to what New ‘n’ Tasty! (remake of the first Abe’s Oddysee) might suggest, this is not the polished sequel Abe’s Exoddus. In his time, that second chapter (which didn’t count as part of Lanning’s “quintology”) was more of a spinoff than anything else. Even in this context, however, the game was castrated in its ambitions. That of Soulstorm, on the other hand, is the dark and epic original vision.
In the past stories at Alf’s Rehab and Tea
For the curious, let’s first start entering the narrative merit by Oddworld Soulstorm, although this excursus will be short compared to the rest of the review. In the original Abe’s Exoddus, the incipit was dictated by a vision of the protagonist Abe. The spirits of the deceased Mudokon contacted him to prevent the antagonists (the Glukkon, ruthless businessmen) from desecrating his remains. Without any hyperbole, the literal metaphor of their disrespect translated into the Storm Drink of Souls: a liquid mixture of bones (and tears) capable of being addictive. It is up to Abe to save his fellow men from slavery, dictated precisely by addiction.
The lineage of the Mudokon has always been presented as a Semitic allegory, but the latter has never been less veiled as in this game. The opening bars, except for an opening “in medias res”, immediately fill the otherwise triumphant conclusion of New ‘n’ Tasty with poison! (and, by extension, Abe’s Oddysee). The Mudokon slaves escaped safe and sound from the Hernia Slaughterhouses (now called Rupture Farms also in the Italian translation), but it is their persecution by the slave Glukkon to abruptly kick off the gameplay phases, in place of the classic semi-toned plot. -paranormal which in comparison seems almost frivolous.
Blood Baptism – Oddworld Soulstorm Review (Nintendo Switch)
Like its predecessor, Oddworld Soulstorm also stands as a cinematic platformer: for those of you not familiar with our review subject, this is a branch of platformers characterized by realism and from laws of physics. Inertia is therefore essential for every leap to take. Abe jumps and moves with the same limits as any human being. Compared to other chapters of the saga, however, the gameplay received quite a few tweaks, which elevate the original experience to something more canonical. And, almost always, also fun in the traditional sense.
Leaving aside the suspension of disbelief with which the double jump betrays (to a small extent) the severity of the film platformers, there is much to talk about well. Before moving on to the subtleties of the gameplay, let’s briefly summarize the cornerstones of the series for any fans of the last hour. The aim is always the same: to emerge unscathed from the scenarios by rescuing as many Mudokons as possible. If escorting one or more unarmed characters makes you nervous, be ready for some escort mission even tougher: in fact, we are talking about a group of 300 companions at a time from the very first levels, for a real “Lemmings effect”.
“Like You Do It, But Bigger” – Oddworld Soulstorm Review (Nintendo Switch)
In this sense, the experience that characterized our previous outings on the continent of Mudos comes here magnified beyond all measure. For good and, unfortunately, also for bad. It can be really disorienting to find yourself having to escort such a well-stocked flock to the finish line, especially for newbies. On the other hand, it is also true that the level design has received a considerable upgrade, and this is how the most complex situations often turn into puzzles to be faced more with ingenuity than with hand-eye coordination. Not that reflections are necessarily put on the passenger seat, of course.
One thing we have noted with pleasure is the evolution of camera, already improved in New ‘n’ Tasty! compared to its original counterpart Abe’s Oddysee. In the case of the aforementioned remake, in fact, the change of scene “à la Mega Man” from one screen to another has given way (thanks to the expected abandonment of the pre-rendered graphics) to a more gradual direction. Recreating the game world from scratch with this philosophy has transformed the levels into real ones dioramaswho make full use of nature 2,5D of the game. Clearly, the Sligs have always had the habit of shooting at us from the background, but never before has the sense of danger and safety been so tangible.
“Abe will have to go invisible to enter” – Oddworld Soulstorm Review (Nintendo Switch)
Already from the first moments of the game, however, there are also many Announcements. Beyond the double jump, in fact, the launch mechanics have received a very meticulous fine-tuning. The game introduces new types of objects to be thrown, far beyond the usual rocks. These range from water bottles to put out fires to soft drinks that can cause them. Soon, then, it also becomes possible to combine the resources at one’s disposal to combine objects and create new ones, such as the stun mines that are immediately essential to overcome the most stealthy game phases.
We would be lying if we said that the game’s greatest ambition has clipped the wings ofanima stealth of his illustrious predecessors. Abe is not a fighter: as we anticipated, cunning is the main weapon placed in the player’s hands. And there are phases in which the surroundings are on our side offering us lockers, while in others the walls behind which shelter us from the fire of the Slig infantry gradually give way with each shot. The tangibly sharp tension tends to make the discovery of the various secrets even more satisfying. The reward benefits enormously from the thrills involved in the risk.
Life Goals – Oddworld Soulstorm Review (Nintendo Switch)
In this sense, being a port for Nintendo Switch, the achievement they are internal to the game itself and not tied to the account as would happen elsewhere. Specifically, each level has different completion parameters, based on the context of our feats. For example, rummaging in every possible basket, locker or amphora will be worth the title of “scavenger”, just as the game also takes into account how much Royal Jelly (extra health) we can bring home under “Hidden Help”. In this overall picture, there is also a disproportion of secret areas that are often difficult to reach (as well as with extremely abstruse access).
Speaking of secrets, the game soon decides to conceal some of the Mudokons to be rescued in the areas in question. Contrary to cinematic storytelling expressed mostly through gameplay in Abe’s previous adventures, there is now a more traditionally videogame tiered structure. Diving purists will scream scandal, but knowing if our compatriots to save are 300, 1 (two extremes in quick succession, early game) or 24 in a given level is much less anxious than a generic “if you go further, all the Mudokons in this area will die ”.
New repertoire – Oddworld Soulstorm Review (Nintendo Switch)
Even the bombs are back singing skills Abe (overshadowing his usual intestinal gas, for the sake of narrative sobriety). The protagonist’s soul, once the body has been abandoned, can be used to ring the bells or activate the necessary mechanisms. However, his primary purpose remains the same as always: possess enemies. Sure, Super Mario Odyssey has perhaps made the concept more accessible to a large-scale audience, but Abe’s Oddysee (another video game odyssey, if you will) is one of the pioneers of the concept in this medium. And, song suppression drones aside, Soulstorm is here to remind us.
Not for this, among Abe’s abilities (such as the Gamespeak to speak to the Mudokons, introduced much later than in other chapters of the saga) there is no room for news either. The already mentioned aiming system, relegated to the right analog lever of the controller, extends its trajectories to other occasions, such as the Slig. We will have to calculate our movements even with the launch of the tools, to avoid waste. It’s not just ammunition that can be misused: the same goes for the chances of saving the Mudokon people. Any level is possible replay as such with the special menu, but the game does not take long to remind us that improving our results does not change those we carry with us during the “real” adventure.
Pimp my settings – Review Oddworld Soulstorm (Nintendo Switch)
As always happens in this often unfairly ignored IP, the conventions of the film platformer do not compromise. We weren’t joking when we talked about a defenseless protagonist; Abe is mostly helpless in the course of his adventure. Fortunately, our impression is that of having to deal with a level design better built around the limits imposed on the player (contrary to the result of the tight development times of the original Abe’s Exoddus). Also, depending on the context, the Y key (equivalent to X on Xbox and square on PlayStation) can be used to smash crates, talk to Mudokons, interact with background elements and enter doors.
Talking about difficulty, you can select it in the main menu if you are willing to reset the progress of a given level. Based on the settings, it is possible to enjoy different levels of health (we can withstand more hits in the most forgiving mode) and to have less headaches with the Mudokons to save thanks also to a less pronounced aggression on the part of the enemies. As for infinite lives, another staple of the genre, they go hand in hand with a use of checkpoints similar to the “Quiksave” (sic) of Oddysee and Exoddus. Continue your game from the main menu returns to the last checkpoint reachedallowing the player to consume everything in small doses.
Weird to the Last Drop – Oddworld Soulstorm Review (Nintendo Switch)
If we don’t count the highly customizable settings (of which we just need to become aware of the excellent accessibility options for camera and light effects, plus the interface …