Not impressed, are you?
Oh well, on with the review. Oddworld Inhabitants is one of those companies whose existence in itself makes them notable; a company created (by either Lorne Lanning or Sherry McKenna, depending on who you ask) for the specific purpose of designing a series, what would become the Oddworld Quintology; a series of five games, each radically different in gameplay and characters, linked only by the fact that they all took place in the aptly named Oddworld, a place of many cultures, most of them represented in a manner reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, and with a metric shitload of symbolism and social commentary on OUR world. The first game, Abe's Oddysee, introduced us to Abe, an urban Mudokon who, like the others, had never learned of his people's spiritual heritage, and was content to wax floors for the military-industrial juggernaut known as the Magog Cartel. Upon realizing that he and his fellow employees were scheduled to become meat popsicles (environmental consciousness is not a strong point of the Magog, and the preferred types of meat were rapidly going extinct), escaped from his employer, the nicely-named Rupture Farms, to the wilds, where his fellow Mudokons tested him and trained him in the way of the spirit, specifically Shrykull, a Mudokon demi-god who proved useful in Abe's final mission: rescue the remainder of his people, and destroy Rupture Farms. Well, he did, and the story picks up from there.
It's important to note that Abe's Exoddus is not part of the Oddworld Quintology; after the unexpected success of Oddysee (particularly in Europe), OWI decided to do one more game with the same character and engine before the Quintology's second entry, which will be for the PlayStation 2000, Dreamcast, etc. and will revolve around a character called Munch. In the manual, the creators mention that each game in the Quintology will have "one of more bonus games" like Exoddus, which may or may not be a good thing.
In the case of Abe, it's definitely a good thing, if only because the current hardware couldn't accomplish what's being planned for Munch. If you've played the first one, you know what you're getting; the graphics and sound are identical in almost every respect. More than anything this feels like a PC mission pack, but if any game deserves one, it's this. As with the first one, the level design is brilliant, the puzzles fiendishly difficult but rarely frustrating, and the character design, FMV sequences and voice-acting are all top-notch. So, basically you're getting more of the same. Trust me, this is a good thing.
What is new, besides the storyline, is the QuikSave feature, which was put in due to complaints about the first game, which relied entirely on a Flashback-style "checkpoint" system. Basically, you can save at any time, anywhere. Usually I hate this kind of feature, and it's tempting at times to abuse it, but it allows the puzzles to get more involved without having to break every few screens for a checkpoint. One unfortunate result of the QuikSave feature is that there are places where checkpoints obviously would fit well but aren't included, making the game difficult to play without using it at least a little. Also new are flying and crawling Sligs, cuter versions of the Slogs caled Sloggies, an improved GameSpeak interface, exploding farts (don't ask), and the ability to possess Scrabs, Paramites and Glukkons. None of these additions is as much a jump over Oddysee as Oddysee was to traditional Flashback mechanics, but it does prevent the proceedings from ever becoming monotonous. All the old tricks are included and expanded upon; this is possible because the game is around twice as big as the first one, with many, many more hidden areas. The number of guys to be rescued has jumped from 99 to 300 (my score the first time thru was somewhere in the 180's), and there are appear to be 4 endings, compared the Oddysee's 2.
The best part of Oddysee, though, was the presentation; it was designed as a story first and a game second, and turned out better than anyone could have predicted. Like Dr. Seuss (which, judging by the characters and tone, was a big inspiration), it tries to be silly at every opportunity, but the subject matter can be deadly serious. The metaphorical angle has been amped up considerably for Exoddus, and anybody who enjoyed that aspect of the first one simply must purchase this. Unlike Dr. Seuss, however, the game is definitely not "kid stuff." The characters are cute and funny, but they also spend a lot of time being shot, blown up, crushed or thrown into meat saws, and the death scenes aren't cartoony, they're just bloody.
If you enjoyed Abe's Oddysee solely for the play mechanics, you might want to rent Exoddus to see if the new stuff can hold your interest long enough to warrant a purchase. If you also enjoyed the storyline, by all means buy this game. The unlikely hero is an old story, but some of the oldest stories are also the best, and heroes don't get much more unlikely than Abe.
Peter the Malcontent