Warning: If for some reason you’ve yet to play Abe’s Oddysee, first of all what on earth are you doing with your life? Secondly, be aware that this article will contain spoilers for the game’s plot and its ending. Proceed with caution!
Following a rousing opening cinematic cut-scene, you traipse along the steel walkways of RuptureFarms, searching for an escape route. You dodge the watchful gaze of the deadly patrolling Sligs and deactivate blinking mines littering the floor. Together with one of the 99 enslaved Mudokens, you sprint down a long corridor devoid of danger – all seems to be going well. Suddenly, you run headfirst into a snoring Slig who promptly stirs from the noise of your footsteps. You quickly turn your heel to flee, but it’s already too late. The Slig guns you and your companion down with brutal finality as the screen fades to black. Welcome to Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee.
Released back in 1997 for PlayStation and PC, Abe’s Oddysee has become one of the most recognisable and enduring games in history thanks to its unique gameplay and imaginative world design. In an era where 3D graphics were quickly becoming the norm, Abe’s Oddysee went down the same route as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night to feature stunning (albeit, understandably dated by today’s standards) 2D side-scrolling graphics. Sequels, spins-offs and a full remake have since been released, with more along the way, ensuring the continued success of this compelling and, well, odd franchise.
You play as our hero Abe,
an employee a slave of the meat processing plant RuptureFarms (the biggest on Oddworld, so they say), run by the despicable CEO Mullock and his board of corrupt Glukkons. Abe stumbles across a secret meeting, and business is looking grim for our evil antagonist Mullock. Meat is becoming more and more scarce following excessive hunting, with the popular ‘Meech Munchies’ discontinued and the ‘Scrab Cakes’ and ‘Paramite Pies’ heading for the same fate. Profits are plummeting and the Glukkons are livid at Mullock’s apparent incompetence. But Mullock remains cool and collected, his trademark cigar hanging from his lips. His plan? Why, there’s a whole plant full of meat in the form of unsuspecting Mudokons! There’s no point in hunting for meat when there’s a veritable buffet right in front of us, right?
Upon witnessing this dire turn of events, Abe decides to take control of his destiny and escape from the clutches of RuptureFarms, determined to save his friends from certain death. What follows is an adventure that takes Abe across several locations as you work to free your Mudokon friends and cripple the foundations of RuptureFarms and its evil Glukkon mastermind, Mullock.
What sets Abe’s Oddysee apart from other platform games is its intriguing focus on in-game speech. Abe is able to fully communicate with his friends in a variety of ways, from getting them to follow him to whistling and farting in their faces, eliciting giggles from both the player and the in-game characters. Many of the game’s puzzles are focused on managing groups of Mudokons and guiding them to the bird portals, granting them freedom. Of course, much of the time your progress is hampered by enemies and devious traps, from electrical barriers to seemingly bottomless pits. Your success in the game lies in your ability to not only circumvent these obstacles yourself, but to also guide your friends to safety with as few casualties as possible.
Of course, should you choose to, you can also send your poor Mudokon companions to their deaths in a variety of gloriously gory ways. Doing so however will result in the game’s rather grim ‘bad ending’. Regardless of your actions throughout the adventure, Abe will find himself hanging above a meat grinder after being captured by Mullock and his Slig minions. If you’re a good little Mudokon and manage to save 50 or more of Abe’s buddies, you’ll be warped away from the meat grinder to safety. If not, the native Mudokons will abandon Abe, leaving him to drop into the grinder and reduced to mulch, no doubt ready to be served as the first of RuptureFarms’ New ‘n’ Tasty recipe. It was one of the first games I’d played to feature multiples endings, though I would have gladly played through the game again and again even if it only had the one. It’s that good.
The speech mechanic is only half of the fun, though. Abe has a miraculous ability to possess nearby enemies, bringing them completely under his control (though why he failed to make use of this talent beforehand, I’ll never know). Is there a pesky Slig blocking your path? No problem. Simply chant to possess the poor sod and you can dispatch it in a variety of different ways. You can run it into a meat grinder, or drop it down a pit. Or, you can simply chant again and watch as your unwilling puppet explodes into a squelchy mess. Sorted. In a rather endearing display of attention to detail, Abe will always giggle following one of his jaunts in a possessed Slig. What a wonderfully weird game.
Abe’s Oddysee truly is a landmark title that I still enjoy playing to this very day. Its influence continues to be felt nearly 20 years after its initial release, with games like Inside and Little Nightmares clearly taking notes from the PS1 classic. What could have been a simple, forgettable platform game was transformed into a masterpiece with intriguing characters, unique gameplay mechanics and stunning level design. I sincerely hope the series enjoys continued success with the upcoming Oddworld: Soulstorm, because gaming simply wouldn’t be the same without our ‘Stitch-Lips’ hero, Abe.