As the title suggests, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty is an oddity of sorts. It was back in 1997, when it was operating under the name of Abe’s Oddysee, when it was asking players not to mindlessly kill whatever was onscreen and instead, to save as many lives as possible. Now, in 2014, it isn’t an anomaly for its content, but for how indie developer Just Add Water decided to remake the PlayStation classic from Oddworld Inhabitants. High-definition ports are all the rage these days, but they rarely live up to their namesake nor attempt to fix any problems that plagued the original release. That’s exactly why New ‘n’ Tasty stands out among the rest: it not only updates Abe’s Oddysee to fit the graphical taste of modern HD-loving gamers, but resolved what flawed the game as well. Problems still persist, new and old, but its success speaks more than its failures.
The cinematic cutscenes may have received a graphical overhaul, but the story is still the same. Abe, a Mudokon among many
employed enslaved factory workers at Rupture Farms, discovers a horrible truth one night while waxing the floors. Profits at Rupture Farms are in the red and it’s all because Paramites and Scrabs, the delicious source of the company’s meat products, are becoming scarce. As Abe continues peeking into the business meeting held by the Glukkons, the greedy businessmen race, he hears the chilling solution to Rupture Farms’ woes from the company’s boss, Molluk: kill all the Mudokons and turn them into popsicles. Upon hearing the news, Abe runs for his life, unaware of the destiny that awaits him ahead.
Dark, goofy, and charming all around, the story of New ‘n’ Tasty entertains with its thought-provoking commentary and oddball sense of humor. Future Oddworld games may have gotten carried away with the jokes, but it strikes the right balance here between seriousness and silliness. No matter the age or sex, one can’t deny the simply laugh of hearing a spontaneous fart burst out, and man, there are some funny-sounding farts here. As odd as it may be for a reviewer to use farts in order to transition into praising a game’s audio, there’s honestly no series more fitting for it than Oddworld. The soundtrack is incredibly daunting, making one feel like a major screw-up is all but imminent. The voice acting, either provided by Oddworld game designer Lorne Lanning or submitted by fans back in 2013, is lovely with the fresh dialogue added for the re-release.
As for the graphics, anyone who played the Abe’s Oddysee will instantly recognize the visual changes in New ‘n’ Tasty. Just Add Water didn’t just tidy up the graphics and called it a day; the developers recreated the 2D graphics of Abe’s Oddysee into fully 3D models for the remake with the help of the Unity engine. The full-motion video version of Abe seen in the game’s original cutscenes is fully realized. The level compositions remain faithful to the original game while proudly displaying the beautiful and eerie 3D environments. Did I mention the annoying flip-screen transitions have been replaced with a free-flowing camera? It’s a godsend.
Despite the dynamic camera angles, New ‘n’ Tasty is still very much a 2D sidescroller, one that has you running all over Rupture Farms and beyond to save yourself and your fellow Mudokons from danger. Flip a switch here, possess an enemy there, outrun that Scrab behind you, guide the Mudokon(s) on the left away from meat grinders and into the bird portal of freedom right — it never ends for Abe. Even with the inclusion of a health meter and quick save, the obstacles are just as challenging as they were back when it was played with the DualShock 1 controller.
The quick save, however, does make New ‘n’ Tasty more forgiving than Abe’s Oddysee. The original game could have you singing a melody of profanities if you died before reaching an easy-to-miss checkpoint, forcing you to restart and save all those hard-to-reach Mudokons again. New ‘n’ Tasty, on the other hand, makes these levels of deep frustration less intimidating by giving the player room to make mistakes. You can either wait for Abe to regenerate at the newly placed checkpoints or reload him manually from a time before he was gunned down, chopped up, or hit on the head by a falling chunk of meat. Purists who feel that the quick save feature “casualizes” the game need only to turn up the difficulty to hard if they wish to play as they did in 1997. For anyone who may be fearful of the remake chewing them up and spitting them out like a cowboy does tobacco, an easy mode is available, too.
Let’s get back to farts — and by that, I mean discussing the remake’s revamped control scheme that allows for better movements and communications, like breaking wind in front of your Mudokon brethren. It may take a while to adjust to entering a door with the press of the “X” button instead of holding the analog stick up, but the control changes make is all for the better. Using the right analog stick to aim an infinite amount of bottle caps for distractions or a grenade for a more destructive purpose feels great, moving the voice commands to the D-pad for easier guidance with the Mudokon slaves is welcomed, and adding the “All O’ Ya” speech to grab the attention of multiple Mudokons at once was something the original game desperately needed.
For all the improvements New ‘n’ Tasty makes, there are still problems buried deep within this digital title. First of which, as previously mentioned, is the game’s steep learning curve. If your reflexes aren’t quick enough or you didn’t apply the right amount of pressure to that jump you made, you will die — many, many times. The quick save function makes these death caused by poor timing or planning forgivable, as reloading only takes a second. However, the trial-and-error aspect to the gameplay makes you feel like you’re playing a game of Trials instead.
The game’s new and improved graphics are pretty, but maybe too pretty, considering the dark premise. No doubt New ‘n’ Tasty wins in the best graphics contest over the original game, but Abe’s Oddysee had a more gritty and fearful atmosphere going on with its dirty and raw backgrounds. The best example of this being the loss of blood from the meat barrels seen in the first level. Another aesthetic change that was done for continuity’s sake with the sequels, but was still a drag nonetheless, is the Mudokon Pops design changing from a shocking image of a beheaded Mudokon dripping blood to a tamer depiction of a googly-eye popsicle treat.
Now, I believe it’s worth stating that during my time with New ‘n’ Tasty, I experienced a few bugs. At first, an Elum I rode across Paramonia comically fell off an elevator shaft for no reason whatsoever. I thought nothing more of the glitch other than it being a funny mishap. When I had a CE-34878-0 error code in the Scrabanian Temple, preventing me for progressing in the game, that’s when I stopped laughing. To the credit of Just Add Water and Oddworld Inhabitants, the error code and other major glitches were fixed with a patch. Following the patch, the only glitch I’ve experienced was a frozen guard that had me on a chanting loop when I tried to possess him. Nothing ever came close to game-breaking like the error code did, but these glitches deserve mentioning for those that dealt with something similar or worse during the initial release.
There is a third quirky trait and, depending on your concept of value, it could be a deal breaker. The oddity I’m speaking of is the game’s price on the PlayStation Network for $29.99, quite high when compared to other remakes or ports. On the other hand, you don’t see this much effort put into remaking video game from an era so young like the fifth generation. If you decide to put down the cash out of nostalgia or curiosity, it will not be in vain. New ‘n’ Tasty is a remake that lives up to its title by successfully updating the looks and fixing the mechanics of the original while keeping the spirited gameplay alive for fans or newcomers alike. Yes, a warm and glowing experience, like the sweet release of a deeply held fart.