Oddworld: Soulstorm is both a remake and reimagining of the second game in the Oddworld series. Developers Oddworld Inhabitants have reimagined and expanded upon Oddworld: Abe’s Exodus with Soulstorm, releasing a product that is more in line with their original artistic vision and not bound by the limitations of the technology available in 1998 for PS1 and Windows.
Set days after the events of Oddworld: New ‘n Tasty – itself a reimagining/remake of the first Oddworld game, Abe’s Odyssey – the story finds our reluctant hero Abe and his fellow rescued Mudokans taking a well-deserved rest after their escape from RuptureFarms. But that rest is rudely interrupted just as Abe is given the bad news that his journey has only just begun and his heroics far from over.
The bad guys want revenge for the destruction of RuptureFarms. And that means killing Abe and all the Mudokans whose lives he’s just saved.
Across fifteen levels (with two secret ones), Abe will platform his way to salvation while dealing with enemy forces, environmental hazards and the trials of being a leader by saving Mudokans from a ghastly fate. As a 3D 2D platformer, Soulstorms mechanics are very firmly rooted in the original game with the Enhanced Edition bringing some new features and fixes to the table.
Most notable are the game’s visuals, which sport a full 3D makeover. High-resolution textures and models adorn the environment with the camera often been used to showcase the sense of the scale of Oddworld with its scene framing. Whenever you’re in an outdoors location, the developers zoom out on a regular basis to display the stunning backgrounds to full measure, helping to frame just how small Abe is in comparison to the world around him. Along with the writing, it helps to create some fantastic world-building.
The fantastic visuals aren’t limited to the backgrounds either, but also to the games new character models which are wonderfully modelled and animated. Yet again, along with the writing, the character animation does a fantastic job of creating a personality for the games various characters. Whether it’s the way Abe tip-toes around enemies or falters at ledges or the way the Mudokans throw their arms in the air when saved, Soulstorm imbues its characters with, well, character.
One of the aspects in which Soulstorm shines is in the use of its 3D space to add depth to the 2D world and not just through its backdrops but in the way, levels are laid out. Levels can roll around on each other and often you’ll be jumping from a background element into a foreground one, running down a path just below or parallel to the one you’ve just been on. You may start a level out heading to the right only to finish it by a path that takes you to the left. It’s a subtle play with the conventions of linear level design and how we’re used to progression being presented, especially in a 2D space.
Despite the modern polygon makeover, Soulstorms gameplay is still rooted in its PS1 origins with enhancements to the mechanics. As Abe, you have the usual platforming skills of running, jumping, climbing ledges, crawling, rolling and walking stealthily. In addition to these, you can loot bad guys to either pick up objects or components to craft objects, letting you throw water bottles to put out fires or stun mines to stun your enemies. Abe has a magical chant ability that lets you open up specific doors or stun and even possess enemies. When you finally get around to rescuing your fellow Mudokans, you can issue simple orders to them such as to stay or follow you.
The gameplay will either make or break Soulstorm for you as, in many ways, it feels very much a product of its original era. While there are moments where you have to move relatively quickly with Abe, Soulstorm is a slower, more thoughtful platforming and puzzle game where the beautiful character animations can often get in the way of the platforming. Most of the time you will be sneaking around, trying not to get shot while figuring out how to deal with the puzzles that are your enemies.
Complexity is added when dealing with your Mudokan rescues, who are just as prone to environmental deaths and bullets as you are. It’s not uncommon to guide a group through a level only to have someone meet moving saw blades because you chose an inopportune moment to move and they followed without the correct timing.
Using Abe’s chant on Sligs can be cathartically fun. You can either use them to mow their fellows down gleefully and then walk them into something sharp and pointy or, if you’re feeling particularly mean, make them explode. Alternatively, you can stun them to knock them out giving you a limited window to tie them up and loot them.
As the saying goes, with great power comes bloody vengeance. But there’s a downside to becoming genocidal as at the end of each level you’re graded on your performance where the Quarma metre comes into play. This tracks how many Mudokans you’ve saved or lost along with how many Sligs you’ve killed or subdued. The Quarma meter determines which of the games endings you’re going to get so it pays to be less bloodthirsty, while also offering up the opportunity for replays.
The Enhanced Edition of Soulstorm is a free upgrade to all existing owners. But what exactly are you getting that’s different from the standard edition?
First off are all the games previous patches rolled into this edition along with improved gameplay mechanics, improved AI for both the Sligs and your fellow Mudokans, audio improvements and some new content. The new content differs depending on which platform you’re playing on.
Xbox owners will get access to Vykkers Labs, which is an extra series of challenging puzzle levels designed around the original Oddworld games gameplay. Playstation and Epic Games Store owners will get access to Toby’s Escape. As with Vykkers Labs, Toby’s Escape is a series of short, puzzle filled levels based around the original Oddworld gameplay and tells the story of how Toby escaped RuptureFarms.
I recommend jumping into the new content only once you’ve finished the main game, or at least gotten well into the campaign, as the new puzzle levels are quite challenging.
Oddworld: Soulstorm is the sort of slower paced, puzzle platformer that you don’t find much of these days. While it took me awhile to get into the game and used to its slow pacing, the stunning level design and thoughtful approach of its gameplay made those initial hours’ worth it in the long run.
Reviewed on Xbox, grab your copy here – https://www.xbox.com/en-GB/games/store/oddworld-soulstorm-enhanced-edition/9N2XHRDKCJPG
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 5, Xbox One
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