Oddworld: Soulstorm represents a big visual and cinematic leap. With intelligent new mechanics and twisted new devices which enable highly explosive deviousness. This is a dark parable that tells an epic tale of a volatile society pushed to its limits.
Publisher: Oddworld Inhabitants
Reviewed on: PS5
Also available for: PS4, PC
Cast: Lorne Lanning, Michael Bross,
Developer: Oddworld Inhabitants, Fat Kraken Studios, Titanium Studios, Sabotage Studio, Big Boat Interactive, Free Range Games, Superseed Studios, Streamline Media Group, System Studios
Creative Director & Story: Lorne Lanning
Executive Producer: Sherry McKenna, Bennie Terry III
When I was a kid, I would say I like Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey, even though it was highly challenging and I could barely beat the first two levels. But I loved the world and its odd creatures and characters. As the years passed, I held a grudge because of the difficulty, and I never bothered to try out Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty a couple of years ago when it released. That game, a remake of the first in the series, Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysey, was by all accounts more enjoyable than the original game. Oddworld: Soulstorm reimagines the second game in the series, Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus. However, it’s not just a modernisation of the series, as Soulstorm still very much holds the difficulty, stealth and 2D elements that made the franchise famous in the late ’90s.
The story picks up directly after New ‘n’ Tasty with Abe now a hero amongst his people, having rescued them from the clutches of a corporate overlord. Sadly, the Mudokons are discovered and once again on the run from the Glukkons. There’s a lot of twists and turns in Soulstorm’s narrative, with a surprising amount of heart. I nearly teared up at one point, which I wouldn’t have expected at all. The new cut-scenes add a lot of range to Abe’s facial animations, and within this one game, he’s gone from a weird looking dude who farted to a rather adorable critter I feel deep sympathy for and would protect at any cost.
The core gameplay of Soulstorm is what Oddworld fans have come to know and love. You’ll either be trying to sneaking past enemies undetected, solving puzzles, or attempting to kill your enemies—or all of the above at the same time. However, it can take a few levels to get into the rhythm of Soulstorm as the opening chapters are a bit of a drag, especially as the game is quite long. It took me 18 hours to reach the ‘bad ending’ before you’re asked to replay levels and save more Mudokons to unlock the final two levels. When I rolled credits, I was 28 hours deep.
You’re never told early in the game that choosing not to save the Mudokons will lock you out of finishing the game, which is an old-school game development mentality. That said, Soulstorm is at its best when it’s pushing you to save the Mudokons. You can run through each level, not a care in the word reasonably efficiently if you wanted, but to save the Mudokons, to lead that conga-line of six-to-ten through enemy fire, vicious saw blades, and electric laser gates — that’s the true test of your abilities and leadership as Abe.
Oddworld: Soulstorm is a challenging game, but it can become head-to-desk worthy rather quickly. There were more than a handful of moments I wished for modern game sensibilities while trying to save Abe’s friends. The fact you can’t give your Mudokons even the most straightforward commands is irritating. But hey, that’s Oddworld, I guess? The Mudokons following you will only stop where you stand and walk directly into harm’s way if you forget to tell them to stop moving. Want them to jump across a gap in front of you? No can do. Want them to hold on to a marker? No can do. It’s frustrating, but all very much in line with classic Oddworld gameplay.
One of the most frustrating things about the first game was simply Abe’s movement and controls. He controlled like he was straight out of the original Prince of Persia game, and to a degree, that’s still true. You press up under ledges to jump to them and down on the d-pad to hang off a ledge. However, this time around, Abe is given a double jump, which, although not a game-changer, does allow for some slight mid-air correction in moments where you’ll need it the most and speeds up the moment-to-moment gameplay slightly.
The most notable new feature in Soulstorm is crafting. Search enemies bodies, dumpster bins and lockers to find items that Abe can craft into bouncing gum that’ll tie up an enemy upon impact, or later in the game, even a flame thrower. Most of the time, the crafting does seem unnecessary as you’ll find all the ingredients the game wants you to have right next to the checkpoint. However, in a couple of levels where you almost have to place your Mudokons like an RTS game having the right items to give them to defeat enemies would be nearly impossible without the crafting system.
Oddworld: Soulstorm is very nice about giving a checkpoint at just about every new screen or after every significant combat encounter or puzzle. It helps make the game more enjoyable. Still, most of the levels place the checkpoint before a bunch of lockers and vending machines where you collect items, and there’s no way to re-trigger the checkpoint. So each time you die, you’ll find yourself begrudgingly working through the same assortment of scrounging for ingredients to make the bombs you need for the enemy encounter right below you.