For gamers of a certain age that owned a PS1 (or just 'PlayStation'), Abe the Mudokon is a familiar character, famous for some of the cleverest puzzle-platforming gameplay of the age. With Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty we have a remake of Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee, though it's actually more a refresh than remake. Make no mistake, this title has been developed from the ground up, to the point that its meaty file size and requirements to run seemingly held the Wii U version back longer than anyone would like. Now that the game's not-quite-new as it lands on Nintendo's system, but is it still tasty?
For starters, this title stands out as a puzzle platformer with a relatively detailed and cohesive story at its heart. Abe is a floor cleaner in a RuptureFarms food processing plant, which produces pies and fast food made out of various meats. Upon stumbling across a fiendish plan from the owners (the Glukkons) he's spotted, and thus begins the 'Oddysee' - as it was called in the original - in which he seeks to escape, encounters Mudokens away from the factory and begins a quest to liberate and rescue his comrades.
Abe himself is a rather simple fellow, yet there's undoubted intelligence to the scriptwriting here. The overarching morality tale targets the selfish nature of modern industry, the cynicism and dangerous behaviour of profit-seeking corporations, and could even be interpreted as a polemic in support of vegetarianism. It's rather bold, yet at the same time keeps its message in check and doesn't over-extend, leaving the player to relate to Abe and the small but intriguing cast. From attractive cut-scenes to poetic lines in loading screens, this is a title with a beating heart and artistic merit.
Once you get into the gameplay, you have puzzle platforming with occasional moments where the tempo ratchets up. For the most part you're making relatively linear progress through a mixture of rooms and wider areas, all while assessing danger and considering the way forward. Moments of dashing, jumping and rolling are in the minority - though welcome when they come - as you spend a great deal of time steadily figuring out your surroundings.
There's some depth to the controls which, to the game's immense credit, isn't daunting when actually playing. In addition to running, jumping, rolling and using items, you can also throw objects and communicate with other Mudokon's with a variety of 'gamespeak' commands. Then there's chanting, which is integral in solving puzzles and even controlling some enemies - Abe begins the game relatively helpless, sneaking and dodging foes, but those tables turn with progress.
All of this combines rather nicely for an engaging experience, for which strong design points can also be assigned. Solutions always have logic to them, even when the puzzles are rather fiendish or tricky to execute, and some concessions are also made to ensure that you can avoid heightened frustration. Checkpoints are frequent, but you can also quicksave with the Select button at any time, which is a welcome feature.
The stages, ultimately, are the star alongside our charismatic protagonist. Carefully structured, they're also great to look at, as this eShop version holds up in delivering an attractive version of the game. The visuals are indeed rather tasty, and the sound design also plays its part in the overall experience.
There are some drawbacks here, though, which prevent this game from taking what would have been its rightful place among the very best games on the eShop. For starters there are some issues with framerate, which become troublesome in some up-tempo sections, particularly when riding Elums, kind-hearted creatures that offer help with some run and jump sections. The framerate is always playable, but regardless of whether we were running the game off an external hard drive or the Wii U's internal memory it hit some trouble spots. The frequent checkpoints and quicksave features ease the pain, but some of our deaths could be attributed to stumbling over slight input lag and a stuttering framerate.
A method for making quick or precise sections easier is available, though. Enabling 'Classic' control options replaces analogue walking and running to assigning the latter to a button, in addition to making it easier to jump from a standing start. We could find no workaround, however, to the fact that the off-TV mirroring on the GamePad drops sound during cutscenes. It's odd, as the rest of the sound is intact, so it has to go down as a bug at this stage.
If performance were better optimised this would join the ranks as one of the top titles on the eShop, but even with its flaws it's only one notch down from that status. Always playable, it's easier to forgive framerate dips when the overall product is of such a high quality, providing a timely reminder that experienced developers are producing immersive experiences that can be as attractive as some retail titles. It's a relatively lengthy adventure - especially for those new to the series - and multiple difficulty settings and collectible challenges add replayability. It is, ultimately, worth its premium price.
Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty has had a protracted journey to the Wii U, and remnants of that legacy can be found here. Overall, however, we have an attractive, beautifully designed and clever platformer on the eShop, which is also fairly unique on the store. Sometimes a wait is worthwhile, and this one's odyssey to reach Nintendo hardware was worth the effort.