Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD Preview (Vita)

Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD was released late last year on the PSN for the PlayStation 3, and at the time, a PlayStation Vita version was only in development. Fast-forward to today, and the game is playable on the show floor at E3. So, how does the portable entry stack up? PSLS went hands-on, and we’ve got the preview for you here.

For those unfamiliar with this Oddworld tale, Stranger’s Wrath was originally an Xbox-exclusive first-person shooter in 2005. You play as a bounty hunter known only as Stranger, and can use a variety of weapons which use live ammo – live as in actual living (fictional) creatures, such as Zappflies, Thudslugs, Boombats, and other animals with just as quirky-sounding names. Though the game is a first-person shooter, much of the game is also played from the third-person perspective. There are shops to visit, NPCs to converse with, ropes and platforms to climb, and more.

The first thing you’ll notice with the Vita version of Stranger’s Wrath is just how good the game looks. It looks easily just as good as the PS3 version, perhaps even better due to the Vita having a small screen relative to what the PS3 is typically played on; any blurriness left in the textures from this 7 year-old game appears to have vanished. What you’re left with is a crisp, vivid palette and a nice, solid framerate.

Audio in Stranger’s Wrath was admittedly pretty hard to judge thanks to the incredible volume of other sound sources on the showfloor, even with headphones attached to the Vita and the volume turned to the maximum setting. What could be heard predictably sounded identical to the console version, since audio is pretty easy for most consoles, handheld or otherwise, to process. Each ammunition creature makes its own noise, such as the Zappflies charging up, and enemies taunt you when they are fighting you. It’s a charming yet bizarre world with great audio work.

Stranger’s Wrath plays very well on the Vita. You use the left stick to move, and the right stick to look around. When in third-person mode, you can attack using the left and right triggers. If in first-person mode, you instead use the triggers to shoot your left and right equipped ammunition. Although the Vita is lacking in a few shoulder buttons, developer Just Add Water has baked in plenty of alternatives, such as tapping the front touch screen with two fingers to toggle between first and third-person views. This is one of the most fluid ways I have seen to change views on the Vita, and is a technique that I hope is utilized in other future titles.

So, other than the use of the touchscreen and rear touchpad (which didn’t appear to work at demo time), the game plays just like its PS3 counterpart. Controls are sharp, platforming and combat is enjoyable, and the Oddworld inhabitants feel alive as ever. It looks like the team at Just Add Water has another successful port on their hands, and we’ll have the final verdict ready for you when the game launches on the Vita later this year, though at this point obviously not as a launch window title.