The original Oddworld quintology didn’t go to plan. The storyline ground to a halt after three games, although there was a fourth spinoff title. Now Oddworld Inhabitants is having another go. Following the success of Oddworld: New ‘N’ Tasty, which was a remake of Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, the team remade Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus. The result is Oddworld: Soulstorm, although it feels less of a remake and more like a completely different game altogether.
For a start, there’s a completely new story that immediately follows the events of New ‘N’ Tasty. The Mudokons are celebrating their release from RuptureFarms, but things go wrong and their shelter goes up in flames. During the escape, Abe finds a dying Mudokon who hands him an amulet. He urges Abe to rescue all his fellow Mudokons still trapped in factories around the world before they all die from a mysterious illness. It turns out Soulstorm Brew is making them ill and only Abe can find a cure. His journey takes him through a host of beautiful new locations like a FeeCo train hurtling along at speed, although few will seem a little familiar to fans of the original game.
Oddworld: Soulstorm Review – A Whole New World
Vice-President Aslik and the Brewmaster are the only returning characters from Abe’s Exoddus. Having survived the destruction of his factory, New ‘N’ Tasty‘s Molluck continues to hinder Abe as best he can, while Alf continues to accompany Abe and provide some light comical relief along the way. Aside from these characters, there’s a whole cast of new helpful Mudokons and ghastly Glukkons (although the latter never seem as intimidating once you see the armless creatures in full profile). In fact, there’s a LOT of new Mudokons to be found—more than 1,300 if we want to be slightly more precise.
The vast majority of the Mudokons’ only purpose is to work the machines in one of many horrendous factories. Abe’s aim is to rescue as many of them as he can, although players can choose to leave them behind alternatively. Not all can be completely ignored as some are needed to operate machinery to get through the environments. Unlike their helpful friends, these are seemingly mindless drones with absolutely no sense of danger, prone to wandering into one of the many traps designed to stop them escaping once Abe frees them from their original task. The GameSpeak system is in a similar vein to New ‘N’ Tasty where they can be ordered around individually or commanded as a group. They’ll also copy Abe’s actions, sneaking when he does and even going as far as hiding in lockers as long as there’s enough of them.
The game is not easy, especially if players are aiming to rescue all of the Mudokons. Oddworld has always had a difficulty most would consider brutal in this day and age. Abe’s path is littered with deadly obstacles that prevent him from achieving his goal, be it vicious meat grinders, sensitive motion detectors, mine-riddled paths, or bottomless pits. This is in addition to the variety of familiar enemies that he will face, all united by their dislike of Mudokons and ready to attack at the slightest provocation. Whereas players could sometimes sprint to safety in New ‘N’ Tasty, this isn’t the case now. Precision timing and picking the right tools for the job are far more important.
All enemies should have their own behavioral patterns that make it possible to time Abe’s actions perfectly. Not only are they not always consistent, especially when alert, they can become completely unpredictable. It’s just one of the many bugs that make this game’s difficulty completely unforgiving in places. At other times, enemies can become seemingly immune to any form of attack. When Abe’s health is quite flimsy, this almost always results in his instant death. On the other hand, some enemy movements are hampered by invisible walls and unintentional teleportation.
Oddworld: Soulstorm Review – Mudokons Everywhere
At its heart the game is a platformer that’s been transported into the realm of 2.5D. Soulstorm’s environments are much bigger than anything the franchise has seen before. Players are occasionally offered a different perspective and a wider view as the camera pans out to show the sheer scale of some of the levels. Unfortunately the camera sometimes takes on weird angles and makes precision almost impossible. Abe is far more nimble than he was before now that he has the ability to double jump, but in comparison to his enemies that can dodge projectiles in a split second, Abe needs at least half a second to respond to any prompts from players. It’s not quick enough and it just adds to the frustration.
Some of the most difficult moments are the all-new ladder rescue sequences. Hundreds of Mudokons flood towards safety with safe holding pens halting their progress at every level. Abe has the task of keeping the guards distracted while the Mudokons escape. Here the game forgets platforming and becomes more like a strategy game, almost tower defense-esque with its placing of equipment and rescued Mudokons. Get one part wrong and there’ll be heavy casualties, meaning these sections turn into trial and a lot of errors, seemingly a lot of luck too.
In recognition of the game’s difficulty, the good ending only requires players to save 80% of the Mudokons on 12 of the game’s original 15 levels. Doing this means players will enjoy two extra levels and a longer playthrough of the campaign than if they choose to ignore their plight. The Mudokons’ fate will also decide which of the game’s four endings Abe gets, although the worst and best endings are variants of the bad and good endings, respectively.
While New ‘N’ Tasty was definitely an improvement on Abe’s Oddysey, some of the features added to that game to improve it have been removed from Soulstorm. Players only have one save file, although there’s a level select option that allows players to replay levels in one sitting if they want to improve on their performance. There’s no more quicksave either, with players relying on admittedly generous fixed checkpoints instead. There is a slim chance these will catch players in an infinite death loop and force a level restart—this happened to me twice. One save slot can also mean a lot of lost progress when Mudokons get rooted to the spot and the bug repeats itself every time the checkpoint is reloaded. Finally, Abe doesn’t have his infinite supply of distracting bottle caps anymore despite the proliferation of empty bottles throughout the levels.
Oddworld: Soulstorm Review – One Man’s Trash Is Another’s Treasure
While there’s some items lying around the place, one of the new features added in Soulstorm is looting and scavenging. Abe can find all kinds of trash and everyday objects that can be turned into a range of explosives and projectiles, like sticky explosives or bouncing projectiles that will instantly knock out any enemy. Those aforementioned empty bottles can also be recycled at vending machines, providing Moolah to spend at more vending machines for those supplies that aren’t lying around. Who’d have thought a fire extinguisher could be turned into a flamethrower?
This also isn’t without fault. The very occasional appearance of nails and screws hint at equipment that didn’t make it into the final game. The crafted items that do exist give players some choice on how to tackle situations, but only occasionally. The tedious part of the process is that everything post checkpoint must be recollected and recrafted if Abe dies, and eventually you wonder if it’s worth bothering. All items are removed from Abe’s inventory at the end of a level too, something designed to prevent players from becoming too overpowered but perhaps reducing their options too much at the same time.
Oddworld: Soulstorm should have been the definitive version of the second entry in the Oddworld quintology, while the new story and characters hold their own, the gameplay lets it down. A plethora of bugs make the game far more difficult and frustrating than it should be, ranging from inconsistent enemy movement and teleportation to traces of elements no longer in the final product. There are more than 1300 Mudokons needing your help, but it might be worth waiting a while before you take on this mammoth task.
Oddworld: Soulstorm review code provided by publisher (also free on PlayStation Plus for April 2021). Reviewed on PS5. For more information, please read our Review Policy.