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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Action / Puzzle

 

Publisher

Microsoft

 

Developer

Oddworld

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

November 2001

 

 

- Very high quality graphics
- Some good-natured humor
- Variety of challenges
- Good sound

 

 

- Camera and controls hamper
fun factor
- Amazingly difficult at times
- Not enough environment variety

 

 

Review: Whacked! (XBox)

Review: Blinx: The Time Sweeper (XBox)

Review: Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath (XB)

 

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Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee

Score: 7.0 / 10

 

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Whenever I watch “buddy” films (Rush Hour, The Rescuers Down Under, Tango & Cash) or play “buddy” games (Banjo-Tooie, The Lost Vikings) I expect certain things. Buddy games by their nature are co-operative. One character will access an area only they can access to unlock a door, lower a bridge, etc. to allow the other character access to that same area and continue together to vanquish whatever wrong-doer locked the door in the first place. Munch’s Oddysee (MO) is in the same vein and does the standards very well – Abe and Munch (the ying-yang factor is present – Abe’s spiritual while Munch interacts with high technology) face a variety of challenges, not the least of which is staying alive – but falls apart when it comes to addictive gameplay and control. But first…

The graphics, more specifically the cutscenes (just watch the backstory!), rival anything Pixar or Dreamworks has produced – including Shrek. MO is one fine looking game! Everything from the little touches to the big explosions are animated

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well and look terrific – provided you can see what you’re doing as the camera needs work. Camera transgressions include: not adjusting well to the action and not zooming in during the short in-game “briefings” by the Shamans. Most times the camera is just plain too far away making precision control difficult. I’m almost willing to let these issues slide since up to this point Oddworld has always been rendered

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in 2D and the developers might not have a lot of experience with 3D. I say “almost” because if a game like MO expects to make a go of it, it has to do what other games have been doing well for the last 5 years. There are a wide assortment of camera controls but when you’re running around with the worst that Vykkers Lab has to offer breathing down your neck, adjusting the camera isn’t the first thing on your mind.

As a result of the camera, control sometimes takes a hit – and draining some of the fun. (It’s no fun dying because you didn’t see the edge of a cliff and landed on a mine.) There’s a definite learning curve for the controls, especially Gamespeak which Abe and Munch use to interact with the inhabitants of Oddworld. The Y, X, and B buttons all have two functions, one activated by tapping the button, the other by holding it down. When controlling Abe, the Work and Attack button are both B – and boy, does it get annoying having Abe’s fellow Mudokons say, “Nothing to do, Abe,” because you’re telling them to Work instead of Attacking the Interns beating the hell out of you. There are few other annoying subtleties to master: one action button means you have to be careful what you’re doing – you may want to pick up a Mudokon, but you’ll wind up jumping instead. Thankfully, the second most used function – switching between Abe and Munch – is a simple button press.

 

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This isn’t to say that MO isn’t fun. It’s always fun to watch big-toothed fur balls attack a bunch of Sligs, or whipping around in Munch’s wheelchair, or flinging Mudokon’s over barriers, but it lacks the certain fun factor that elevates a game to “must own” status instead of sitting at “rent a few times.” Some of this is owed to the basic design of the game.

Often it feels like you’re solving puzzles precisely the way the developers had in mind. There isn’t much free-roaming problem solving. MO takes a Lost Vikings approach to level design – there’s a goal, you achieve it with some teamwork, and move on, never to visit the area again. This is unlike Banjo-Tooie, which drops you into huge levels with lots of stuff to do and not many “funnel” quests. MO tasks you with collecting green Spooce (like mana or coins) and freeing various NPCs to do your bidding and getting both Abe and Munch to the level exit. Some levels and sections are incredibly difficult – MO is definitely a game for experienced players. The length of the game is good and the save option should be used often.

Those with killer sound systems shouldn’t be disappointed with the sound design. Even then, most of the voice-over work feels ripped from Conker’s Bad Fur Day, the lines are delivered well and sometimes you’ll chuckle at the jokes. Music is good all-round.

Munch’s Oddysee is a good addition to the Oddworld saga as it continues the story in a flashy way but with the above problems it’s hard for me to whole-heartedly recommend it. If you want to see what cutscenes should be or are up for some 3D action puzzle solving with some quirky camera work and control, jump right in!

- Omni
(April 2, 2002)

 

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