It’s a very scenic view as you drive from Hull through Otley, West Yorkshire to get to Just Add Water Ltd, with the sun shining off the yellow bicycles lining the upcoming route of the Yorkshire section of the Tour De France.
Greeted by Stewart Gilray CEO wearing a Batman T-Shirt, who asked how my journey had been and mentioned the cycle race would be passing their office. I was taken past various boards displaying numerous pieces of concept art for previous Oddworld games and in to their boardroom. A whiteboard on the back wall showing details of the development of Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! most of which have been struck through which I inferred would indicated I was likely to be playing a fair close to final build of the game. The test set up was a big screen Samsung HD TV, with a Sony Surround Sound amp and 5.1 set up. The walls of the room were covered in posters of Oddworld games including two New ‘n’ Tasty! posters flanking either side of the test set up.
“Give it to me Abey, ah ha ah ha!”
Stewart explained that I would be playing through this year’s E3 build on a PlayStation 4 developer kit, which starts you at the very beginning of the game. The menu looks beautiful showing a highly detailed Abe in the center with familiar looking opinions. Except a Co-op option which I wasn’t expecting, Stewart explained that this is Pass the Pad mode. Playing on medium difficulty the game goes into the new highly polished introduction.
This gave me chance to take in how beautiful the remade cinematic is uncompressed, that I’d seen previously on last year’s E3 reveal. Stewart explained that the only original asset in the intro is Abe’s floor polisher and they ended up changing it anyway. The cinematics are built within Unity and not separate CGI cutscenes.
Unlike Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee HD and Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD which are High Definition remasters, this is entirely rebuilt from the ground up. Using Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee as a template, visually it’s something very special but how does it play you’re really wanting to know.
The short answer is very familiar to the original game with similar puzzles and controls of Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee with a few clever additions but no gimmicky uses of PS4 controller. I personally would have loved to have heard “Abe Speak” coming from the DualShock 4, but that wasn’t present in the E3 Build I played.
Firstly there’s no run button any more, you simply adjust the left stick for the speed you want Abe to move, the Sneak (L1) button is still used but now allows you to shuffle when crouched which is a great addition. Especially when it comes to disabling the flashing proximity mines, or ducking flying mines. Stealth is still of vital importance when trying to get everyone’s favorite Mudokon out of Rupture Farms and free his brothers and sisters from the Glukkons nefarious clutches. Gone is stepping into the shadows to avoid patrolling Sligs, replaced with smokey steam vents sometimes hiding Abe’s brethren. You still need to tiptoe past sleeping Sligs and Slogs, or stand still to allow motion sensors to pass you.
X Button is still jump but you can now tap with a direction to do little hops over mines and gaps. Square Button is the go to action button and is also used for entering doors, flicking switches for electrified gates, trap doors, and chopping machines. The main noticeable difference is when it comes to throwing projectiles with aiming done via the Right Stick allowing for arc throwing by pressing R1, also grenades can be cooked before throwing, or dropped which led to me exploding Abe quite a few times. There’s also the ability to lob bottle tops as a method of distraction, which was something I wasn’t expecting. Stewart explained that the version I was playing did not have trophies enabled as he didn’t want any trophy names leaking before the games release.
Audio wise there are lots of subtle differences, Abe speak is done via Digital Pad Buttons and it feels simple and intuitive. The additional dialogue of the Mudokons is lovely and more in line with the amount in Munch’s Oddysee HD, Stewart explained that there simply wasn’t the memory to have such variations on PlayStation 1 Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee. There’s lots of ambient noises and sound effects that are fitting to each environment but feel true to the original.
I can’t easily explain how much more astounding these visuals are, no longer is this simply a flat 2D puzzle platform game. There’s so much going on and there’s a real depth of field at play with hundreds of incidental actions occurring in the background. These really make Oddworld feel like a real, detailed and oppressively living world. I’m really impressed with the tonal difference between areas, with dynamic lighting like on spot lights and cinematic style pans and zooms adding buckets full of immersion. The animations of Abe and the enemies are smooth and full of subtle and intricate details, as are some of the interactive elements, such as the glowflies (or Hint Flies as Stewart called them) that can be chanted to create hints or the punctuation coming from the Sligs as they gun down Abe as he twitches with each bullet hit and signature Sliggles (yes that’s a made up word but somes up these beasties and their reaction).
I also saw a few bits that weren’t shown at E3 but I’m sworn to secrecy, all I can say is these make Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! feels like a day one purchase for me. Not only is this true to the original and providing great fan service but the addition of extra elements make it feel fresh and welcoming to those new to Oddworld Inhabitants. Added to the fact according to Stewart, hardcore players who try to Platinum the game are likely to take 20 hours even starting on Hard play-through but he was very cryptic as to why. I’m sure there are many surprises to be found, that I wasn’t even shown. Stewart was really informative as I played and pointed out bits I missed even helping me when I got stuck. He’s very enthusiastic about the game and I feel it’s more than justified from the hour of play I experienced. He also mentioned that the buzz coming back from this year’s E3 where Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! had been playable in the Sony section had been understandably very positive.
Stewart did reveal that the PS4 version is very close to submission and it’s crunch time at Just Add Water Ltd, with staff working very long days. The PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita versions are going to follow but couldn’t say how long after the PS4 release on 22/23rd July (USA / Europe respectively), with development moving on to non Sony platforms in the future including PC, XB1. As it’s not going to be on PSVita for launch, I’m hoping they implement Remote Play for the PS4 version for play on PSVita. He confirmed on Sony platforms Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! would be Cross-Buy / Cross-Save for under £20 with no current plans for PlayStation Plus or day one discounts.
Its’s not all about Abe
Stewart confirmed Gravity Crash Ultra on PSVita is currently in submission at Sony and is aiming to be a bargain price of £5, sadly there wasn’t the time for me to get my hands on it. Stewart explained it will feature a solid 60 FPS, level editor and improved visual effects from the PS3 version. Stewart wouldn’t be drawn on the possibilities of a PS4 version in the near future.
Given the well discussed delays I asked about Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee HD on PSVita but Stewart was not in a position to comment on it yet but I get the feeling it’s finished and just awaiting a release.
We also chatted briefly about the future of Oddworld and if they had plans for the next game. Stewart explained that they needed to sell a set number of copies to allow them to reboot Oddworld: Abe’s Exodus (the PS1 sequel) using the same engine but wouldn’t be pushed on time scales. Given Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! has taken 30 months I wouldn’t expect to see it for at least a couple of years. That said the hard work of creating the game engine in Unity is done so it may not take that long.
I also asked about possibilities of creating a Virtual Reality version of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD for Sony’s Project Morpheus or Facebook’s Oculus Rift which is something they are considering along with planning work on a WiiU version.
I must give thanks Stewart Gilray and the staff of Just Add Water Ltd for allowing me to take up their valuable time and a PS4 dev kit, during a very busy time for all those involved. They should rest assured their hard work is much appreciated not only by me and appears to be paying off, as Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty!. I personally can’t wait to be able to get the game booted up on my PS4 and return to the original Abe adventure and see what wonders await in Oddworld, and see if I finally have the skills to free all the Muddukons.
All travel costs and expenses were covered by myself. Screen shots taken from Oddworld site.
- Oddworld JAMcast with Special guest Stewart Gilray
- Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee HD Review
- Exclusive – Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! GDC 2014 Trailer