Back before first person shooters and open world RPGs dominated console gaming, the genre that could be considered to have the greatest mass appeal - as much as the phrase mass appeal could be applied to videogames in the nineties - was still the platformer. And although the likes of Crash Bandicoot and Super Mario 64 were advancing the formula, stepping into the realm of 3D, their 2D counterparts hadn’t run out of steam just yet. Flashback had immortalised itself in gaming memory at the start of the decade, and Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee was to do the same as the millennium approached.
Seventeen years on, New ‘n’ Tasty: Oddworld Abe’s Oddysee has arrived on PlayStation 4 having had one of the most extensive HD remakes of any game in recent years. To say the change is merely aesthetic would be to do the developers, Just Add Water, a disservice. The level of detail that has been carefully woven into this 2014 remake is truly impressive, and is something all the more commendable considering the game has lost none of its original charm. The slapstick humour, cartoonish violence, whimsical voice and sound design have all been lovingly recreated to ensure New ‘n’ Tasty still feels inherently like an Oddworld game.
Not only have the developers been able to bottle the essence of the original, they’ve also managed do so while adding a slew of extra content that, were you a newcomer to the series, appears almost indistinguishable. You’ll still follow Abe on his journey to escape Rupture Farms, explore the borderlands of Oddworld, and discover the secrets of the Mudokon in an effort to save your companions from becoming the latest meaty snack to roll off the production line. It’s all there, yet additional areas have been seamlessly injected in each major section of the game helping to beef up the experience. Instead of ninety nine Mudokon employees to be saved, there are now three over three times as many of Abe’s enslaved co-workers in need of rescue. And despite this increase New ‘n’ Tasty never feels as if it’s been unnecessarily padded out.
Mechanically speaking the game’s controls are still as sharp and accurate as they always were, and have been adapted perfectly for modern controllers (something many remakes often neglect). You’ll still be able to stand back, analyse the situation and perform a neat combination of jumps and rolls with surprising grace. Or should the situation call for precise movements and the patience of a saint, then you’ll find the controls are equally adept. And when you do inevitably fail a puzzle that results in Abe’s brutal death, you’ll at least know it was your slip up and not outdated inputs that have got the better of you. It doesn’t stop the frustrated feeling you get when you die, but neither does it stop you playing and having fun when you do eventually succeed.
However the game does have one or two problems. Such an adherence to the classic formula means some of the flaws in the original game have managed to stow themselves away in the interim and have resurfaced with the re-release. An inevitable side-effect of keeping true to the original concept. If you’re a purist - and still as much of a dab hand at classic games, as you were when you still spoke with a squeaky voiced and drank from a tippy cup - then this won’t faze you. But if, like the rest of us, you’ve succumb to the ravages of time, then this unforgiving gameplay may well test your patience. Modern games synonymous with difficulty don’t hold a candle to classics like the Oddworld series.
It’s in these moments of frustration that having thoroughly read the control layout before setting off can help you cling on to your sanity. It’s something we forget all too often these days, especially considering the majority of boxed releases don’t bother to include a manual. And should you fail to take note of the controls in New ‘n’ Tasty you’ll be cursing your luck much like I did. Realising that the game can be quick saved and loaded with a swipe of the PS4’s touch pad, can either bring you sweet relief, or a gut punch of despair, depending on when you discover it. You can argue that a little more signposting from the developers wouldn’t have gone amiss, or that we’re too used to having our hands held for the first hour of any videogame. Though I thoroughly enjoyed New ‘n’ Tasty I do feel oversights such as failing to provide a tutorial for a quick save feature wouldn’t have diluted the game, it would have just saved me some time… and held back the grey hairs a little longer.
A bit more signposting in general wouldn’t have been a bad inclusion frankly. As each area has expanded you’ll occasionally be forced to guess the correct route to take from one screen and to the next. Choose the wrong route and you can find yourself with no way back with an increased number of Mudokon casualties (an automatic consequence of missing a section and being unable to backtrack). Once you realise your mistake you’ll either have to start over, re-load a save if you can, or more likely just press onward and hope you’re not punished for your miss-step at a later date. It’s an oversight from the developers that can hopefully be patched at a later date, because as it stands it was my only real grievance with New ‘n’ Tasty throughout my entire first attempt.
Although the difficulty was frustrating at times and the quick-save feature wasn’t made clear from the outset, the failure to indicate areas which can’t be returned to is the only thing I’d actively urge the developers to try and remedy. Sure New ‘n’ Tasty is difficult, but so I should be, and had the game been softened for modern audiences then it wouldn’t be Oddworld. The only concession developers have made is to give Abe a slightly better resistance to Slig gunfire. However it doesn’t exactly make mines, bottomless pits and lethal wildlife any less dangerous. All things considered New ‘n’ Tasty is an excellent addition to the current line-up of games on the PlayStation 4. The standard of the graphical overhaul, the adherence to its original gameplay, and the fact that the game’s subject matter has grown even more relevant since the original release, make this particular HD remake well worthy of picking up. New ‘n’ Tasty has been lovingly recreated and is a shining example of the very best way to deliver classic games to a modern audience.