Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Home Gaming Oddworld: Soulstorm review - untypically scrappy in places, but typically heartfelt

Oddworld: Soulstorm review – untypically scrappy in places, but typically heartfelt

Lockers: one tap to loot, two taps to hide inside. Clang. And do hide inside them, particularly if you have a bunch of almost-rescued Mudokons with you. Hide because it’s useful for progression through these 2D gauntlets that mix stealth with platforming (and, of course, with an energising scarcity of offensive options). And hide because genuine human comedy ensues. Or is it tragedy? A gaggle of fidgeting limbs and panicked faces, everyone trying to find a safe spot to put themselves in, culminating in a mass slamming of metal doors. Sardines. Anyone left out? Bad news for them if so.

Oddworld has its grand elements – the core games chart Abe’s rise from slave to resistance hero, which is as grand a trajectory as they come – but it has always been a series concerned with the little things. Smart, really. So much of a cut-scene’s drama is delivered with a blink of those big wet eyes, for example, while a crucial, truly devastating plot point in one game is hidden inside a pair of old boots. Soulstorm, a reimagining or reworking of Abe’s Exoddus, contains a bunch of lovely little things to enjoy and savour. There’s that frantic scramble over lockers to hide in. There’s an animation involving a retrofitted fire extinguisher I can’t get enough of. There are those big wet eyes again. Oh, Abe!

And yet little things may also explain why I took a while to properly settle into Soulstorm. This is a very difficult game – at least it is for me, and the regularity of checkpoint suggests I’m not a total outlier. This means lots of dying and learning and repeating, which also means, alas, that up front, in the game’s uneven first few missions, I have had a lot of time to spot the moments when little things didn’t work quite the way they are meant to.

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Lockers: one tap to loot, two taps to hide inside. Clang. And do hide inside them, particularly if you have a bunch of almost-rescued Mudokons with you. Hide because it’s useful for progression through these 2D gauntlets that mix stealth with platforming (and, of course, with an energising scarcity of offensive options). And hide because genuine human comedy ensues. Or is it tragedy? A gaggle of fidgeting limbs and panicked faces, everyone trying to find a safe spot to put themselves in, culminating in a mass slamming of metal doors. Sardines. Anyone left out? Bad news for them if so.

Oddworld has its grand elements – the core games chart Abe’s rise from slave to resistance hero, which is as grand a trajectory as they come – but it has always been a series concerned with the little things. Smart, really. So much of a cut-scene’s drama is delivered with a blink of those big wet eyes, for example, while a crucial, truly devastating plot point in one game is hidden inside a pair of old boots. Soulstorm, a reimagining or reworking of Abe’s Exoddus, contains a bunch of lovely little things to enjoy and savour. There’s that frantic scramble over lockers to hide in. There’s an animation involving a retrofitted fire extinguisher I can’t get enough of. There are those big wet eyes again. Oh, Abe!

And yet little things may also explain why I took a while to properly settle into Soulstorm. This is a very difficult game – at least it is for me, and the regularity of checkpoint suggests I’m not a total outlier. This means lots of dying and learning and repeating, which also means, alas, that up front, in the game’s uneven first few missions, I have had a lot of time to spot the moments when little things didn’t work quite the way they are meant to.

Read more

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