GamePro: The X Games—Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee [2001]

Date: May, 2001

Author: Mudokon Mike

Source: GamePro, Issue 152, pp. 36-37

Sure, the console looks cool—but everybody knows the Xbox will live or die by its software. GamePro presents your first in-depth look at the games that will support Microsoft’s machine.

MUNCH TIME!

Once planned for the PlayStation 2, Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee is now one of the premier titles for the Xbox. So how is Oddworld adapting to the Xbox universe?

When the roster of PlayStation 2 games under development was released, one of the more talked-about titles was Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee—the third adventure in the Oddworld saga, which started in 1997 on the 32-bit PlayStation. Anticipation for Munch was heigtened at the 2000 Electronic Entertainment Expo where a brief demo wowed audiences and pushed the game onto practically everyone’s 10 most-wanted list. Yet, despite the PS2’s promising game-playing power, Munch’s grand design exceeded the system’s capabilities and is now under development for Microsoft’s Xbox.

LET’S DO MUNCH

Whereas Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee and Exoddus introduced gamers to Abe and his fellow Mudokons, this latest action-adventure chapter of the Odd world saga will mark the debut of another Oddworld species: Gabbits. These seemingly innocuous, aquatic critters house an invaluable Oddworld commodity: lungs that are the perfect replacement for Glukkon lungs ravaged by chain-smoking. As fate would have it, cigarette manufacturing is also big business on Oddworld, and Munch just happens to be one of the last free Gabbits… Munch’s eye-popping opening cinema illustrates all these events and facts, setting the game’s tone. Munch is captured and used as a guinea pig, during which time his noggin is implanted with a mind-control device. In a daring escape, Munch discovers he can use the radio-like device in his head to command mechanical objects, such as cranes and other “labor-saving” tools.

THE ODD COUPLE

Despite Munch’s top-billing in this Oddworld title, fans of the series haven’t seen the last of Abe. In fact, Munch spends much of his onscreen gametime with the gifted Mudokon, who will be a secondary playable character. Just as Munch can possess machines, Abe has his own manipulative telepathy—but on living beings. Fans of Abe’s PlayStation titles will immediately find themselves in familiar—albeit lukewarm—water: The creatures in Munch’s Oddysee will be imbued with varying levels of mental resistance that Abe can penetrate only after having enhanced his “possession” powers. But this adventure isn’t a one-Gabbit or Mudokon show: Gameplay will emphasize teamwork, as you switch between Munch and Abe on the fly in order to solve puzzles and access diverse areas.

FROM 2D TO 3D

Taking Oddworld to 3D for the Xbox—Abe’s PlayStation titles were 2D—is opening up new and seemingly endless possibilities, but is also creating several challenges for the developers. A primary goal was to avoid some of the common pitfalls that plague other 3D action/adventure offerings. Some problem-solving involves the use of offscreen space and how it factors into the gameplay. For instance, you won’t be shot by an offscreen enemy-enemies in Munch’s Oddysee cannot inflict damage on your character unless they’re visible onscreen. Another hot-spot was character/object interaction. For example, in order to open a door, you won’t have to pinpoint your position: most interactive objects, such as levers and doors, will have chalked-out “safe” zones around their perimeters, so all you’ll have to do is press the action button inside that zone around a given object for the action to occur. Speaking of buttons, the controls are also being simplified. With the implementation of analog controls (see sidebar, “Hands-On With the Xbox Controller,” next page), you’ll no longer need to press a button to alter your character’s traveling speed; the pressure you exert on the analog stick will determine your pace. The buttons will be pressure-sensitive, too. One button can even produce multiple spoken responses: For instance, if Abe encounters several fellow Mudokons, a light tap on the “talk” button will allow him to address one of them, while a hard press on that same button will attract the attention of the whole group.

A ROUGH DIAMOND?

Even in its rugged, early form, it was easy to see why Microsoft has such high hopes for Munch. The Xbox’s polygon-crunching power was immediately obvious, with eye-candy ranging from awesome panoramic vistas to micro-fine details. Through the eyes of an in-game character standing atop a small mountain, you could see for miles in any direction—think ultra hi-res PC graphics. The game also had a healthy number of interior settings, especially automation-heavy factories that were loaded with conveyor belts, downtrodden workers, and other moving parts. As for the full 3D characters, they were remarkably lifelike, and you would’ve been hard-pressed to spot a rough polygon—or any polygons, for that matter—in their construction.

ABE AND MUNCH’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE

Munch still has approximately eight months left in its development cycle, which means its release should coincide with the Xbox launch. Once again, the Electronic Entertainment Expo should provide gamers with even more info about Munch to chew on this May.