Hyper: Munch’s Oddysee [2000]

Date: February 2000

Source: Hyper, Issue 76, pp. 28-31

What are Oddworld Inhabitants up to now?
Why, making PS2 games of course…

PLATFORM: PlayStation 2
AVAILABLE: Late 2000
CATEGORY: TBC
PLAYERS: 1
PUBLISHER: GT Interactive

As you may know, Oddworld Inhabitants have a master plan for Oddworld. And no, it’s not a franchise plan that they devised AFTER selling millions of copies of Abe’s Oddysee. Actually, Oddworld Inhabitants are part of that rare breed of developers that instinctively see where gaming is headed, yet also have a realistic idea of what can be made with the hardware of the time.

The founder of Oddworld Inhabitants, Lorne Lanning, had a grand vision for the new world that he had created. In fact, it was so grand that it would be technically impossible on a system like the PlayStation. Thus, a quintet of games were devised. Abe’s Oddysee was the first of the five, and designed to exploit the production values and gameplay that he had in mind, and to introduce gamers to the world. Abe’s Exoddus came next, but this was not the second title in the quintology, more a bonus game than anything.

Now that we’re moving on to the next set of gaming systems — systems that are exponentially more powerful than the last generation, technology is finally catching up with Lorne Lanning’s vision, and Oddworld Inhabitants are planning their next, much more adventurous journey into Oddworld. The “true sequel” to Abe’s Oddysee will be called Munch’s Oddysee, and is being developed for PlayStation 2. What about Dreamcast you ask? Well, Oddworld Inhabitants worked out the system specs that would be needed to create the game, and the Dreamcast wasn’t quite powerful enough! At this stage only the PlayStation 2 has the raw grunt to run the game.

GOT THE MUNCHIES?

Munch’s Oddysee is a very ambitious game concept. Whilst staying true to the look and humour of the original games, it represents a quantum leap in graphics and gameplay. The entire game will be rendered in real time 3D, and from the demos we’ve seen, looks nothing short of spectacular.

So who is Munch and where does he come into all this? Well, Munch is the last surviving member of his species — the Gabbits. They’ve all been killed because Gabbit lungs make excellent replacement lungs for Glukkons with lung cancer… and what with those phat cigars (or are they blunts?) that they smoke, Glukkons get lung cancer a lot. Thus, at the start of the game the Gabbits are all but wiped out, and poor Munch is trapped in a medical research center. Isn’t Oddworld a lovely place? If your species isn’t being ground up into food, it’s being harvested for organs, sold into slavery or being experimented on. Huzzah!

Quite how Munch gets out the research facility is anyone’s guess. We’re betting that it involves some manner of MacGuyver-esque invention, like flushing himself down the toilet to freedom, or fashioning a light aircraft using only some aluminium foil, nail clippins and a match box. Then again, he could go with the classic Bill and Ted ruse: “Look! It’s the Good Year blimp!”.

In any case, Munch and Abe wind up together and don’t exactly hit it off. This is probably because for a portion of the game Abe pushes Munch around in a wheelchair, irrespective of where he wants to go. You’ll be able to use both Abe and Munch in the game, and as you’d expect they have radically different (but complementary… strange that) abilities, so you’ll need to learn when to use each. For instance, Abe can’t swim, whereas Munch is amphibious, so he’s fast and easily maneouverable in the water… but a bit clumsy on the land. The coolest difference between the two though is that Munch can possess mechanical devices, whereas Abe can only possess animals. Between the two of them, there’s nothing they can’t control!

CONTROL THE WORLD!

Okay, so far this title isn’t sounding as revolutionary as you thought right? Well that’s just because I’ve saved the best bits for last. The overall approach to gameplay in Munch’s Oddysee is to try and make you feel part of a living, breathing environment. Thus, the gameplay will be less about solving puzzles and more lifelike in its approach. Oddworld Inhabitants are actually simulating entire life cycles for each species in the world, and even the landscape changes with the seasons. It’s much more a simulation of an entire world and the eco systems within than a game per se. To help make your actions in the world more realistic, gamespeak will become much more sophisticated, with several different languages. It will also have a greater emphasis this time than it did in the previous games. Indeed, using it you’ll be able to manipulate huge numbers of creatures.

Another advance that Oddworld Inhabitants are attempting, is to eliminate the “virtual idiot” phenomenon. This basically refers to the player having difficulty performing simple tasks within a 3D game. For instance, how many times have you become frustrated trying to navigate a character directly in front of a doorknob just so you can get him/her to open a door? These actions are simple in real life, so they should be in games too. Munch’s Oddysee will be addressing this by allowing the world’s inhabitants to recognise where they are in the environment, and any items of interest nearby. Thus, simple tasks will be slightly automated for heightened fluidity and realism.

Lorne Lanning has described Munch’s Oddysee as being like a living chemistry set. There will be a compelling storyline, but the environments and ecosystems will be convincing enough to also make the game open ended, with plenty of sub-goals to explore, and things to muck around with. Even so, if a player whipped through the core story as fast possible it would still take 50 to 60 hours to finish! Now that’s some chunky gaming!

Oddworld Inhabitants hope to have Munch’s Oddysee ready for the PlayStation 2’s US and European release. Oh, and Oddworld: Hand of Odd will be released within a year after Munch, featuring the same core engine, but with a multiplayer emphasis. We can’t wait!