Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee Preview [2001]

Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee Preview [Hosted by Xbox.ActionTrip.com]

Date: 02/04/2001

Author: Ure "Vader" Paul

Sources: http://web.archive.org/web/20020209182742/http://xbox.actiontrip.com:80/previews/oddworldmunchsoddysee.phtml http://web.archive.org/web/20020222064900/http://xbox.actiontrip.com:80/previews/oddworldmunchsoddysee_2.phtml

PART I

On October 23, 2000, Microsoft finally signed a deal with Infogrames to obtain the exclusive worldwide publishing and distribution rights to the best-selling “Oddworld” game series, created by Oddworld Inhabitants.. Munch’s Oddysee is a 3D adventure game set in the huge surroundings of the Oddworld. “The opportunity to bring the full force of our publishing and marketing resources to bear on such a popular game series as ‘Oddworld’ is a major coup,” said Ed Fries, vice president of games publishing at Microsoft. “This maps perfectly to our long-standing strategy of working with the world’s best game designers to create experiences that will excite the imaginations of gamers everywhere.”

In other words, the moment we’ve all been waiting for is at hand and everybody’s favorite Mudokon, Abe, will make an appearance in the greatly expected X-box title – Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee. The first two Oddworld games brought an impressive combination of game features, which included an imaginative and pretty comprehensive storyline with a special epic quality. Then there were the almost breath-taking in-game visual effects, animation details, followed by perfectly incorporated sound & music; all of these qualities added a unique atmosphere to a game that was later well-received by masses of players worldwide. Both games received a lot of Online, Industry, as well as countless magazine awards.

The developers, Oddworld Inhabitants, are a large number of extremely talented and creative individuals, most of who were with the company since it was first established back in 1994. Lorne Lanning, President and Co-founder of Oddworld Inhabitants, is very excited about their new Munch game: “Our goal with ‘Munch’s Oddysee’ and future installments in the ‘Quintology’ has always been to create an immersive experience that pushes the boundaries of reality. Only Xbox gives us the graphical muscle and intense digital sound to unleash our creative juices and allow us to bring the imaginary world and rich characters of Oddworld to life.” Senior CG Animator Scott Easley, currently working on the project, has a pretty imposing repute himself, with several received awards for his previous accomplishments (two Emmies and a Telly for a local commercial that he created and produced).

For the unacquainted, the main character Abe is the world’s most famous klutz, and the first great hero in the Oddworld Quintology. Former slave laborer and Rupture Farms Employee of the Year, Abe didn’t ask to be the savior of his people…and if his people had a choice, they’d throw him back. Joining Abe on an extraordinary journey, with traps, puzzles, and many other dangers, is Munch – the sole survivor of the Gabbit race and the victim of many lethal experiments performed on his poor body. After all, how would you feel if you broke your only leg in a bear trap, were abducted by soulless scientists, had an alien device implanted in your skull, and found out your race had been hunted to oblivion? That’s right, you’d be mad as hell … and so is Munch, the one-legged amphibian with a song in his heart and a plug in his head. He’s the last of his kind and you need to help him bring his species back from the brink of extinction. Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee sets Munch and his clueless friend Abe against the full might of Oddworld’s corporate power brokers and their legions of lackeys armed with the latest in addictive consumer weapons: Lungbuster cigarette rifles, Blitzpacker brew repeaters and the SnUzi line of pill blasting automatics. As the guardian angel over Munch and sometimes his best friend Abe, it’s up to you to help or hurt their self-sustaining biosphere and all their friends that live within it.

Munch’s Oddysee carries the spirit and expression of the old Oddysee games. In its essence, Oddworld is an action/adventure game that initially combined parallax scrolling with 2D animation. This sort of restriction always pestered the developers, and is one of the reasons they decided to make the new Quintology in a full 3D enhanced environment. The X-box is the perfect opportunity to prove how effective the new game engine might be, since it uses advantages like true dynamic lighting and increased texture detail, which gives the game characters a more lush and realistic appearance. Naturally, the powerful X-box graphic muscle will leave the field open for more animated characters on screen at once, thus creating a more truthful and lifelike atmosphere.

The camera is an integral part of every 3D game. In Oddworld, it will be computer controlled, in order to relieve the player of patience-consuming adjusting of the camera angle. Mostly similar to games with fixed camera positioning, like Dino Crisis and Resident Evil, the point of view will enable the user to focus on the action on screen more easily than it would with a customizable camera.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention the sound qualities enriched by the variety of character speech reactions. With the GameSpeak feature, creatures are going to tease, you, threaten you, scare you, and so on. This will provoke you into communicating with other characters more often, using the speech abilities of the main characters. Rather similar to the old Oddysees, where every single creature had a unique voice-over.

The general population of the Oddworld Universe is divided into three categories: Native, Industrial, and Wildlife. Every race has a significant place in the game. Mudokons are the most common native species, that is until they were enslaved to work in the Margog Cartel Franchises. As you play, you’ll notice that many of the characters belong to this race, including one of the central characters, Abe. Since natives are simple, kind, and honest creatures, that makes them an ideal target for the immoral Industrial races. Now this sort is really despicable in any way you might think. The most usual members of this race are the Sligs, which represent corporate security personnel and use powerful pieces of weaponry (however they don’t use these weapons with great skillfulness). An interesting addition to their species is the Big-Bro Slig, who will be sent as a reinforcement to grunt Sligs, since grunt Sligs are known to be narrow-minded, weak, and consequently easily beaten. Furthermore, there are amusing characters like the crawling and flying Sligs that will appear tougher than the others; particularly the flying Sligs – they’re competent, swift, and are never off duty. The, there are the cigar-smoking Glukkons and a predominant character of their race called Molluck. He’s the boss of RuptureFarms and President in absentia of SoulStorm Brewery. Completely obsessed with achieving status and success whatever the cost, Molluck is the prodigal Glukkon son. If you think cruelty, ruthlessness, paranoia, and double-dealing are endearing traits, then Molluck is the C.E.O. for you. Missing in action since the destruction of RuptureFarms, Molluck is hiding from his masters who want to have him shot. Finally we come to the Wildlife creatures, which are completely neutral and have only two possible roles in their lives – to eat something or to be eaten themselves.

Races, different species, and a diversity of environments were all specifically designed with a strong determination of making you feel that you’ve not merely participated in a computer game, but that you’ve actually visited the Oddworld itself. There are 35 races all together, each character design is more captivating than the next and each of them has his own specific habitual environment.

PART II

As for the gameplay, the demo at E3 displayed the characters Abe and Munch sneaking, crawling, and doing pretty much the same old stuff as in the previous games, including the old ways of creeping about and solving mysteries and puzzles, jumping on the opponent’s head and so forth. The difference is of course that it is all in 3D now, making the basic concept of playability and moving about more appealing. What’s more important this time, Abe can rely on his little friend Munch for help in some game situations, during which time Munch will sit in a wheelchair and Abe will push him around. On the other hand, Munch will prove more useful than Abe in specific game sections: for instance, some watery areas can only be completed thanks to Munch’s express swimming skills. Another notable gameplay innovation comes with some of the fascinating abilities Abe gets once he gathers power-ups. Using these power-ups he can perform almost any action imaginable: he can run at incredible speeds, jump really high, or even climb across walls and precipitous surfaces.

Other than weapons of “mass intoxication” you will be able to use your character’s psychic powers to prevail over the stinking enemy Glukkons. Besides that the game also features a diversity of vehicles for the player to ride.

For complete gamplay enjoyment, the Xbox’s cutting edge controller affords a new level of control within a 3D environment. Featuring built-in “rumble” technology, gamers will feel the blows from the nasty Sligs from the Xbox controller. The analog sticks and buttons give gamers complete command over Munch’s hot rod wheelchair and Abe’s sneak attacks as they work together to escape the dastardly Vykkers laboratories!

So, you’ll not only have challenging gameplay, but a well-balanced controlling system that allows you to have complete manipulation over the main game characters without any restrains whatsoever.

If we were to witness more of such serious and thoroughly developed game projects for X-box, plus if the technology proves to be pleasing for developers and enjoyable for gamers, then all other consoles will slowly fade away and shrivel at the might of the X-box machine (muahaha!). Many games are being created these days for the competing console systems, however none of the developers seem to put so much attention and devotion into making them as Oddworld creators do for their game. It is no mystery that game designers and programmers feel the need to enter the world of a more advanced gaming system than any other and use its possibilities to their maximum. Still, we hope they don’t get driven too much by their greed and give us heaps of crappy milking-the-cash-cow kinda titles. A game like Munch’s Oddysee is a great game-model for other developers, and if all games turn out to be like that the X-box will surely have a long and prosperous future.

Gamestock 2001 update

The presentation of Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee, prepared by Lorne Lanning, showed the preliminary version of the game, which is currently about 60% completed. Announced to go with the console’s launch in the fall of this year, Oddworld proved to be one of the most impressive demonstrations of the Xbox’s real power (even though the demo did not feature any music and sound effects). Larne clarified that there weren’t any sound effects present due to the fact that this was a game feature still under heavy development and that it was meant to be fully uncovered at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, scheduled to begin in mid May.

The demo introduced several new game characters, which can be vital to gameplay in the sense that they may assist Abe in performing certain tasks, or solving puzzles. Abe will be able to achieve this by summoning some of his friends that have numerous ‘voodoo magic’ abilities. By interacting with a diversity of ‘oddball’ races, the player gets the opportunity to go through the game levels more easily; this feature brings a more relaxing feel to gameplay, allowing you to rely on various non-player characters to accomplish something for you, or to basically wipe the enemy off the face of the Oddworld.

Anyway, as we all know, Munch remains the most crucial character to the game. An outdoor section, unveiled at the presentation, exhibited Munch trying to elude a flock of flying creatures (insects of some sort). Being extremely fast in his handy little wheelchair, Munch manages to lure the abominable creatures into a trap. Unfortunately, the demo also displayed Munch being gulped down by the very same monsters (not a pretty sight at all).

To improve the efficiency of Abe’s character, a number of convenient power-ups were created to permit many different abilities. In the demonstration, performed by Larne, Abe went up to some sort of machine where he consumed one of the power-ups. After that Abe received the skill to jump higher than ever before.

On a technical note, Oddworld was developed with the use of Alpha 2 SDKs, which were revealed to possess half the power of the future Xbox technology. Besides the dismissed sound effects, it was also proclaimed that the characteristics of the Xbox hard drive were yet to be determined, as well as the aspect saving games, streaming, and similar important issues. Another thing was stated, related to multi-player in the game. Namely, Internet options will be left out in Munch’s Oddysee, however this feature is planned for future game titles from Oddworld Inhabitants.

Declared to fully take advantage of the Xbox technology, Oddworld uncovered some truly amazing in-game visuals. The complete 3D environment sets up a whole new look for the Oddysee, while at the same time it offers a more straightforward manipulation of the main game characters.