Oddworld came into existence at a fantastic time for gaming. The shift from 2D to 3D was still stumbling about, and the industry had just come out of the incredible streak of games released on the Genesis and Super Nintendo. The makers of Oddworld: Abe's Odysee called themselves Oddworld Inhabitants, and they created a game which was beautiful, bizarre, odd, and highly innovative. The game shines in every single aspect of production, but for now; I'm concerned with the game's sound and its sound alone, and there's plenty to get in to.
ATMOSPHERE! This game has loads of it, and it is conveyed through a few different ways. If you're inside the slimy metallic factory setting of Rupture Farms, there's grinding noises and a general soundscape of what I can only describe as mechanical tedium. If you're in the desert setting of Scrabania, there's a lot of animal noise in the background, with an abundance of half cricket-owl noises throughout. These sounds were nothing revolutionary in video game sound design, but they were presented with such detail and care that still today they outperform other titles in the depth and imagery contained within them. The real experiment going on in Abe's Odysee was it's adaptive score.
In video games, an adaptive score is a musical arrangement which changes based on the player's actions. A recent masterpiece of an adaptive score was Shadow of the Collosus, wherein the music would begin as suspenseful and minimal, then slowly build in intensity and OMG-ness once the player had mounted the colossus. In Oddworld, the score will add in exciting drum fills whenever Abe was jumping a particularly treacherous cliff or if he had unwitingly alerted a nearby Scrab of his presence. The drums can get a bit annoying at times, but when they are implemented right, they add a dramatic tension to several segments of the game that make the tedious trial and error gameplay into a much more tolerable, and downright exciting gameplay experience. Adaptive scores have been around since the speeding up of the music at the end of a timer in Super Mario World, but Abe's Odysee really stepped up the whole concept by making it into a more spontaneous effect.
That's it, with science.
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