I tell this story time and time again, but my introduction to Oddworld was completely by accident.
It was dropped into my lap by a family member, who heard I liked interesting adventure games and gifted me a PlayStation copy. Man, I’m glad that happened.
Oddworld: Soulstorm (PC, PS4, PS5 [reviewed])
Developer: Oddworld Inhabitants
Publisher: Oddworld Inhabitants
Released: April 6, 2021
In case you missed it, Oddworld is back, in the form of remakes/re-imaginings of the originals. New ‘n’ Tasty reworked the first game, and Soulstorm is a new take on Exoddus, the follow-up. It’s totally fine if you forgot about this whole plan, because the former came out in 2014. It’s been a while since anything substantial has happened in the Oddworld-verse. Lorne! You made it.
Good old humble protagonist Abe is back in action, and he and his people are on the run after escaping RuptureFarms. The intro immediately ups the stakes, and the tension and worldbuilding are still there. This is a dire world, a throughput both reflected in the hands-off cutscenes and the hands-on gameplay. There’s a reason this series exists today and has endured: you actually care about it when you’re playing through it. So how does it play?
Fairly snappy, actually. It’s very much in line with the puzzle platforming of old, but jumping feels more precise. A swift responsive double-jump helps, as Abe can book it surprisingly fast, as evidenced by my quick time in the game’s tutorial. Once again the background detail is top-notch, as little narratives play out while you watch out of the corner of your eye. At 60 FPS on PS5, it doesn’t chug, either.
Soulstorm is pretty upfront about its framework, too. There’s 15 core levels and two secret ones, which are unlocked by saving 80% of your friends in 12 or more stages. You can easily see how much you’ve saved from the game’s menu, and all of the stats after completing each stage. Like many of its puzzles, Soulstorm is surgical in its precision, especially with its simplistic but effective control scheme.
Those puzzles so far range from obvious to esoteric. The somewhat ambitious crafting system’s ceiling has yet to be determined, but so far it’s innocuous enough to augment the moment to moment puzzle solving. There are times where I feel like I’m brute forcing things and puzzles where I really need to sit and think. It’s a boon and a burden, and a good example of how closely the new Oddworld games follow the blueprint of the original.
I’m just a few levels in, but I like what I’m seeing so far. It’s great to hang with Abe again and solve some puzzles, which is the bulk of what I need from an Oddworld game.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]