Every now and then an ad campaign for a game sticks with me. Whoever the marketing team was behind the Oddworld games deserves some recognition: not only can I recall the gaming magazine advertisements enticing us to save the other Mudokons, but I can distinctly recall that shrill voice calling out the name of the game. At the time I didn’t have Playstation, so it was only something I could read about, think about, and dream about playing some day.
Before that some day came, I ended up demoing the game at a buddy’s house that had a Playstation. And by demo I mean truly demo: it was one of those demo discs that had multiple games on it to play, and we only got like, past the first few screens as far as I remember. That was enough time though to get the general vibe that Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee was a weird game. Weird a a few ways, but all of them good ways.
First off, the type of gameplay seen in the game is very different from standard video games, especially console games. I would liken the game to something like Prince of Persia or Another World if you’re familiar with them. But it’s not a direct comparison, as Oddworld incorporates a lot more puzzle elements into each area, maybe kind of like The Neverhood, if you’re fortunate enough to have that one. You’ll guide the titular Abe as he escapes the mining confines of his invaded homeworld, avoiding capture by stealthily moving between areas and dispatching enemies in clever ways. It takes a lot of getting used too, but can be very rewarding if you stick with it.
My first real foray into playing the game, though, came years later when I was able to pick it up in college. If I’m remembering correctly I was able to pick up this original one as well as the sequel for just a few bucks, more than happy to add them to the collection. Booting up the game I was ready to get into this all-time classic PS1 game, only to die at every turn. Like, legit every screen. I was so bad at the game. It was an endeavor to complete each screen, only to be greeted by a likely even more difficult challenge on the next. I’m not the one to torture myself to play games, tending to enjoy the simpler romps where I don’t have to think too much, but Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee is not one of those games.
While the game itself wasn’t for me, it was certainly for many other people: it sold extremely well for a new IP and very different type of video game, selling over 2 million copies on the PS1 alone. The game went on to spawn direct sequels, spinoffs, and even next gen remakes on the PS4 and beyond. Needless to say, Sony had a hit on their hands. I think the success of Oddworld helped propel video games in general in the right direction. They could be quirky and weird and still be fun and loved by all. We didn’t have to play games like Super Mario 64 or Halo all the time: we could play something different on those consoles and have a truly unique experience. That is what Oddworld brought to gaming, and that is why it’s a true classic.
… Even if I don’t like it all that much.