Developer: Oddworld Inhabitants
Genre(s): Action, Adventure
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: 12
Release Date: 27.10.22
A code was provided for review purposes
It’s an odd world
There are few games out there that wear their heart on their sleeve quite like Oddworld does. The clue is quite literally in the name with this franchise: it’s a rather odd world. Since the late 90’s, Abe has featured on our screens no matter what the era or the console generation. The gameplay and mechanics may have changed somewhat, but at its core, the Oddworld premise has remained constant.
Oddworld: Soulstorm, a reimagining of Abe’s PS1 roots – Oddworld: Abe’s Exodus, seems to have several objectives: provide a modern-day experience on new hardware, whilst still retaining the core values and concepts that the series was founded upon. Expectations were high upon its release last year on PS5. It really depends on which gaming circles you ask as to how well it met those expectations. For better or worse, Soulstorm has retained the signature style synonymous with the series. It looks and feels like its predecessors.
Visuals aside, there are modernisations which have contributed to Soulstorm’s potential, however, they aren’t all as well realised or redefined as they could be. As a result, it still feels a little old even though it looks fresh and new. Yes, even on the Nintendo Switch. I remember marvelling at the Digital Foundry analysis of Soulstorm on PS5 last year and, whilst this isn’t a patch on that, it still looks fantastic. The cutscenes are quite the spectacle, and the in-game visuals do a great job of creating atmosphere and immersion.
Combining materials is where Soulstorm seems to have placed the most emphasis, with a crafting menu available to create new equipment. There is also a heavy focus on the elements, with fire, water, and other chemicals coming together to deepen the strategic approach to Soulstorm’s layered platforming. Both have excellent potential, however they aren’t easily executed and can feel contrived and inconvenient. Mastering the controls to the point of second nature is essential to getting the most out of Soulstorm, and it does allow for relatively smooth and modern gameplay segments.
Soulstorm’s environmental design was a huge selling point when the game was released last year, and it is pleasing to see that none of it has been lost in the porting process. It is quite a marvel to see how well the background antics impact the gameplay and storytelling, and is arguably Soulstorm’s greatest achievement. The performance of the port holds up well enough too, with only the odd frame rate dip happening from time to time. It isn’t as much of a looker as its PS5 counterpart, but that goes without saying. There’s more than enough reason to play it on the Switch, and doesn’t feel as much of a visual downgrade as some games have.
Puzzling platforming or platforming puzzles
I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed the platforming and puzzle aspects of the game too. They offer the occasional challenge without ever becoming frustrating — the clunky controls can sometimes be the cause of that though. But, on the whole, the game keeps things moving forward well and encourages the continued use of the different mechanics that get introduced. The checkpoints do well to ensure you aren’t ever too far away from your last death, however, once a checkpoint has been activated, it can’t be used again until you’ve accessed the one before or after it. This is a shame as there are often collectables and other points of interest that you need to revisit each time you die as the checkpoint hasn’t saved your progress. This is a minor frustration but could grate on some if they encounter moments of challenge throughout the game.
When all the aspects come together, Soulstorm makes for a game that one imagines is exactly what the development team were aiming for. Interesting mechanics, engaging setpieces, and funky-level design all encapsulated within a world as odd as the best of them. At its worst, it’s a reminder that the Oddworld franchise originated on what some would now consider to be retro hardware, and its ideas still stem from those early days. Thankfully, Soulstorm is, more often than not, a thoroughly enjoyable affair that I’ve been enraptured by from its cinematic opening to its delightful climax. It’s a reminder that games don’t need to be perfect, they just need to be interesting and engaging.
No need to soul search
I strongly believe that Oddworld will never be the AAA blockbuster hit, nor does it need to be. Instead, it can be experimental and fundamentally odd, so long as it keeps to its core principles and doesn’t stray too far from them. Soulstorm was never going to be to everyone, and I wouldn’t ever have wanted it to try. Doing so would lose the charm of Abe and his Odyssey, and where would be the fun in that?
Rapid Reviews Rating
3.5 out of 5
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.