A brand new preview for one of the games that sets out to define the Xbox console.
Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee was first introduced as a title for the Sony Playstation 2. When Microsoft announced that the Xbox would enter in the console war it also announced that Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee would be an Xbox exclusive title. Developer Oddworld Inhabitants claimed that the Playstation 2 couldn't handle the type of game experience they were looking for, thus shooting the first shot in the upcoming battle of the ongoing console war. In essence, Microsoft used its considerable resources to ensure that all-future editions in the Oddworld saga would remain on the Xbox. Many Playstation fans consider the Oddworld series as the standard in the 2D platformer genre.
The first Oddworld game introduced Abe and its unique mixture of 2D platforming and brain teasing puzzles. The Oddworld series tells a story of a world ruled by corporate greed and an enslaved race. Along the way, genocide, slavery and ecological destruction all play a part in pulling the player in the mythology of the series. As you're playing the game, it's really easy to actually care about the consequences of your actions. One misplaced step and your fellow members of your species are gunned down.
Fast-forward a year and a half, and the Xbox is set to launch along with Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee. How has the game progressed and exactly how is it coming along. In Munch's Oddysee you play cooperatively with Abe and a new character Munch. Munch is somewhat of an "odd" sort. He is the last of a fish-like species, the Gabbit, which (naturally) has some difficulty getting around on land. This is not helped by the fact that he broke one of his legs in a bear trap. To help facilitate travel, Munch travels around in a wheelchair. However, once you get him to the water, he can swim and dart around the huge environments with the best of them. To make Munch's tale that much more tragic, he was kidnapped by the evil Glukkon scientists and had a strange alien device implanted in his skull. Abe is still his usual clumsy self and has not changed much from his previous incarnations. For those of not familiar with the Oddworld family tree, Abe was the first hero in the Oddworld quintology. He is a member of the Mudokon species and he is a former slave laborer and is considered the savior of his race.
The antagonist in the Oddworld series is the Glukkons. They are an aggressive species, and their goal is the pursuit of profits at all costs. They own the rupture farms, which are basically slaughterhouses used to manufacture their tasty products. Unfortunately The Glukkons greed often has dire consequences on the other species in Oddworld. Entire species are wiped out and some areas on the Oddworld planet is a industrial wasteland all in the name of corporate greed. This sets the backdrop behind Munch and Abe's quest to save the Gabbits.
During the course of the game one of the primary goals for our heroes is to rob Glukkon factories. The Glukkons use Munch's species eggs as a sort of snack. The last batch of eggs is set to be auctioned off. So desperate to save his race, Munch (with the help of Abe) set off for adventure. However, Munch and Abe are not alone. Along the way, they come across other species that take up in arms against the Glukkons. You have not lived till you have seen what an angry Fuzzle can do.
Gameplay wise, long time fans of the Oddworld series should feel right at home. The Xbox controller seems to have been made with Munch in mind. When you first pick up the controller and sit down to play Munch the first thing you realize is how impressive the game moves. The framerate stays at a steady 30 fps even with a ton of characters on the screen. The left analog stick controls the 2 heroes movements. The A button serves as the jump button and other context specific actions. You can adjust the camera angle with the D-Pad and you can check your characters available psychic energy and health with the right trigger. The black face button switches between Abe and Munch while the left trigger allows the use of Abe's chant and Munch's sonar. The Gamespeak option that was such a big hit in the first 2 games makes a dramatic return to Munch's Oddworld Oddysee. By lightly tapping the X, Y, or B buttons you can produce one response but if you hold the button down it produces another. This allows a very deep and rewarding game playing experience.
Graphically, Munch's Oddysee may not be the most visually impressive title of the Xbox launch. However, what is there is done very well. Munch features some very nice textures of the main characters and enemies. The water effects are also very nicely done. The most impressive visual aspect about the game is the sheer amount of on screen characters with out a hint of slow down. In fact, with a group of Fuzzles under your control it almost takes the feel of a real time strategy game. Where it becomes a war of attrition as you battle the Glukkons. Also you will find several powerups for both characters that greatly enhance the both of them.
The transition between 2D and 3D has been handled very well. During the course of the game, the environments require you to use both characters interchangeably to get through. For example in one area, Munch comes across a gigantic crane. The crane can be used to pick up Abe and place him in a previously inaccessible secret area. Along the way, Munch and Abe will come across Soda machines that give them special powers, such as running extra fast.
The demo level that Xbox sent out to retailers is basically just a tutorial showcasing how Abe and Munch work together. The rest of game will have a very familiar feel to it. If you have played Sonic Adventure and Super Mario 64(and shame on you if you have not) you should feel right at home playing Oddworld.
Yes, the same one that... no, sorry. Mistaken identity.