Oddworld Soulstorm is a puzzle platformer and a return to Oddworld after a few years away. Abe’s Odyssey was a game I remember from the original PlayStation release way back in 1997, so it’s great to get back to Oddworld and check-in with Abe to see how he’s doing.
I have to be honest in starting this review, when I first saw this game during the PlayStation showcase in Summer 2020, I didn’t think much of it. In fact, I was rather put off by the cinematics, with Abe’s lips sewn shut. Reluctant, I booted up the game and I was happily surprised as to what I found… a puzzle platformer that harks back to days gone by in terms of gameplay, but there are some really touching moments in here which regularly brought a smile to my face.
Oddworld Soulstorm is a remake, or reimagining of sorts of Abe’s Exodus, the sequel which originally came out in 1998. We start out in the game with the Mudokons celebrating, all but one with Abe sitting alone in his tent, nursing a drink. The Mudokons are discovered and it’s now down to Abe to once again save the day, this time for his entire people.
Over the unfolding levels and story, you have to make your way across a series of tricky platforming and puzzle levels and find your way to freedom, this time with your Mudokon friends with you. There’s plenty of dying and learning through repetition in Oddworld Soulstorm, it’s not an easy game by any measure. One thing that nicely offsets the difficulty of the game though is the regular checkpoints. If you are new to Oddworld then some of the mechanics may be a little confusing too, even though there are tutorials littered throughout the first few hours.
Abe has some basic skills including running, jumping and rolling. Abe can run and jump to get to areas, but also roll under smaller gaps, and rolling also helps if you get set on fire (which will happen on more than one occasion in the game). The platforming mechanics felt pretty good, although this isn’t going to compete with platforming juggernauts like Mario or Celeste.
Other moves include throwing bottles of varying liquids. Fire is a big theme in Soulstorm and it can be used to your advantage acting as a very potent weapon in some cases. If there’s a firewall in your way then throw a well-placed water bottle to help extinguish it, so you can safely pass through. You can also pick up liquor bottles and throw them into the fire to essentially throw petrol bombs.
As well as the items you can throw Abe has a special telekinetic that allows him to send out a small projectile that can interact with the environment and take over guards and get them to do your bidding. For example, there are numerous puzzles where you have to use your powers to either send guards to sleep, or take them over and use them to take out another guard, or you can simply drop them off a cliff edge suicide style to get them out of your way. You do have to be careful with ability though as the guards have devices that can block Abe’s abilities and instead will zap him for his troubles.
Soulstorm is based on Abe Exodus, but it expands the scope of that original game and improves it pretty much wholesale. For example, Abe can loot stashes for resources, which is particularly useful for creating ammunition. The visual design is great too, which formerly was switch-screen style now flows from one area to another in a mixture of 2D platforming in the 3D world. I played the game on PS5 and the visuals in the game are often stunning.
The crafting and the locations in the game bring the game a much needed modern boost, in an otherwise very mid-90s style game. I don’t mind this so much having grown up in the mid-90s remembering the original and bringing with it a hit of nostalgia. I don’t know what modern-day gamers would make of the game as it’s definitely of its time. These days we have these vast worlds, action-packed battle royales and massive free-to-start or free-to-play games – it’s sometimes hard to see where Oddworld sits. This style of 2D puzzle platformers has slightly gone out of fashion, having been replaced with offerings like Sackboy, Astrobot and Super Mario 3D World.
Soulstorm has a blend of humour and also pretty dark topics like slavery and torture. As I mentioned before, Abe has his lips sewn shut, which was almost enough to put me off the game entirely. The cutscenes in the game are very well put together, gorgeous affairs and the voice acting is full of laugh out loud moments.
Much of the fun with Oddworld is to do with messing with your enemies. Tempting your enemies closer and then throwing a liquor bottle into the fire next to them is always fun, as well as knocking them out cold with Abe’s powers and then picking their pockets while they sleep. You can also stun enemies with rocks and attempt to tip-toe around enemies, although they are pretty quick to pull out their machine guns and mow you down if you make a sound, so be light on your feet.
The puzzle platforming in the game is good fun and mixed with the heartfelt cutscenes things move along at a reasonable pace. There’s a mixture of stealth sections, getaway chases and a fantastic section that plays out in the dark mid-game. As you get through to the later parts of the game the puzzle platforming can get a little much and left me feeling a little exhausted as there’s only really so much you can reset the board and do a similar thing over and over. It doesn’t have the grace of a Mario game, so over time, the repetition can get a little much. The Mukodons bring a much-needed injection of fun and laughter into the gameplay. At most levels, you find them you then have to save them, which means leading them to safety with their help through a gauntlet of traps. This is the bread and butter of Oddworld games, and where Soulstorm really shines.
Developer: Oddworld Inhabitants, Sabotage Studio, Just Add Water, Frima Studio, Fat Kraken Studios
Publisher: Oddworld Inhabitants, Microids
Availability: PC, PS4 and PS5