|I have finally pulled myself out of the swirling vortex that is Abe's
Exoddus. It was a long week, dominated by the single desire to finish this game. Looking
back on it, I have trouble determining exactly what it was about this latest installment
of Abe's adventures that made it so irresistable to me. Probably it was that new
Abe's Exoddus is the first "bonus" game in the Oddworld Quintology. If you played the first game of the Quintology, Abe's Oddysee, you know that the Oddworld Inhabitants plan a whole series of games that take place in Oddworld. According to an interview on Gaming-Age.com with Lorne Lanning, lead developer on Abe's Exoddus and the voice of Abe, the technology has just not developed enough to make the second title of the Quintology available. To make up for this time lag, Oddworld Inhabitants made Abe's Exoddus, a bonus game that is not a part of the Quintology. Lanning stated that the company had realized that, because they wanted each installment of the actual Oddworld Quintology to radically push both the technological and artistic frontiers of gaming, they would have to create at least one bonus game between each major release.
But lest you think that Abe's Exoddus has simply been whipped out to appease the masses, let me set you straight. Exoddus is better than Oddysee. The biggest complaint about the first game was that you couldn't save at will, and that meant sometimes having to repeat difficult sections more than any sane person would ever want to. Exoddus takes care of that flaw in the form of a quicksave, which allows you to save to RAM quickly and easily. The quicksave puts you back to exactly where you saved, so you spend no time unnecessarily repeating screens. The quicksave also eliminates any real good stopping place in the game, which makes it much more addictive than its predecessor. Exoddus creeps along, beckoning you into the next level and then trapping you with some truly intriquing puzzle. Oh, yes, this game is insidious.
If you've played Abe's Oddysee, you pretty much know how Exoddus works. You guide Abe around a 2.5D environment, trying to destroy the evil factory, rescue enslaved Mudokons, and make it past levels that become true brain teasers. In Exoddus you are given the additional powers of possessing your farts and several new creatures like Glukkons, Paramites and Scrabs. You must control these beings, plus, of course, the ever-popular Sligs, in order to accomplish your terrorist goals.
See, in Exoddus you are struggling to destroy SoulStorm Brewery ("Upchuckalicious!") because they are using the bones of dead Mudokons to make their beer. As in Oddysee, you have no weapons. Your only offensive ability is to possess enemies and use them to help you. The creatures you possess have weapons and can take care of your dirty work for you.
The gamespeak in Exoddus is virtually identical to Oddysee, with voice commands added for the new beings you can possess. This feature of the game allows you to talk to other characters, give them commands, or work voice-activated systems, and is important for saving enslaved Mudokons and ultimately destroying the factory.
The graphics in Exoddus are gorgeous. The FMVs from the game have even been nominated for an Academy Award this year in the animated short category. Utilizing the 2.5D environment allows Exoddus to maintain a high level of graphic quality both during play and during the FMV sequences. But the graphics and interactivity are only half of the appeal of Exoddus.
The other half is the close attention paid to storyline. Everywhere I've read information about Oddworld Inhabitants, it has been constantly reiterated that they have a deep commitment to plot and storyline. Lanning makes a good point when he says that video game stories are not held up to nearly the same standards as stories in film or television. Exoddus continues the tradition of telling a socially motivated, well thought out story with endearing and believable characters. The story enhances the quality of the game, providing an enjoyable play, but also building consumer loyalty by involving the gamer in a plotline that is good enough to want to see through.
If you have not experienced the Odd, then you have missed a major step in video game evolution. It's easy to get lost in the fervent rush toward technological superiority, and often we are willing to give up various niceties like story, dialogue and interactivity in order to reach the next level of code superiority. Oddworld, however, is an exercise in restraint. It forgoes doing a half-assed, but technically dazzling, job in favor of shaving off some technical chutzpah and putting together a solid, holistic gaming experience. The developers claim that the next title in the Quintology, Munch's Oddysee, will be 3D, but that in order to do 3D at the same level of quality as the 2.5D games, they will rely on the next generation of gaming equipment. That means the Dreamcast, the Playstation II, and 500Mhz PCs with better rendering capabilities will have to be standard fare in the lives of gamers.