Little greens in the fight against capitalism! Sounds like an unusual premise for adventure, but that didn’t stop the creators of Oddworld from making just such a game… for the third time? First, we had Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus, then a kind of remake of Oddworld: Soulstrom, and now finally Oddworld: Soulstorm Enhanced Edition.
This is a direct sequel to Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty !, but it can stand as a standalone game with its beginning, middle, and end, without the need to know the other games in the series. The main character is the janitor Abe who, together with other members of his Mudokon species, works in the factory to the point of exhaustion. The owners of these factories are the Glukkons, a handless race, always in suits and greedy. Abe rebels against them and tries to save his species from the oppression of Glukkon.
All four Glukkons who appear in Soulstorm are great villains, and in the end, you just cheer for their defeat. The same can’t be said for Abe, who is likable, but throughout the game, he just repeats the last words of the person he was talking to. What Abe lacks in his speech is compensated by excellent animations with directed scenes. Small details like lowering the pupils to show fear to Abe give more character than any sentence could. Just watching these cutscenes was a pleasure.
While it doesn’t seem that way at first, Soulstorm is still a 2D game like its predecessor. But its layout in the levels is such that it takes advantage of the depth. The paths you walk are intertwined and move all over the space, not just left to right as in other 2D games. For example, you see some structure at the beginning of the level in the background, and later in the same level, you cross challenges within the same structure.
The levels and their backgrounds are really beautiful, each with its atmosphere that varies considerably from level to level. Each level has its characteristics, such as the cable cars you ride in the canyon or the smoke in which you can hide in factories. Such things make each level unique and memorable. The camera is not always at a fixed distance, but moves and rotates depending on what challenge or task you are solving.
The challenges of Oddworld: Soulstorm is very ingeniously integrated into the story itself. Abe, along with other members of his species, escapes from slavery in the factory, so through the game you release other Mudokons and take them to safety. That sounds simpler than it is, and you have two ways to save them. The first is to run through the level of individuals who follow you until you find a portal that takes them to safety.
Another way is for a group of Mudokon (more than 200 of them) to be in the background and go to a safe place on their own, and it is up to you to clear their way of danger - for example, open the door in the background or get rid of armed guards.
Saving other Mudocons is not mandatory, and if you want, you can just rush past them and leave them to work. But what kind of player are you if you leave members of your species stranded? Another challenge is the design of the puzzle. The levels are such that they line up riddle after riddle, each new one a little more complicated than the previous one.
During your adventure, you can dig through lockers or containers to find various useful items that you then use either to cross one of the puzzles or to make another item. In addition to useful items, there are also sneaking and singing. Sneaking is pretty simple: be quiet and walk past armed guards or dangerous animals without being discovered.
Singing is a whole other story you stand still to summon the golden ball you control, and if that ball comes in contact with an armed guard then you gain complete control over it. This ball is quite strong, but to keep the game challenging the ball cannot be used in some areas.
Figuring out how to solve a puzzle is only half the job; the other half is just executing a solution that requires skill. But in the end, it's all just a matter of perseverance because you always have the option to continue from the last checkpoint, which is quite common. The main challenge is to save as many Mudokon as possible. If you save enough Mudokon, you will unlock two additional levels.
In addition to the main campaign, the Enhanced Edition of Soulstorm offers an additional ten levels that vary depending on which platform you play on. PS and PC have Toby’s escape mission in which you play as Abe’s friend Toby. Xbox has Vykker’s Labs in which you are unnamed Mudokon. Both missions complement the story but are so tiny that it doesn’t make a difference to you whether you play it or skip it.
At additional levels, mechanics like double jump are thrown out. I guess it was done to make the levels more challenging. However, if the levels were not challenging, you would be done with them in a very short time. All ten additional levels together are as big as half the normal level in the main story.
Oddworld Soulstorm has a lot of flaws, and the biggest flaw could be technical problems. Although the title of the Enhanced Edition suggests something has been improved, it is still far from ideal. The problems are all sorts: from opponents who would be teleported to places they shouldn’t be to the inability to load the next level. There are also problems with unloaded textures, lack of sound in certain events, etc.
These are not just technical problems. The levels are quite high, so the gameplay mechanics often repeat themselves quickly. This is especially pronounced at the penultimate level, which requires a mere repetition of the same segment four times in a row. The Enemies and Mudocons you save have all together five statements that alternate depending on the situation so you will hear all five at least 100 times while playing and all of them will become hard to listen to.
The PC version of the game also has specific problems. The controls by which the game explains its mechanics are indicated by the signs of the Xbox controller, so I had to look for an alternative on the keyboard for each one. By the end of the game, I had already learned all the controls, but it was still frustrating that the PC version interface was customized for Xbox consoles.
When we add it all up, Oddworld Soulstorm is also a fun game with a good story and an absolutely solid level of challenge. It is visually impressive at times, but technically it is still problematic half a year after launch. That’s why I’d advise you to get the game at some discount, but especially if you’re an old Oddworld connoisseur. Soulstorm will probably not be so interesting to the new audience.