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Oddworld: Soulstorm

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Oddworld Inhabitants
Release Date: April 6, 2021


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PS5 Review - 'Oddworld: Soulstorm'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on April 9, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Oddworld: Soulstorm picks up from Abe’s genesis and directly follows on from the overthrow of RuptureFarms and the liberation of his blighted workmates.

Many of the Oddworld titles are my favorites, but it's an odd franchise that's filled with a mix of political commentary and dark humor, and the gameplay is usually based around solving puzzles and saving lives. After the excellent Stranger's Wrath, the franchise went dormant for a bit until 2014's Oddworld: New n' Tasty, which was a full-on remake of the original game. Oddworld: Soulstorm follows in its footsteps as a remake of Oddworld: Abe's Exodus. This isn't a mere HD port but a full-on remake in the vein of Resident Evil 2 — and it's a darn good one.

Oddworld: Soulstorm begins where Oddworld: New n' Tasty left off. Abe the Mudokon had just rescued 300 of his fellow Mudokons from a life of slavery at RuptureFarms, a combination meat processing plant and slave pit. The few Mudokons are free, but the majority of the race remains enslaved. After an attack on the Mudokon's safe refuge, Abe realizes he can't sit around and enjoy his victory. The only way to achieve true peace is to free all his fellows, so Abe sets off to rescue his people.

One thing I was genuinely surprised about with Soulstorm's plot is how well it hits emotional notes. Abe is thrust into the role of messiah and comes across as very empathetic. He's awkward in some situations but caring in others, and you get a feel for the guy. This means the game has a somewhat less comedic tone, but it works on its favor. It's remarkable that an ugly-adorable little guy can shine as a protagonist in such an unexpected way.

The core gameplay of Soulstorm is similar to the previous title, New n' Tasty. You control Abe with the game set in a 2.5D platformer world. You can run, jump, sneak, throw items, and various other tricks and tools to get through the game's levels. One thing I'm happy about is that the controls have been smoothed over a bit. Abe controls less rigidly, and the double-jump makes it a lot easier to perform some of the more complex feats of heroism.

Abe has access to a variety of tools; some are built-in, and he'll gain access to others over the course of the game. Tools can vary from mind control to a mere bottle of water, but each has its own uses. The titular Soulstorm — despite the name, it's one of the horrifying soft drinks in Oddworld — is extremely explosive, so it's valid to use it as a weapon or a tool to burn down wooden doors. You can even craft items by finding individual ingredients throughout the stage and using them to create cool useful items, like smokescreens or improved weaponry.

This is important because it greatly impacts how Soulstorm plays. You can generally get past any obstacle with your available tools or a convenient nearby stash of the requisite tool. If you use optional items, difficult areas can become much easier. It's often very easy to use brute force in areas that require stealth, so long as you're smart about what you bring along. Figuring out how to make difficult areas easier is important for the main story and for achieving better times on the in-game leaderboards.

Your overall goal in Soulstorm is to save the roughly 1,400 Mudokons throughout the various stages. Each Mudokon you save contributes to your total Quarma, which influences the ending. This is probably the toughest part of the game because Mudokons are not durable. While merely finishing a stage can be easy, it's much tougher to do so without losing a bunch of your pals. You can't even access some of the levels without having a good score on most of the early levels. You can repeat stages to improve your score, so you're not totally doomed if you have a bad outcome in a level.

Thankfully, the levels are a lot of fun. Soulstorm is genuinely good about never overstaying its welcome. It constantly tosses new ideas and new gimmicks at you. Some stages might have you taking down enemies before they can kill your pals, another might require solving puzzles quickly, a third might feature a fast-paced action platformer sequence, and a fourth might need stealth. New gimmicks and enemies are introduced when things are starting to get a little dull, and it freshens up the relatively simple gameplay. Not every level is a star, but enough of them are enjoyable that I had a ton of fun playing through them.

The only real issues I noticed during my playthrough came from bugs. As of this writing, Soulstorm has received multiple patches, and more are promised in the upcoming weeks. As such, it's tough to judge how flawed the game will be in even a week's time. Even in its current state, very few of the bugs are awful. A few times, Abe would get stuck and not move, or I'd glitch through something, but a trip back to the last checkpoint usually solved my issues. I can't say the bugs are serious enough to hold off playing the game, especially with the regular patch updates coming down the pipeline.

Soulstorm is a good-looking game, though it can feel average at times. The environments and characters are distinctive but occasionally look muddy or unremarkable. Thankfully, the cut scenes are extremely well directed and go a long way toward carrying the visuals. The voice acting is excellent, and Abe's actor Lorne Lanning makes the little fella someone who I genuinely enjoyed having around.

Oddworld: Soulstorm is Oddworld at its best. It's creative, clever, funny, enjoyable to play, and shockingly good at getting you to empathize with Gollum's slightly uglier cousins. The gameplay is simple but enjoyable, and it makes you want to save as many of your fellow Mudokons as you can. Imagine that: a game-long escort mission that is fun! If you like puzzle platformers, I'd recommend starting with New n' Tasty, but Soulstorm is an excellent follow-up. It's worth playing, especially if you're a PS+ member and can get the game free on the PS5 during its launch month.

Score: 8.0/10

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