Fleeches are carnivorous, two‐headed, worm‐like creatures found in Oddworld’s wetlands, forests, underground vaults, and sewers.1 Although they are natural wildlife,2: 10 the Fleeches we see today were originally engineered by Vykkers to be the perfect Glukkon pet.3
Vykkers originally engineered Fleeches to be the perfect pets for Glukkons, but accidentally gave them a six‐foot1 (1·8 m) tongue in each of their two heads. At first they thought the tongues could be used by Glukkons to clean those hard‐to‐reach places. Test markets showed that the young Fleeches more often bit than cleaned their owners, acquiring a taste for their owners, with tragic results as the Fleeches grew from cute babies to vicious adults. They are still sold as pets, but Glukkon children are encouraged to ‘Flush a Fleech’ down the toilet as a rite of passage before they grow too large to cuddle.3, 4
It is theorized that there may be a natural variety of Fleeches, the naturally‐evolved creatures that the Vykkers first used in their genetic engineering.
Fleeches survive their flush down the toilet, and have formed huge colonies in Mudos’s sewers and the places they end up: forests, lakes, marshes, and underground caves. They are particularly prosperous in the Necrum oasis and vaults. It is not known how much their behaviour has been changed by their genetic modification or by their brief captivity.
Fleeches have a mutualistic relationship with Slurgs, in which they are alerted to the presence of predators and prey in return for providing Slurgs with fæces3 and—posthumously—offal5 as food. Slurgs emit a high‐pitched squeak when stepped on that can wake a Fleech from its sleep and betray the location of potential food or threat.6, 7
Fleeches are known to eat Scrabs, Paramites, Sligs,2: 20 and Mudokons, although the first two they will only attack in self‐defence if they are cornered, as Scrabs and Paramites normally predate Fleechs. A Fleech first subdues its prey by bludgeoning it with either of its long, adhesive tongues, then pulls it into its mouth, compressing it down with a burp.
Fleeches are quite unique in that they have two heads, and hence two mouths. Each houses a set of sharp, black teeth (8 external maxillary, 6 internal mandibular),8 and appears to have a permanent grin. The pivot for both sets of jaws is in the centre of the body, allowing their jaws to open up to a 90 degree angle9 and swallow a Scrab whole.
Fleeches move by inching themselves along the ground, using the underside of each head as a foot. The rearward head remains in contact with the ground while the leading head lifts and extends forwards, then in turn remains on the ground as the rearward head lifts and draws up to the leading head. This motion is repeated quickly enough for Fleeches to move at dangerous speeds.
The six‐foot1 (1·8 m), adhesive tongues of a Fleech are courtesy of the Vykkers’ genetic modifications. As well as being used as an offensive and defensive weapon, Fleeches use one to suspend themselves from a ceiling or overhang when they are sleeping, and to climb up branches and levels. A Fleech’s skin is green, and creased and leathery to permit Fleech feeding and locomotion.
The appearance and behaviour of Fleeches is drawn from a number of animals. The idea of pets being flushed down the toilet comes from the urban legend of baby alligators, taken from Florida as pets, being flushed down toilets and forming large colonies in the sewers of New York City. Although untrue,10 the Oddworld equivalent is a fine example of Glukkon improvidence and throwaway culture. Accordingly, the mouths of a Fleech look like stumpy versions of a gator’s snout. The teeth are placed on the outside of the mouth to give it a cheeky yet threatening expression.
Their name is thought to be a portmanteau of ‘frog’ and ‘leech’, the sticky tongue of the former obviously being the inspiration behind the Fleech’s own. Its ability to stretch open its mouth is inspired by the ability of snakes to unhinge their jaws. Their locomotive cycle is based on that of the inchworm.11 They have also been compared to sharks1 and, most obviously, worms.
Fleeches were designed by Farzad Varahramyan for Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus. Early conceptual iterations show a simple ball‐like animal with no eyes, but a large and expressive mouth, a set of vicious teeth, and some kind of opening on it forehead that can spit out a liquid. The black lips against a pale body was designed to make Fleeches very expressive despite their simple design. According to Farzad’s sketches, Fleeches were capable of emotions including ‘Hmmm?’, ‘Sob!’, ‘Grrr!’, and ‘Eh! Eh!’.12 These moods, especially the sobbing and snickering, have never been seen in Fleeches.
Fans have noticed that this prototype design looks very similar to a Fuzzle, and have speculated that it may have inspired, or otherwise branched into, the design of Fuzzles.13, 14 Some suggest it is the original, unmodified Fleech before it was altered by the Vykkers;15 that Fleeches and Fuzzles are quite closely related;15 or that Fuzzles are the creatures that were turned into Fleeches.16 None of this has ever been commented on by Oddworld Inhabitants.
At the start of 2000, Oddworld Inhabitants fully expected Fleeches to be in Munch’s Oddysee.17
Fleeches make their debut, and sole, appearance in Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus. They are in the levels ‘Necrum", ’Mudanchee Vault‘, ’Mudomo Vault‘, and—with the rationalization that they are still being kept as pets in the SoulStorm Kennels–’SoulStorm Brewery"". They are the only threat in the first two games in which Abe has hit points, of a sort. When being attacked by Fleeches’ tongues, Abe can withstand six hits before being eaten with the seventh. If Abe can avoid being hit for a period of time, these hit points reset.
Fleeches are also the only enemy, except for the airborne Flying Sligs, which can still attack Abe if he climbs or descends levels. They use their sticky tongue like a grapple to pull themselves up, and crawl off the edge to fall down.
- Oddworld Inhabitants (31/07/2000). Fleeches biography. Oddworld Universe. Oddworld.com.
- Alf (04/06/2001). Dear Alf 9. Alf’s Rehab & Tea. Oddworld.com
- Broderick, Glenn (~02/1999). ‘Name: Fleeches’, ‘Inhabitants’. Oddworld.com.
- Johnson, Cathy & Daniel Wade (eds) (15/09/2004). ‘Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus’, p. 121. The Art of Oddworld Inhabitants: The First Ten Years 1994–2004. Mylor: Ballistic Publishing.
- O’Connor, Paul (17/11/1998). ‘Slurgs’, ‘The Cast’, p. 26. Game manual for Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus. GT Interactive. ‘The lowest form of Oddworld life, subsisting on the offal of Fleeches.’
- Oddworld Inhabitants (17/11/1998). ‘Fleech (phl‐ēē‐chǔh)’. Story Stone (NEP01C06), ‘Necrum’ (NEP01C01). Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus. GT Interactive. ‘Advice: Don’t stop on the Slurgs—they’re a dead giveaway.’
- Broderick, Glenn (~02/1999). ‘Name: Slurgs’, ‘Inhabitants’. Oddworld.com.
- Oddworld Inhabitants (1998). CGI Fleech.
- Varahramyan, Farzad (~02/1998). Fleech sketches.
- Mikkelson, Barbara (24/06/2007). ‘Gatored Community’, ‘Lethal Lurkers’, ‘Critter Country’. Snopes.
- Varahramyan, Farzad (24/02/1998). ‘Abe II: Fleech Redesign’ concept sketches. In Cathy Johnson & Daniel Wade (eds) (15/09/2004). ‘Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus’, p. 121. The Art of Oddworld Inhabitants: The First Ten Years 1994–2004. Mylor: Ballistic Publishing. ‘Fleech locomotive cycle… inchworm style.’ ‘Eating anim. Upper jaw stretches up… extremely much like a snake’s ability to unhinge it jaw to take in large prey.’
- Varahramyan, Farzad (04/12/19978). ‘Abe II: Fleech’ concept sketches. In Cathy Johnson & Daniel Wade (eds) (15/09/2004). ‘Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus’, p. 121. The Art of Oddworld Inhabitants: The First Ten Years 1994–2004. Mylor: Ballistic Publishing. ‘Fleech: With a really large mouth, black lips against a light body, with no eyes, no add complexity, you can get a very expressive simple shaped character.’
- Max the Mug (25/08/2001). Post №3 in ‘Sketches’. Oddworld Discussion. Oddworld Forums.
- TheKhanzumer (15/10/2002). ‘Fleeches --> Fuzzles’. Post №6 in ‘Anyone got a pic of Fleech production art’. Oddworld Discussion. Oddworld Forums.
- Max the Mug (21/10/2002). Post №22 in ‘Anyone got a pic of Fleech production art’. Oddworld Discussion. Oddworld Forums.
- Xavier (26/10/2002). Post №26 in ‘Anyone got a pic of Fleech production art’. Oddworld Discussion. Oddworld Forums.
- O’Connor, Paul (21/03/2000). ‘Re: Abe's Exoddus questions’. The Oddworld Group. eGroups.com.