Fleeches

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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] Fleeches appear in Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus as enemy characters that can kill Abe after seven hits by their tongues.

Creation

Vykkers originally engineered Fleeches to be the perfect pets for Glukkons, but accidentally gave them a six-foot[1] (1·8 m) tongue in each of their two heads. At first they thought the tongues could be used by Glukkons to clean hard-to-reach parts of their body, but test markets showed that young Fleeches more often bit than cleaned their owners, acquiring a taste for their owners’ flesh, 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.

Ecology

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 caves. They are particularly prosperous in the Necrum oasis and vaults. It is not known how much their behaviour has changed due to their genetic modification or early captivity.

Fleeches have a mutualistic symbiosis with Slurgs in which they are alerted to the presence of predators and prey in return for providing Slurgs with fæces[3] and—posthumously—offal[5] for 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 Fleeches. 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.

Physiology

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 angle[9] 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-foot[1] (1·8 m) adhesive tongues of a Fleech have been engineered by Vykkers’ genetic modifications. As well as being used as an offensive and defensive weapon, Fleeches use one to suspend themselves from ceilings or overhangs when they are sleeping, as well as to climb up branches and levels. A Fleech’s skin is green, creased and leathery to permit Fleech feeding and locomotion.

Production history

The inspriration for 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. The Oddworld equivalent is a fine example of Glukkon improvidence and throwaway culture. Accordingly, the mouths of a Fleech look like stumpy versions of an alligator’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 to ingest food several times larger than itself is inspired by the similar feeding behaviour of snakes. Their locomotive cycle is based on that of the inchworm.[10] They have also been compared to sharks[1] and 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!’.[11] 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.[12][13] Some suggest it is the original, unmodified Fleech before it was altered by the Vykkers;[14] that Fleeches and Fuzzles are quite closely related;[14] or that Fuzzles are the creatures that were turned into Fleeches.[15] None of this has ever been commented on by Oddworld Inhabitants.

At the start of 2000, Oddworld Inhabitants fully expected Fleeches to be in Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee.[16]

Abe’s Exoddus

Fleeches make their début and to date 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: 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 Flying Sligs and Sligs in the background) which can still attack Abe if he climbs levels. They use their sticky tongue like a grapple to pull themselves up ledges.

References

  1. a b c d Oddworld Inhabitants (31 July 2000). Fleeches biography. Oddworld Universe. Official Oddworld website.
  2. a b Alf (4 June 2001). Dear Alf 9. Alf’s Rehab & Tea. Official Oddworld website.
  3. a b c Broderick, Glenn (February 1999). ‘Name: Fleeches, ‘Inhabitants’. Official Oddworld website.
  4. Johnson, Cathy & Daniel Wade (eds) (15 September 2004). ‘Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus’, p. 121. The Art of Oddworld Inhabitants: The First Ten Years 1994–2004. Mylor: Ballistic Publishing.
  5. O’Connor, Paul (17 November 1998). ‘Slurgs’, ‘The Cast’, p. 26. Game manual for Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus. New York: GT Interactive. ‘The lowest form of Oddworld life, subsisting on the offal of Fleeches.’
  6. Oddworld Inhabitants (17 November 1998). ’Fleech (phl-ēē-chǔh)’. Story Stone (NEP01C06), ‘Necrum’ (NEP01C01). Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus. New York: GT Interactive. ‘Advice: Don’t stop on the Slurgs—they’re a dead giveaway.’
  7. Broderick, Glenn (February 1999). ‘Name: Slurgs’, ‘Inhabitants’. Official Oddworld website.
  8. Oddworld Inhabitants (1998). CGI Fleech.
  9. Varahramyan, Farzad (February 1998). Fleech sketches.
  10. Varahramyan, Farzad (24 February 1998). ‘Abe II: Fleech Redesign’ concept sketches. In Cathy Johnson & Daniel Wade (eds) (15 September 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.’ <ref name="FleechArt1">Varahramyan, Farzad (4 December 19978). ‘Abe II: Fleech’ concept sketches. In Cathy Johnson & Daniel Wade (eds) (15 September 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.’
  11. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named FleechArt1
  12. Max the Mug (25 August 2001). Post 3 in ‘Sketches’. Oddworld Discussion. Oddworld Forums.
  13. TheKhanzumer (15 October 2002). ‘Fleeches --> Fuzzles’. Post 6 in ‘Anyone got a pic of Fleech production art’. Oddworld Discussion. Oddworld Forums.
  14. a b Max the Mug (21 October 2002). Post 22 in ‘Anyone got a pic of Fleech production art’. Oddworld Discussion. Oddworld Forums.
  15. Xavier (26 October 2002). Post 26 in ‘Anyone got a pic of Fleech production art’. Oddworld Discussion. Oddworld Forums.
  16. O’Connor, Paul (21 March 2000). ‘Re: Abe's Exoddus questions’. The Oddworld Group. eGroups.com.