Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee is the first videogame by Oddworld Inhabitants. Released in September 1997, it introduced audiences to Oddworld and Abe, a slave who escapes his former workplace after discovering his boss had plans to turn him and his fellow Mudokons into a new meat snack product. It was planned as the first in a series of five titles called the Oddworld Quintology, and through its critical and commercial achievements, succeeded in making a name for Oddworld Inhabitants.
Abe is a naïve and content meat factory worker until he discovers his boss’s secret plan and the forgotten culture of his race. He then needs to employ all his bravery, cunning, determination and compassion to overcome his laziness, rescue his brothers, shut down the twisted slaughterhouse and become the saviour of his people.
Abe is working late one night at RuptureFarms when he passes the boardroom and eavesdrops the factory’s annual board meeting. He sees the plans of his boss, Molluck the Glukkon, to turn the factory’s Mudokons (including Abe) into Mudokon Pops, a meat snack. Abe escapes RuptureFarms and finds a moon whose face resembled his hand, only to fall off a cliff to his death.
His body is found and resurrected by a Mudokon shaman called Big Face, who tells Abe about the conflict between Mudokons and Glukkons, and how Glukkons have destroyed the native lands and sacred creatures of the Mudokons. He also tells Abe his fate is to rescue the other Mudokons using the power of Shrykull, a Mudokon god, that is given to he who is initiated into the Paramonian and Scrabanian Temples.
Upon completing the Temple Trails and fighting his way back into RuptureFarms, Abe sets about rescuing the entire slave labour force. Molluck responds by releasing a gas deadly to the Mudokons, but Abe reaches the shutdown lever in the board room in time to prevent it. However, Abe is then captured and taken to a cell. When Molluck arrives to have Abe dropped into a meat grinder, grateful Mudokons knock Molluck and his assistant unconscious with a bolt of lightning and Big Face teleports Abe to a celebration of his heroism.
Abe’s Oddysee is a 2D flip-screen cinematic platformer, a rarity in the time it was released, when 3D gaming was being embraced almost universally by developers and gamers. This was seen as a bold decision by Oddworld Inhabitants, and is considered to have been pulled off triumphantly. Lorne Lanning and Sherry McKenna have subsequently explained that 3D games were always their amongst their intentions, but that they believed they could create more high-end, artistic visuals with pre-rendered sprites and matte backgrounds than current 3D technology could achieve.
The gameplay of Abe’s Oddysee is considered to be highly innovative and engaging, as well as retro, even in its time. To make the game accessible and approachable by as broad a demographic as possible, it features a bare minimum of heads-up display (at most, floating numbers signify how many grenades/rocks Abe is carrying, or how many Mudokons need to be rescued simultaneously for the player to receive a power-up. In the PC port, a floating diamond appears when Abe reaches a checkpoint) and graphical user interfaces (Abe can read directories and story stones, which freezes gameplay and replaces it with an informational screen).
The player controls Abe in a two-dimensional plane, moving him along the ground to the left or right by walking, running, sneaking, rolling, or hopping. The player can also move vertically by hoisting up or down to reach different levels, or by riding a manual elevator called a platform. When Abe moves beyond the confines of the current screen, the camera switches to a new view, and Abe emerges from the opposite side of the screen, creating a continuous virtual environment.
Abe has to navigate and progress through the environment to reach subsequent levels, evading traps and enemy non-player characters (NPCs). However, there is also an emphasis on rescuing Mudokons from slavery by leading them to bird portals, through which they can travel and escape. Although this is possible from the very start of the game, it is not taught to the player explicitly until the third act, and its importance to the successful completion of the game isn’t made apparent until the very end.
There are dangers that Abe must be careful of as he moves through each level, such as meat saws, land mines, trap doors, falling objects, and electric walls. Some of these can be turned on or off remotely by levers, ring pulls, or foot switches, while UXBs and order bombs can be activated or deactivated only directly by Abe. Explosive devices can set off by luring NPCs onto them.
Abe is characteristically unable to directly attack enemy characters with weapons or mêlée attacks, exception for throwing grenades dispensed by occasional Boom machines. Instead, he must avoid being killed by evading enemies, by remaining undetected by them or keeping out of their line of fire. He can kill them by luring them into such dangers as described above, or occasionally by transforming in Shrykull and electrocuting them. Fortunately, Abe can have other influences on the environment and characters around him, by two rather unique gameplay mechanisms: GameSpeak, and possession.
GameSpeak is an ability of Abe’s designed and implemented to demonstrate the awareness of characters in the Oddworld universe. Abe can utter any of a number of set phrases at any time he is standing still, but only certain characters will react. Sligs will respond to certain GameSpeak, but Mudokons will follow orders from Abe. This allows him to lead them through the level to bird portals. Elum will also obey instruction from Abe.
Chanting and possession
One of the verbal sounds Abe can GameSpeak is his chant, a continuous noise Abe makes with a bowed head and palms pressed together. When he does this, lights sparkle around him. The sound of chanting causes discomfort to Scrabs, Paramites, Sligs and the Elum. Sligs will run around in a panic shouting ‘Help!’, but if they stay on the same screen as Abe for long enough, the lights will reach for the Slig, and Abe will possess it. From then on, the player will be able to control the Slig directly.
Sligs can walk and run like Abe, but they can’t crouch, jump, sneak, or hoist. They can use their gun to shoot enemies on behalf of Abe, and can GameSpeak to Slogs, ordering them to attack enemies sheltered from Slig gunfire, such as when they’re on the other side of a partition. Sligs do not follow orders given to them by possessed Sligs, and will often shoot at possessed Sligs, meaning they are not invincible.
Abe’s chant also activates bird portals, through which Mudokons can jump to escape the factory, and stuns Scrabs and Paramites: a well-timed chant can give Abe enough time to run past a traumatized enemy.
- 19 September 1997
- Sony PlayStation (North American and PAL regions)
- 31 October 1997
- Microsoft Windows and MS-DOS (North American and PAL regions)
- 11 December 1997
- Sony PlayStation (Japan)
- 23 February 2001
- Microsoft Windows and MS-DOS (Japan)
- 29 August 2008
- Microsoft Windows (Steam)
- 16 December 2008
- Microsoft Windows (GOG.com)
- 22 October 2009
- PS3 & PSP (via PSN, North American regions)
- 15 April 2010
- PS3 & PSP (via PSN, PAL regions)
These are the levels as listed in the game’s level select menu (see Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee cheats).
- Stockyard Escape
- Monsaic Lines
- Paramonian Temple
- Paramonian Nests
- Scrabanian Temple
- Scrabanian Nests
- Rescue Zulag 1
- Rescue Zulag 2
- Rescue Zulag 3
- Rescue Zulag 4
- The Boardroom
These are the FMVs as listed in the game’s FMV select menu (see Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee cheats) along with additional FMVs—marked with an asterisk (*)—not on that list. In addition, there are a large number of transitional sequences that blend almost seamlessly with gameplay. The FMV ‘Guardian Angel’ does not appear on the PC game disc.