Developers: Oddworld Inhabitants, Just Add Water
Release Dates: December 27th, 2011 (Ps3), September 14th, 2012 (PC), December 18th, 2012 (Vita)
Available on: PC, Playstation 3, Playstation Vita
Reviewer’s note: I played this game on the Playstation Vita. There may be differences between versions.
This is something that probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone but Oddworld is an odd game. Between the chicken-like inhabitants of the towns to the living ammo the stranger uses for his crossbow, you can’t help but get drawn into the outlandish world.
You play as the Stranger, a mysterious bounty hunter trying to raise money he needs for an operation by hunting down criminals and taking on jobs from the bounty stores. The majority of the game will see him hunting down and capturing various criminals with goofy names like Fatty McBoomBoom, Boliz Booty, and Jo’ Mamma. You don’t really need to worry about why these people have bounties on their head, just to bring them in alive or dead. Each bounty will play out as a hunt, sending you in the general direction of that enemy and any men they may have with them.
Stranger’s Wraith is tough to place into an exact genre, but the closest I can get is a third person action/first person shooter hybrid with some stealth elements. You’ll play the game from a third person view and do some basic platforming here, but at any time you can double tap the screen and be brought into a first person view with your crossbow at the ready. Although the Stranger only gets his crossbow he can load it with two different ammo types at once, and these types effect what it does. For example, the stingbees work like a rapid fire machine gun, while the zapflies stun enemies with electricity. Each ammo is an actual living creature and so to get more you have to actively hunt them. It’s not difficult, you just need to stun them and pick them up while stunned, and the game throws more than enough in your way to keep you supplied. It’s still a neat little touch though.
Each mission has you hunting down a target and there’s usually a group of enemies in the way. You have the option to either kill or stun enemies. Killing enemies is easier by far: they’ll stay down and you can take their bodies easier. Doing so causes you to get a sever cash penalty to your earnings though. If you really want to earn the cash to get upgrades you’re going to want to stun your enemies to take them in alive. It’ll be more challenging, you’re probably going to want to stick to stealth to do this so you don’t have to deal with hoards of enemies, but the cash bonus makes this play style far more worth it. Each mission ends with a boss fight, whom you can also take dead or alive. The early boss fights kind of suck, they’re mostly just stronger enemies, the later ones are actually pretty creative. You’ll find yourself dodging sniper fire, luring bosses around to hit their back, disabling shields, and more. It’s a good change of pace, and figuring out how to stun and capture these guys makes for memorable caps to each level.
Each level also requires some platforming, though it’s not the biggest strong point of the game. It works for the most part: Stranger is agile enough to make jumps without too much effort. He can slide down slopes and climb up ropes as well. None of the platforming ever gets very complicated though. Oddly, I had a very tough time getting Stranger to jump off of surfaces he was sliding down. I don’t know if I wasn’t supposed to be able to, but he seemed to rarely jump off them right. It’s a minor hiccup in the platforming, it’s only ever required a few times so it was never a huge deal. Even then, the platforming still felt noticeably weak to the rest of the game.
By the end I felt that Oddworld: Stranger’s Wraith HD successfully combined first person shooting and stealth along with some third person action elements. Having to cleverly think my way through firefights rather than go in all guns blazing was a refreshing change of pace and I’m glad it was offered. If you’re interested in that then you’ll probably get a kick out of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wraith.