Reviews// Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath (Xbox)

Stranger and stranger

Posted 6 Mar 2005 15:17 by
It is an odd world, there's no denying it. Trisha is filmed in front of a live audience of volunteers, crumbed 'chicken breasts' may legally contain 'chicken substitute' and John McCrirrick is real. Compared to the circus of reality that is planet Earth, an imaginary odd thing would need to be extremely peculiar to raise even an eyebrow. Undeterred however, EA, the undisputed godfather of unimaginative design principles, has knocked out a new game in the Oddworld series: Stranger's Wrath. This is experimental territory for EA, as the game has no link to any blockbuster movie or sports licenses and is also, believe it or not, significantly different from the previous Oddworld games... it's even a platform exclusive. It's almost as if EA doesn't like money any more.

So there's something pretty odd. The world's biggest games publisher has actually supported a creative approach, perhaps trying to claw back some of the credibility poured out through its mass-scale franchise dairies. Indeed, the giant has recently been flaunting the creative capacity of a small cement mixer, so Oddworld Inhabitant's latest offering has arrived not a moment too soon. But the bottom line is that Stranger's Wrath still fails to break any significant new grounds and it's nowhere near as mysterious as people may try and tell you. If you get a grey man in a grey suit to sketch onto grey paper, using a grey pen, the outline of something wacky: this is the sort of thing you get. It's not particularly odd, except in a blatantly contrived way.

Before we stagger too far down this negative alley, it is worth pointing out that Stranger's Wrath is actually a nicely-built, well-rounded game with all the polish you can expect from folk as rich as those at EA. It just feels cold, eerie and disappointingly soul-less. Considering that so many of the game's characters and environments have been conceived entirely from scratch, with only loose ties to previous Oddworld games, it's difficult not to resent the general lack of flair. There are nice original twists here and there, but many of the times the game's creators go too far off-piste with the design you can feel the whiplash of the corporo-chain as the gameplay suddenly jerks back towards more usual standards. For us, it comes down to an issue of half-hearted character design, but more on that later.
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Arse McAdams 7 Mar 2005 09:47
Well put (if a little harsh) - I've played it for an hour or so and fully agree that there's little compelling me to go back to it thus far. I just hope you're right about it picking up later on.
lukas 23 Mar 2005 16:19
this is the second time i have read something to the effect that the character stranger is not intimidating. people seem confused by what he is. i quote from your review:

"It's a sort of humanoid puma cowboy, a supposedly menacing bounty hunter creature. He's not really menacing because he's kind of furry and cat-like."

surely he cannot be both not menacing for his cat-like furryness and be refered to as a puma which is a menacing predator.

the only non-menacing connotation i get when seeing him is that he has the trademark proportions of mega-man. basically, from the elbow down to the hand and from the knee down to the foot his proportions are skewed. the ol' giant hands and feet routing (see gunstar heroes too).
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