After nearly 7 years, Abe is back in a brand new Oddworld game and I'm happy to say that Soulstorm is his greatest adventure yet.
Oddworld: Soulstorm is a sequel to the reboot Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty and it tells the tale of Abe who's now considered a hero among his Mudokon peers. However, the victory celebrations are cut short when their hideout is attacked so Abe goes on yet another adventure to save his Mudokon friends and hopefully stop the evil industrialist Glukkons once and for all. Whereas previous games follow a similar narrative, Oddworld: Soulstorm really comes to life with its outstanding cutscenes which feature a very heartfelt performance from Abe which highlights his nurturing side in a way that I've never seen before. This creates quite a surprisingly emotional story and although there's less humour than there is in previous titles, I find that this formula actually works better as it creates an incredibly immersive game world. It's also quite inspiring to see Abe so defeated near the beginning then end up achieving a lot throughout.
When it comes to gameplay, Oddworld: Soulstorm is perhaps the most challenging game in the franchise so far which I thoroughly appreciated. It's also far less linear with huge and intricate levels that reward you for exploring every nook and cranny. Also, the core gameplay is a lot more varied than previous games as you'll end up juggling between stealth segments, tricky puzzles, and action sequences that'll have you doing things like running away from giant saws or fending off Sligs while your Mudokon chums flee in the background. As a result, the gameplay never becomes tiresome because you'll constantly be doing something different.
Another aspect that adds to the variety and fun factor is the inventory system where you can use gadgets to take care of enemy guards as well as craft items after gathering enough materials. For example, the titular Soulstorm beverage is flammable so you can throw them at enemies then watch them run past a torch only to burst into flames. You can also lay landmines that stun enemies, tie up sleeping or stunned foes with tape after looting their bodies, and more. In fact, thinking of clever ways for how to progress is where Oddworld: Soulstorm's gameplay shines brightest. Whether you're telepathically controlling enemies, carefully guiding Mudokons to a warp gate, commanding chums to operate machinery, or sneaking past a gang of sleeping ankle-biters; there's a ton of fun to be had.
As you play, you'll earn badges that are specific to each level which act as in-game achievements. These involve completing tasks such as discovering secret areas, rescuing Mudokons, crafting items, and basically any errand that you can think of. Needless to say, watching their requirements fulfill as you progress, explore, and complete optional areas is great fun and adds a lot of replay value to the campaign. When you factor in leaderboards which double as time trials then you're left with a lot of reasons to try your best to outdo your previous efforts. This system combines perfectly with the challenging and streamlined gameplay to make for one satisfying journey.
Although I loved my time with Oddworld: Soulstorm, it does have its downsides; the first of which is that the controls take a long time to get used to. I may have played the previous games in the series and the controls are similar here but they still took me a long time to get to grips with, especially climbing up ledges. Once everything clicks, you'll have a great time but it does take a while. Another issue is that the camera can sometimes be positioned at annoying angles such as when you're running along a path and have to jump or avoid sight lasers because it may be hard to judge things when the camera is at a 45° angle. Finally, some parts could use more instruction as the help signs might not have enough info on them. At one point, I kept seeing a bunch of Sligs murdering loads of Mudokons and didn't know what to do before eventually realising that I had to possess them and make them shoot each other and it was still hard.
Oddworld: Soulstorm is the best 2D stealth puzzle adventure game ever made. From its variety of well-crafted gameplay elements to its sprawling levels that beg to be replayed; it's an incredible journey and with quite a touching story, too.
- + Tight gameplay with a wonderful mix of stealth, action, and puzzles
- + Lovely, emotional, and inspiring story
- + Lots of rewards and replay value
- - Certain camera angles make trying to judge hazards needlessly difficult
- - Some parts could use better instructions
- - Controls take a while to get used to