Oddworld: The Front-Loading of the Secrets

Escaping from the plant in the game’s first act is more or less linear, apart from excursions to rescue captive Mudokons. Out in the wild, this breaks up a bit. Each of the two temples is a hub, with open doors leading to various test chambers, and in each chamber, you do a little ritual involving a fire and some bells. This introduces the structure found throughout the plant on your return. Each zone (or “zulag”) of the plant has a hub like the ones in the temples, and each room off the hub contains a lever needed to unlock access to the next zulag.

Now, there are secret areas with captive Mudokons throughout the game. Even the temples contain some portals back to the zulags. But the funny thing is, the initial escape areas have a lot more of them than anyplace else. The game really wants you to leave some behind, and furthermore, it wants you to know that you’ve left some behind: billboard-sized signs displaying your rescuing stats, including the number of Mudokons you’ve failed to rescue, are a common sight in factory-controlled areas. So I’m fairly sure that I actually haven’t left any behind in my current run. But for most of the game, this hasn’t been hard. A little care and diligence, and you’ll find the few secrets scattered around without much trouble. Except during that initial escape. That’s the only place where I’ve gotten stuck, hunting through all the rooms I’ve already seen for secrets that I knew must be there but couldn’t find.

In fact, this has been the downfall of my attempts to replay Abe’s Oddysee in the past. When I acquired it on Steam, years after playing it from CD-ROM, I thought I’d play it through again, but I couldn’t find all the secrets in the initial escape, and eventually gave up. The game wants you to fail to rescue everyone on your first pass through the game, and after that first pass, it really wants you to start over from the very beginning. I honestly don’t remember if I played all the way to the ending on my first pass or not, but I definitely went back and found all the secrets and rescued all the Mudokons. But on later attempts? On later attempts, I was in a state that the designers don’t seem to have thought of or cared about. It wasn’t my first pass through the game, so my pride wouldn’t let me act like it was. I wasn’t about to let those Mudokons go unrescued. But at the same time, the game’s contents and structure were no longer fresh in my memory. So I had close to the same disadvantages as a first-time player. The combination produced discouragement.

And yet I have somehow avoided such discouragement this time through, and was willing to play through the initial escape enough times to clear it completely. I think this is mostly just due to the HD remake handling so much better than the original. It’s easier to keep playing something when the mere act of moving is less frustrating.

1 Comment so far

  1. DZ-Jay on 2 Feb 2018

    I seem to recall a contemporaneous magazine review commenting, like you, on how Abe’s Oddysee concerns itself heavily with imparting the feeling of a desperate and epic quest — at least in that first zone.

    The reviewer pointed out, specifically, the opening playable sequence right after the initial introductory cut-scene: just as you are grappling with the controls and getting acquainted with the playing mechanics, right upon clearing your first obstacle and climbing onto a higher platform, there immediately appears a Slig aggressively running and shooting after you. Having jumped clear out of his reach, the feeling is of dread, anxiety, and exhilaration of just barely escaping in the nick of time. Thus the mood and tone are set for the rest of the game.

    I still remember that review because, as I read it after playing the game, I couldn’t help but agree wholeheartedly with such an acute observation; and it impressed upon me the notion that this was a deliberate machination of the designers.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if your observations are equally correct: that the designers contrived to make the player fail to rescue every single Mudokon on his first play-through, and insisted on making this obvious and apparent; just to hammer in the point that you, as Abe, barely starting out and having just become self-aware of your’s and your people’s predicament, are not at all equipped to fulfill your destiny — at least not until you traverse through the trials that prove your worth as The Chosen One.

    Oddly profound. I really enjoyed this game back in the day. Thank you for the memories.


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