Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee

I remember coveting Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee back in 2001, when it was an Xbox exclusive. It was Oddworld in 3D! (Tomb-Raider-style behind-the-back view.) That was still a fairly big selling point at the time. Major 2D-to-3D adaptations had existed for about five years at that point, since Mario 64 in 1996, but hadn’t yet really settled down into something formulaic. Some were amazing, and some were terrible, and that very discrepancy made the field as a whole interesting to me.

Also, I feel like I must have had a serious jones for collectibles at the time. The main thing I remember from the demo kiosk at my local game store was that it had 3D Abe walking along a trail of little bloblets that disappeared like Pac-Man pellets, incrementing a counter as they went. For some reason, I found this tremendously appealing.

These bloblets, it turns out, are called “Spooce bushes”. They contain an energy that, in sufficient quantity, unlocks certain doors. This is pretty much orthogonal to everything else in the game. You just have to collect a certain amount of spooce in addition to your other goals for an area, and you generally do it by following lines of closely-spaced bushes. The bushes grow in lines because their real purpose in the game is to show you where to go. Abe’s spirit guide admits as much in-game.

And that’s emblematic of what seems to be a big difference from the first two Oddworld games. I’m about two hours in, and the emphasis is still on following directions rather than solving puzzles. This is the sort of thing people complain about when they complain about the state of games today. The first two games may have been excessively difficult, or at least excessively cruel — certainly the New ‘n’ Tasty remake took numerous steps to reduce the cruelty. Munch’s Oddysee may have been an overcorrection. But we’ll see if that changes over the course of the game. I’ve already started seeing some of the more blatant environmental hintage go away. For the first few levels, every lever or cage or other interactable object has a circular pattern on the floor around it, a sort of “Use this!” marker. Those are starting to disappear. Maybe the spooce lines will go away too after a while.

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