Munch’s Odyssey: What I’m Noticing This Time

Coming back to this after yet another lengthy pause, I’m struck afresh by a couple of things I hadn’t been thinking about much before.

First, I was finding some of the platforming unduly difficult. I’d quicksave just before trying a jump, then attempt it multiple times without success, falling short even after attempting a run-up. This turned out to be because I had forgotten how to run. Munch’s Oddysee on PC has a strange system for this. You essentially have three gears: Run, Walk, and Sneak. Tapping upward or downward on the D-pad shifts your speed one gear. All this despite controlling the character with an analog joystick, which has speed control built in! I suppose it’s because this whole gear system was added for the sake of keyboard-and-mouse. It doesn’t seem to have been present in the original Xbox version. In fact, when in Walk mode, I find I can still slow down to the point of entering Sneak mode just by pushing the stick less far. I just can’t run without shifting up.

Honestly, I’m glad to have a discrete Sneak mode. In situations that require sneaking, you really don’t want to stop sneaking just because your hand jostled a little. It’s still weird to use the D-pad to toggle it in this way, but I suppose they were running out of buttons. The face buttons are already overloaded, with the A button assigned to both Jump and Use Object (so you can’t jump when you’re near something usable), and the other three doubled up, doing one thing when tapped and another thing when held down. It’s all pretty complicated, and I frequently make mistakes like telling my followers to attack when I really want them to pull a group of levers.

The other completely unrelated thing that’s catching my eye this time around is how butch it all is. Which is a little surprising considering how it’s all framed as weirdos vs bullies, with the weirdos as the good guys. Well, Abe may be an ectomorph who sings his enemies to death rather than throw a punch, but he’s still visibly muscular, in a lean and wiry way. Moreover, the biggest of the bullies — the new extra-large Sligs with the beefy arms and the handheld miniguns and the four-legged robot undercarriage — are primarily there to be possessed and controlled by Abe. Seriously, this was the central aspect of the first two levels I played after coming back. While controlling a large Slig, your main concern is mowing down the lesser Sligs, directly confronting violence not with stealth or cleverness, but with greater and more powerful violence. The game wants you to have it both ways: You’re simultaneously the bullied and the bully, the weirdo with unsettling mind powers and the hulking revenge fantasy.

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