A few months ago I took a look at the Nintendo Switch port of Oddworld: New ‘N’ Tasty, and subsequently fell in love with the Oddworld series very quickly. My heart was instantly set on Oddworld: Soulstorm but until that fateful day arrives, I decided to take a look at another game in the original series. Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee.
It saddens me to say that although it has many of the elements that I loved about New N’ Tasty, Munch’s Oddysee is a bit of a step-down for the series, and a generally uninteresting 3D platformer set in a world that has done, and can do, much better. It’s got it’s good parts too, but I mostly just wished I was playing any of the other games.
As the title implies, Munch’s Oddysee is a story primarily focused on a new character- Munch the Gabbit. Munch is the last of his species and is captured to have his lungs transplanted to the Glukkon queen. Munch needs to escape from the lab and find the last of his species’ eggs to prevent his own extinction. Although Munch is the focus of the plot, Abe still plays a big role in the game as another playable character and a catalyst for the actual adventure.
Although the plot is as simple as it was in New N’ Tasty, it works for all the same reasons. The overall message and tone of the world are utterly fascinating, with messages on environmentalism and industrialism all delivered in a charming way. It’s not really about what actually happens in the game, it’s how the story is told and the odd world that it takes place in. The characters are just as well-written and funny here, and my main motivation to get through was to just hear more from Abe and Munch as they carried on their journey. I have a pretty big soft spot for Abe’s weird speech and movement, but Munch is equally endearing, and you instantly feel for his plight and want him to succeed.
The first issues I have with Munch’s Oddysee come from a presentation standpoint, which is a shame considering the world and characters it works with. It’s not all bad by any means, but there are quite a few things that stood out. The first and most egregious of which is the sound design. You will constantly be hearing the same annoying sound effects whenever you collect splooce, when Munch walks, when Abe uses gamespeak and many more aggravating examples. It’s a real shame to have gameplay constantly upended by distracting sounds overlapping each other.
Munch’s Oddysee is also disappointing when it comes to its environments. For a game set in the Oddworld universe, everything around is surprisingly bland and unimaginative, with washed-out textures and uninteresting colours. The only things that reminded me of Oddworld were the characters, enemies and occasional corporate vending machine or advertisement. It all feels very bog-standard and unimpressive, although I’m willing to admit that it might have once been a great showcase for 3D open-environments as the maps can actually be quite big.
Even if those levels can be fairly big, that doesn’t mean that the things you’ll be doing in them is very interesting. The biggest problems I have with Munch’s Oddysee all come from the fact that it really doesn’t translate the Oddworld formula to 3D very well.
There’s still a focus on puzzle platforming, but the puzzles aren’t that interesting and the platforming is slippery and tough to control. Abe and Munch are reactive to things like slopes now which means that even jumping needs to be pitch-perfect. Puzzles mostly have you controlling or possessing things to slowly open up a map but it doesn’t evolve much beyond that.
Gamespeak and rescuing have taken a hit here as well. The introduction of fuzzles for Munch is cool, but they can’t really do much more than attack, whilst Abe’s mudokons feel a lot more developed by comparison, but completely uninteresting compared to Odyssey and Exodus. This is one of the core tenants of Oddworld, so it feels weird for it to be so underwhelming.
When Abe and Munch are together and puzzles rely on swapping between them and using their unique abilities, Munch’s Oddysee can be pretty fun. It’s janky and frustrating as all hell, but some of the puzzles can be fun to work out. Those occasions feel too few and far between the generic platforming and item-collecting though. This is a game begging for a cooperative mode, even if that’s a big ask from an HD port, it would genuinely solve a whole bunch of the issues at hand here.
One of the things I find most baffling is that this is actually a fantastic port of the original game. I had no issues with frame-drops whatsoever, and most of my issues come from the fact that I simply didn’t enjoy the game mechanics on display here.
It’s a great shame that I didn’t enjoy Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee as much as I did Oddworld: New N’ Tasty and Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath. Some of it comes down to ageing poorly, but a lot of it is simply feeling like the gameplay doesn’t really translate very well to a 3D environment. For the Oddworld-mad like myself, it’s still worth playing through for its charm and occasionally smart puzzles, but for anyone on the fence, it’s probably the least recommendable game of the series.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Oddworld Inhabitants