Preview: Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath (XB)

Publisher: EA Games / Developer: Oddworld / Genre: Adventure / Release Date: 01-25-05

Are you a cowboy or a critter? Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath is likely the only game where you might ask yourself that question. It seems like games these days are playing up the baddass edge and this stranger isn’t any stranger to being a baddass. (okay, so I can’t help the bad puns.) This time though, he’s a bounty hunter and a creature. As a mix between all sorts of predatory animals, you really don’t want to get on his bad side. Otherwise he may send the chip-punks after you.

Yes, I said it. Chip-punks. Or so it appears. You get live ammo in the game. I’m not talking about highly explosive ammunition. I’m talking about walking and scuttling creatures that you capture to use as weaponry against your foes. The chip-punks are just one of a whole slew of creatures you can add to your crossbow arsenal. (Just don’t ask the Stranger to use a “real” gun. You’re not going to get a very happy response.) The chip-punks are useful because they can draw an enemy out by talking trash. Some ammunition you can charge with electric current and some ammo like the spiders will bind and gag your enemies so you can suck them up alive into your tiny bounty bag with a puff of green smoke.

For the most part, it’s about the bounty and you usually get twice as much money for keeping an opponent alive when you bring them into the bounty office. No game is complete without a little capitalistic venture. So maybe the townsfolk look like odd versions of chickens or frogs. It’s doesn’t matter when you’ve got a little bit of green at your side. And if you’re not making enough in the bounty office, you can always pummel the townsfolk for information (or more money).

The game dynamic is interesting. I thought it was a shooter, but it’s not. It’s not quite an action game or an rpg. You do have to puzzle out locations, and jump around and shoot things; but I believe Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath is trying to stretch the boundaries between genre based games. In fact, you can choose to switch between first person and third person. I’m amazed at how smooth the transitioning is between the two. When one perspective melts into the other painlessly, it makes it easier to melt into the game play itself and stop trying to categorize it.

Not only is the perspective interesting in the way it changes, but you really get a sense of Oddworld when you look at the screen. It’s made to look a little bit like the Midwest. The Stranger is a cowboy type and all the towns look like dirty run down gulches where most everybody knows anybody. No, really, you can go talk to anyone.

I like how you can keep yourself on track with the newest mission objective by making the stranger talk to other people. If you’re tired of the weird responses you might get from the townsfolk, you can always resort to talking to yourself. From the part in the demo that I was able to see, the voice acting isn’t bad and the sound effects really round out the experience. Things like using your sense of sound to hunt down live ammunition that might be crawling around the brush show you that there was a lot of thought put into the development of this game.

I’m pretty interested to see how the game fares after it’s finally released. There’s a lot of interesting things about the game that give it a head start in the game’s race. Sometimes it’s not about getting bigger and better. To me, it’s about being clever with using the tools you have at your disposal. It looks like quite a few creative minds have been at work on this one, so I’m itching to take a peek at the finished product.