In an odd turn of modern gaming development, Oddworld: Soulstorm is not a remaster or a remake, but instead a continuation of the Oddworld: New n’ Tasty remake that came out last generation. While I have little familiarity with the series, this also means I went into this game completely open-minded.
The game is infuriating…
And that open-mindedness was completely and utterly destroyed by one simple thing: frustration. The game is infuriating, not because it’s challenging and difficult, but because it’s… infuriating. It’s not that I don’t understand that it’s a 2D puzzle platformer and not an action platformer, it’s that the game is inherently designed around the wrong form of trial and error. This leads to repeated frustrations along the entirety of the game where you’ll try, and try, and try, and try again… over and over again. There’s also one particular level that has a genuinely frustrating section (you’ll know it when you get there), and if it has no effect on you, you are either not a human or lack a pulse. In fact, I got so mad that I actually started to try, and a later level I ended up saving 100% of the Mudokons as recompense. You have no idea what that took from my soul. Try it, I dare you! The frustration only grows when you start to realize just how unpolished the game is: from the slow interaction processes to things that simply don’t work to inexplicable bugs and glitches to the sometimes-questionable AI (even if it works in your favor), you’d better be a glutton for punishment. The most refreshing moments are, sadly, when the game takes on generic genre standards for platforming, offering a sort of respite. Having said that, there are moments where the puzzle design is decent and peppered with proper strategic requirements using a crafting system that has you making resource-based decisions. But the reality is quite simple: you won’t love this game. You’ll either rise to the challenge by instinct like me and push through it, or not finish the game at all… which leads perfectly into the next section.
If you want the good ending…
Okay, maybe I lied: I didn’t quite rise to the challenge as much as I could have. If you want the good ending, you have to save at least 80% of Mudokons across at least 12 of the game’s missions. Hell. To. The. No. I’m not going to put myself through that and will probably watch the good ending separately. Thus, me showing you these credits is kind of bogus: my 15 hours never actually saw the credits roll the proper way (little side note: you’ll seein the credits that Lorne voiced almost all of the main characters!). Even if you start to memorize levels and come up with your own shortcuts, it still manages to frustrate you and I just can’t see myself doing that to myself for the sake of the story. But speaking of the story…
…the category in which even mediocre games are finding redemption.
As of late, this seems to be the category in which even mediocre games are finding redemption. Oddworld: Soulstorm is no exception, and there is genuinely solid redemption for the game here. It’s naturally important to note that the game was clearly designed for the PS4 and upgraded for the PS5. But even so, you should also know that the levels are quite a lot larger and more detailed than you’ll initially think. Even the train is a positive artistic design aesthetic. Then we get to the story and the cinematics that deliver it, and here’s where the game punches above its weight. The cinematics are AAA high quality endeavors with excellent animation, and the story is heartfully well-delivered and leaves the right amount of curiosity for a sequel. If there was something I was forced to nag about, it’s that there are rare, inexplicable framerate stutters and some low-quality gameplay animations, particularly how poorly Sligs work the pole.
… in a word: frustrating.
I reiterate everything in a word: frustrating. But not without merit. The gameplay is rife with all the things that tear a hole in your soul for simply wanting to enjoy a game. So while the story, cinematics, and overall presentation of the game shine quite well, playing the game hurts you where the sun don’t shine. Somewhere out there are hardcore fans that will tell me, “git gud” whilst speedrunning a level in about 15 minutes while the rest of us normal people will take about an hour. I’m just glad I’m not on of those people because it would be clear I love punishing myself.