The third game in the Oddworld series, Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee HD, seemed to be in Vita development for an eternity before it released just before Christmas in both Europe and North America. Originally releasing as an Xbox exclusive back in 2001, Munch and Abe have finally arrived on the PlayStation Vita – almost two years after they first made an appearance on a Sony console (when Munch’s Oddysee HD launched on the PlayStation 3 back in 2012).
Munch’s Oddysee HD takes place after the events of Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus – the first two titles in the Oddworld franchise that released on the original PlayStation back in the late 90’s. If you are new to the Oddworld series (or have just forgotten what happened in the previous games) there is an option for ‘Backstory’ when you start the game, using cutscenes from the previous titles to bring you up to date on the storyline.
Once you are all caught up on the past events the introduction to Munch’s Oddysee begins. Munch is a Gabbit; a species that are on the verge of extinction due to Gabbit eggs being harvested to make a delicacy known as Gabbiar and Gabbit lungs being used as replacements for the lungs of the Glukkons. Caught in a trap after investigating what sounded like another Gabbit calling for help, Munch is imprisoned by the enemy Vykkers. Whilst in captivity, Munch has a sonar device implanted on his head which he uses to his advantage to break free and and escape from the fortress he is being held captive in!
The hero of the original Oddworld titles – Abe – hears of Munch’s misfortune from a character known as the Almighty Raisin. Abe sets off to try and find the Gabbit so that they can work together to try and save the Gabbit race.
Munch’s Oddysee HD starts with you playing through levels as one of the two characters, seeing the story from both sides as you work your way towards the eventual meeting of Abe and Munch. Both of the characters that you will play as feel completely different, Munch is a character is slow to manoeuvre on land yet awesome when in water due to him being of Gabbit race. Abe on the other hand is quick when on land but cannot swim whatsoever, so when the two do finally meet you will need to switch between the two characters (done by pressing Triangle) on the fly.
Both of the two main characters are awful when it comes to combat. Abe can meet and greet fellow Mudokons that he encounters by using the PlayStation Vita’s Right trigger and directional buttons, allowing for him to gather a following that he can use to carry out any hard work that may need doing – such as combat and chanting to unlock/power up doors that block your path. Munch can command an army of Fuzzles – little furballs with razor sharp teeth (that will be familiar to those of you that played Oddworld: Strangers Wrath on the PlayStation Vita) to attack any threats that try to harm him.
This means that you just need to avoid the enemies and let your companions do all the work for you, although I often found myself running around in circles whilst battles took place to avoid myself from taking any damage. I did find this to be a little repetitive at times, and some sections of the game did see me meet my death more times than necessary.
Munch and Abe can also use the environment around them to help defeat the enemies that cross their path. There are vending machines that can be found in certain levels that can be used to give Munch and Abe a boost – this can be either a speed boost gained by drinking Espresso, or a shocking lightning bolt that Munch can use to temporarily stun enemies. Munch can also control mechanical cranes or robotic contraptions called Snoozers, which can move around the map and be used to put those in your way to sleep.
Munch’s Oddysee HD has both a good and a bad ending to achieve, your result depending on how many of the Mudokons and Fuzzles survive as you playthrough the game. Each level will have a warp gate that you can activate to send these creatures to their freedom, the more that you save the higher your ‘Quarma’ will be – with at least 50% Quarma needed to attain the good ending. Luckily it isn’t too difficult to rescue all of the inhabitants of Oddworld, and if some of your followers do perish during battle you can revive them at special shrines in exchange for Spooceshrubs (green pumpkin-like objects) that grow throughout the land. These are always attainable and if you find yourself needing more, Abe can regenerate these by chanting nearby ones that you have already collected.
There are a lot of levels to play through (you certainly do get a lot of game for your money), but I did find that a lot of the levels became repetitive after a while. A lot of the areas look the same and the tasks you carry out as you make your way through each stage seem to be reused quite often.
It is safe to say that Munch’s Oddysee HD hasn’t aged terribly well. The platforming is OK, but the controls can be quite unresponsive and this does cause problems when you are trying to perfect your jumps between ledges. I often found myself falling off edges or missing jumps completely which can get frustrating after a while. We have seen many platformers re-released on the PlayStation Vita from the early noughties and I think it is pretty safe to say that titles like Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank have withstood the test of time more than Munch’s Oddysee HD has.
As a fan of the Oddworld series in general I was left a little underwhelmed with Munch’s Oddysee HD, especially after the enjoyment I got out of Strangers Wrath on the Vita and Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! on the PlayStation 4. The one thing that Munch’s Oddysee has done for me is make me realise how much I want to play New ‘n’ Tasty! on the PlayStation Vita.
Overall, Munch’s Oddysee is a perfectly playable game (bar a few system crashing bugs that I encountered early on in my playthrough) that leaves quite a bit to be desired for. If you are a fan of the Oddworld universe that has missed out on playing this for whatever reason I think you will find enjoyment in this game, but it certainly is the weakest entry in the series!