Game Review: Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD (PS Vita)

Game Review

Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD is an adventure game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita. The game is a HD remake of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath, which was originally released for the Xbox on January 25th 2005, while a version was planned for the PS2; it never materialised and was cancelled. However, after such long anticipation to play one of the Xbox games that PlayStation consumers regretted not owning an Xbox to play; PlayStation consumers can now finally get to play Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath in the form of a HD remake for the PS3 and portably via the PS Vita.

The game sees you playing as a bounty hunter called Stranger. You learn after a few bounties that Stranger requires an operation and must continue working harder by taking on even larger bounties, so he can earn enough money to pay for his operation as the Doc has quoted him an extortionate fee in order for the operation to take place.

Unusually for an adventure game; Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD can be played from both first person and third person perspectives, which both perform extremely well with both perspectives looking as though neither were added as afterthoughts, although there are the slight occasions that the camera moves behind an object, but that only occurs on a very rare basis and does not detract from the gameplay or the level of effort it must have taken to process everything in two separate camera angles. The third person perspective is the default viewpoint for exploration with the first person perspective particularly useful for aiming your crossbow, although you are free and able to explore from the first person perspective too.

The main weapons come in the form of a crossbow that fires fictitious versions of various creatures as projectiles with differing amounts of damage, alongside melee attacks including straight punches, spinning punches, head butting and charging at enemies. The projectile creatures include: Stunkz that specialise in incapacitating a group of enemies; Bolamites incapacitate a single enemy; Chippunks attract enemies to them; Zappflies inflict light damage, but are also useful for kinetic switches that allow lifts to start moving in your direction, alongside removing enemy force fields or shields and recharges power when not fired; Fuzzles inflict moderate damage and are used most effectively as traps when fired at the ground; Thudslugs inflict heavy damage and knock enemies to the ground; Boombats inflict heavy damage and causes large explosions; and Stingbees inflict moderate damage, but are the most rapid fire weapon in the game. All of the creatures can be hunted throughout various areas of the surrounding environments, so ammo for Stranger’s crossbow is easy to replenish as it is never too far away. Stranger sucks incapacitated outlaws into the bounty gun, which looks as though the premise was inspired by the Proton pack from the Ghostbusters films.

Upgrades are available for purchase in exchange for the in-game currency of Moolah at the general stores located within all three of the main towns with upgrades available for such important attributes as increased stamina; faster stamina regeneration; faster reloading for the ammo on Stranger’s crossbow; increased capacity of pouches to enable you to carry more ammo; and much more besides.

Moolah can be collected by using melee attacks to destroy crates and boxes that contain multiple bags of Moolah, although the most likely method of earning Moolah is to complete bounties to earn the cash rewards with up to three times as much Moolah on offer for returning the bounty alive, rather than dead. You can only take on one bounty at a time, although the flip side of that is you will usually have a choice between three or four bounties to start with before completing the one you chose and moving onto the next bounty of your choosing. The added incentive for Stranger to collect as much Moolah as possible is provided by the Doc quoting him with an extortionate 20,000 Moolah in order for an operation that Stranger requires to take place, which means that Stranger has an increased level of motivation to continue bounty hunting until he has reached his goal of the Doc’s quote of 20,000 Moolah.

The humour of the game adds another layer of enjoyment and charm to the gameplay with various sayings and wise cracks from the bounty hunting lead character Stranger, such as “I gotsta get me paid” or when Stranger is asked for a password to enter a building in New Yolk City to which he replies, “Open that door or I’ll open your head!”; the mannerisms of the Clakkerz who reside in each of the towns, such as when you ask one of them were X’Plosives McGee is for the second time the response changes from a friendly greeting to, “If you don’t quit bothering me, I’m going to put something explosive in your jockstrap”; Stranger’s enemies call him a “Sissy boy” and tell him to “Come get some” while they are tracking him down to kill him with even funnier sayings particularly after they have been turned in and imprisoned; and Doc’s comic reaction when he angers Stranger by charging him an extortionate price for his operation.

The extras menu is an interesting area with such contents as unlocked movies and concept art from each area of the game as you will unlock them once you have completed an area and headed onto the next. The content of these extras are substantial as the unlocked movies allows you to relive the story up to the point of your current progression through the game, while the concept art provides a genuine insight into the effort invested in creating such a dynamic environment.

There is a strong variety of enemies with a range of outlaws and criminals that are there to be apprehended for their bounty and are worth more alive than dead. The outlaws come in various sizes with different weapons that place each of them into separate categories, such as the Outlaw Shooter; Outlaw Semi Auto; Outlaw Nailer; Outlaw Cutter; Outlaw Sniper; Outlaw Flamer; and more besides. The outlaws are usually together in packs to protect their dozen or so gang leaders who are the main bounties that Stranger is attempting to bring in, while the Wolvarks act as Sekto’s vicious security forces.

The environments look as though they have been heavily inspired by Western cowboy films from the outside to the interior of the buildings; the cactuses and canyons for the majority of the backdrops, but with various other settings thrown in for good measure, such as underground tunnels; rail tracks for carts; monuments of worship; and much more besides that really diversify the environments and help to set the game apart.

The map radar is displayed on the bottom left of the screen and allows you to see how close or far away Stranger is from enemies as the enemies appear as orange dots when they are patrolling with a light grey triangle showing their current field of view at that very moment, which is quite reminiscent of the radar from Metal Gear Solid. The enemies turn to red dots when they have spotted Stranger and a small message will be displayed to let you know that you have been spotted, but you will more than likely hear your enemies when they have spotted you. Stranger’s enemies only being able to detect you within their field of vision provides the game with an optional strategy and stealthy approach that it must be applauded for due to its smart AI and freshening the gameplay for those that do not necessarily just want to run and gun their way through the game.

The inventory allows you to view current objectives via the task info area to the bottom right of the inventory; a listing of the outlaws and criminals you defeated and your reward for each of their bounties when you turn them in via the capture info area to the top right of the inventory; a wanted poster consisting of a picture of the main bounty, the name of the bounty, the wanted dead price, the wanted alive price and a brief overview of the bounty to the left of the inventory; alongside your current total amount of Moolah directly underneath the wanted poster. Tapping on the inventory screen will show another area of the inventory that displays your range of ammo for Stranger’s crossbow and your current range of items with descriptions of what they are useful for.

Unfortunately, there is no cross save functionality due to the constriction of the size of the cross save file being limited to only 1Mb or less, whereas Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD’s save file is usually between 3Mb and 5Mb and despite the best efforts of Oddworld Inhabitants and Just Add Water; they were unable to reduce a save file of up to 5Mb all the way down to 1Mb or less, so it would seem that the cross save file limitation is another issue that Sony have to rectify for the good of the PS Vita.

The controls are mapped out extremely well across the face buttons, left and right analogue sticks and the touch screen. The face button controls consist of pressing X to jump with another press of the X button to double jump; O to punch; square for Stranger to speak to himself, a prisoner or villager; holding square to capture a bounty by sucking them into a bounty gun while the outlaw is incapacitated; holding triangle to rejuvenate health; L to fire the selected ammo to the left of the crossbow while using the first person perspective or L to engage in melee combat with a spinning punch while using the third person perspective; R to fire the selected ammo to the right of the crossbow while using the first person perspective or R to engage in melee combat with a head butt while using the third person perspective; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to manoeuvre Stranger around the surrounding environment with a gentle movement of the left stick to walk, a heavier movement to run and holding the left stick in any direction for a period of three seconds to start charging on all fours, which can be a very useful combat manoeuvre as a well timed charge at an enemy can be the equivalent to Goldberg’s spear by knocking out the enemy; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to aim the weapon while in the first person perspective or to control the camera while using the third person perspective; left or right on the d-pad to enter the ammo select menu; down on the d-pad to reload; up on the d-pad to enter the sniper scope while using the first person perspective; select to view inventory; and start to view the options menu. The touch screen controls consist of double tapping the touch screen to switch perspectives from third person to first person and vice versa. The alternative control scheme allows you to switch between O and the rear touch pad for punching.

There are some truly stunning graphics presented in native resolution on the Vita’s five inch OLED touch screen that just pop out of the screen with such vibrancy, colour and detail. The surrounding environments are full of life and character; the enemies are intelligently patrolling the area; and all of the characters including Stranger, the Clakkerz and the enemies all look as well animated and colourful as they are humorous and charming. None of the graphical elements look as though they are from the original game, which if anything defines the purpose of a HD remake as it has retained the same great gameplay and restored the graphics to their optimum.

The presentation of the game is solid with a great touch screen based user interface across various menus such as the options menu and online leaderboards, although it surprisingly does not include support for navigation via the left and right analogue sticks, directional pad, face buttons or rear touch pad with the exceptions of the art screen within the extras menu and the online leaderboards which both allow for navigation via the left analogue stick and directional pad. The background of the menu screens looks very colourful and vibrant as they contain the Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD logo dangling from chains at the top of the screen and Stranger leaning against a wooden post with wooden fencing around him in the foreground and various buildings with a glaringly bright sun in the background. If the main menu is inactive for a few minutes or so a video will play to demonstrate some of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD’s gameplay.

The voice-overs are humorous as they are somewhat reminiscent of a bounty hunting wild west equivalent of Duke Nukem with the lead character (Stranger) surprisingly voiced by the game director Lorne Lanning who also voices the majority of the characters in the game. The music ranges from Wild West themes during the majority of the gameplay to climactic music during Stranger’s attempts to collect the gang leaders for their bounty. There are some great sound effects, such as the creatures making their own distinctive noises as they are fired from the crossbow, such as the swarming of bees and the electricity from Zappflies; the ricochets of bullets that hit nearby objects; funny sounds that Stranger makes while he is jumping; and much more besides that actively contributes to the humour and charm of the game.

The trophy list includes 37 trophies with 23 bronze trophies, eight silver trophies, five gold trophies and one platinum trophy. You may not necessarily find the trophies easy due to how difficult you may find certain areas when there are a lot of enemies within a gang on screen simultaneously attempting to kill Stranger in order to protect the leader of their gang who is the main bounty for that particular mission. The trophies are mostly aimed at defeating and turning in all of the bounties to the bounty store were they are wanted dead or alive, alongside story related trophies. The bounty trophies include: the Bag Blisterz Booty bronze trophy for bountying Blisterz Booty; the Wash My Hands of This Mess bronze trophy for bountying Filthy Hands Floyd; the Clean the Water bronze trophy for bountying Looten Duke; alongside many more bronze trophies for turning in bounties, along with silver trophies and gold trophies for defeating various bounties and enemies with the Get ‘Em silver trophy for bountying 250 outlaws and the Get ‘Em Goooooood gold trophy for bountying 250 outlaws as they are still alive.

The story related trophies revolve around some other tasks beyond bountying outlaws, such as the Giving A Leg Up bronze trophy for getting to Last Legs; the Dam Sekto bronze trophy for entering the Lower Dam; and the Regain That Spring In Your Step bronze trophy for reaching the Upper Dam. This is not as easy as you may initially believe as each of the gang leaders will have more and more of their buddies with them protecting them from being brought in for the bounty, so the further you progress through the game; the harder the game will become purely based upon your chances of taking out each of the enemies before you get one-on-one with the main bounty of each mission. The hardest trophies are certainly the Mo Moolah gold trophy for having 20,000 Moolah or more when you take the barge to Doc’s Mongo Retreat and the Sekto Suicide gold trophy for completing the game on the hard difficulty level. I would estimate depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take around fifteen to twenty hours to platinum the trophy list.

There are three difficulty levels including easy, normal and hard. The natural increase in difficulty is provided by increased damage in the harder difficulty levels, while it is a lot easier to shake off any damage inflicted by enemies during a play through of the easy difficulty level. However, the game naturally increases in difficulty even while playing on the easy difficulty level as later bounties will have larger gangs of enemies to protect them that you will have to fight off before going one-on-one to bounty the main enemy wanted dead or alive to complete the bounty, so the easiest difficulty can still offer a challenge at times, but choose the hard difficulty if you are looking for a real challenge.

There is no proper online multiplayer component, although there are online leaderboards. The online leaderboards focuses on top rankings, friends’ rankings and my rankings spread across sixteen leaderboards covering the speed of time taken to complete the tutorial; the entire game on easy, normal and hard difficulty levels; the highest amount of Moolah earned; alongside the quickest times to bounty Floyd; Looten Duke; Boilz Booty; Jo’ Mamma; Meagly McGraw; Packrat Palooka; X’Plosives McGee; Left Lugnutz; Elboze Freely; Fatty McBoomBoom; and the quickest times set for Sekto’s Office Run with each leaderboard containing each player’s rank; name (PSN ID); time; and the overall amount of the in-game currency (Moolah) that has been earned throughout the entire game.

The replayability of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD is amazing as it has such exceptional production values that you would swear that it was a current retail game. You will enjoy the game so much from the humour and charm of the great gameplay that you will most likely play it across all three difficulty levels, while there is an extensive range of online leaderboards and unlockable content provided in the form of concept artwork and videos that collectively builds a package that will keep you coming back long after you have initially completed your first play through of the game.

Overall, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD has the production values of a full priced retail game that is packaged as a download costing only £9.99 for the PS Vita version or the Oddworld: Stranger Boxx providing the alternative solution for consumers that own a PS3 and Vita as it includes both the PS3 and PS Vita versions of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD for just £13.99 and while that is not cross-buy, it is still exceptional value and a saving of £5.98 on buying both versions separately. The low pricing makes it hard not to recommend and it is even easier to recommend if you are a fan of any of the previous Oddworld games or if you were a fan of the original Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath on Xbox or if you were ever hoping for it to come to the PS2 having never had the chance to play it. Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD certainly lives up to Oddworld’’ level of quality and deserves to be purchased with a serious amount of your time invested in exploring the world and enjoying everything the game has to offer from the amazing graphics to the humour and charm with the engrossing gameplay and everything else in between. To put it simply; buy it now or you will be missing out on an amazing gaming experience!

Jason Bonnar

At A Glance

  • Title: Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD
  • Publisher: Oddworld Inhabitants/Just Add Water
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: No
  • Cross Play: No
  • Online Multiplayer: Yes (Online Leaderboards)
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 1,541Mb (Version 1.02)

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