This review comes courtesy of contributor Ollie Cordwell
A strange way to play
Originally released back in 2005, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath gained much critical acclaim back on Microsoft’s original Xbox. Playing as a bounty hunter known only as Stranger, it’s revealed rather early on that you’re journey focuses around saving up some serious Moolah from bagging big-bad bounties so you can afford a life-saving operation. Other than that, not much else is revealed about the private life of Stranger.
But that was back in 2005, and now, nine years on, Oddworld Interactive and Just Add Water – the studio behind the HD Oddworld games and the new Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty – have seen fit to release an ambitious port for Android and iOS. While mobile ports and remasters of classics seem to be becoming a trend for games of late, I myself have never played Strangers Wrath before. While I’m sure this may raise some eyebrows, it does mean that I’m coming at this from an un-compromised perspective, there’s not a hint of nostalgia creeping in to warp the experience. And, perhaps this is why Stranger’s Wrath isn’t quite the dream I’d like it to be on iOS.
After installing to my iPad Mini (Retina display model) I honestly felt a little underwhelmed. Graphically Stranger’s Wrath was just not cutting the mustard, and it really didn’t make the most of the high-resolution retina screen it had supposedly been ported for. Even the sound quality was woeful, with audio that matched the early days of the MP3. In fact, the opening cutscene was so compressed that I had to wonder if this was a work in progress. Unfortunately, it isn’t.
Thankfully there are settings that allow you to scale performance, optimising it for your particular device. Still, the best looking settings don’t look great on a retina display. Disabling all post effects, such as dust and shadows, didn’t help stop the stuttering and screen tear – certainly not what you’d expect from a 10-year-old game running on the latest tech.
For comparison, the HD remastering of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas – which looks incredible – runs like a dream on the same device, not even breaking a sweat. Perhaps the issues that dog Stranger’s Wrath come from the fact it feels like little more than a Unity rejig than something built from the ground up.
Once I’d found a setting that worked well enough, gameplay was fairly intuitive and had a pleasing familiarity to it too. Running, jumping, double jumping, and the two attack variations brought back memories of the hey-day of 3D action adventure games.
One of the more unique, and interesting features is Stranger’s nifty crossbow, this fires ‘critters’ as ammo, therefore you to hunt down and capture the small animals unique to Oddworld. Each critter has its own use, but thanks to a rather awkward first-person aiming system that just doesn’t work on a tablet, you’ll probably stick to just a couple of types.
Just Add Water has made interesting use of the gyroscope built into most tablet devices. One example is being able to heal Stranger by literally shaking off the damage via waving your device of choice around – which may lead to some odd looks on public transport! The gyroscope is also used for the first-person aiming system, which – on paper – is a great idea; however, in practice you could quite easily end up thrusting your iPad into the face of the person sat next to you when pursuing a moving target that’s just out of range.
The stealth elements of gameplay, largely used to sneak up on enemies and get the jump on bounties, it just doesn’t seem to really realise its full potential. Standing in some tall grass makes you ‘hidden’, but the grass textures are so thin that it really shatters the illusion as it just looks like a person standing in very thin tall grass. However, I imagine that’s always been the case in all of Stranger’s Wrath’s incarnations.
So, you may well have gathered that I’m not overly enamoured with Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath on iOS. While there’s definitely a good game in there, and I’m sure the original Xbox release was a lot of fun, it just doesn’t seem to work on a tablet due to fiddly and awkward controls. Perhaps it does benefit from having just a bit of that nostalgia clouding your vision.
+ Great concept
+ Nice use of gyroscope for healing
+ Fortunately there is an option to scale the performance settings
- Awkward controls can be frustrating at times
- Low resolution sound breaks immersion
- Poor optimisation for iOS devices