Review: Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD (PSV)
Title: Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1446 MB)
Release Date: December 18, 2012 (US) / December 19, 2012 (UK)
Publisher: Oddworld Inhabitants
Developer: Just Add Water
Price: $14.99 (US) / £9.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD is also available on PlayStation 3.
The PlayStation Vita version was used for this review.
Stranger’s Wrath is based on an interesting mechanic of being able to switch between a first and third person viewpoint on-the-fly; with the gameplay consisting of shooting, physical combat and platforming. A major triumph of the game is just how effectively the two distinct genres have been meshed together. Rather than being a poorly-implemented gimmick, the entire game has been built on it, so each section demands a different approach.
Another way the game always stays fresh is through the FPS element – mainly thanks to the ammo you use. Stranger doesn’t use bullets, he uses creatures. Creatures that you first need to hunt and capture, which adds another layer of depth to the gameplay. Once you have hold of them, they can be utilised in countless different ways, making for a surprisingly tactical affair. In a world of cookie-cutter shooters’, Stranger’s Wrath is a welcome change that has an enjoyable style and a unique sense of identity.
The story is pretty decent overall, while Stranger himself is weirdly endearing. He’s certainly not the archetypal hero, with a slightly dull demeanour, but you do become attached to him. Other characters you meet and even random people not directly involved with the story are all full of personality. Added to that is the awesome game world which is brimming with life and charm. It’ll quickly get tiresome to say this aspect of the game is ‘unique’, but it’s true. You can’t help but fall in love with it. Most importantly though, it’s not just different – it’s different and good.
In terms of controls, Stranger’s Wrath is suited to the Vita quite well. The face buttons are mapped as you’d expect, while the rear touchpad is used to punch. Switching viewpoint is done by double-tapping the screen, which is a smart method of implementing it so you can’t change by accident. Selecting ammo via the touch screen is an example of a suitable new addition that makes use of the hardware without being intrusive or gimmicky. The only real issues I encountered were with the camera, which at times can be a little fiddly and can get stuck behind walls. To pick on this rare occurrence as my main problem speaks volumes about just how great the game is.
Other than the slight control differences, the game is nigh-on identical to the PS3 in terms of gameplay, which is a double-edged sword. It means that for existing owners there’s not a standout reason to buy the game, but for new players, this is the complete experience with insanely high production values. Fantastic from start to finish, this is a must-buy for those who missed out on the big brother version, especially at the relatively low price point.
Stranger’s Wrath displays brilliantly on the Vita, though the visual fidelity is not quite as the best-looking titles on the portable such as Virtua Tennis and Wipeout. That said, the original game was meticulously crafted with such love for the game world that the sharpness and resolution is somewhat irrelevant. This is epitomised by examples such as the detail put into the ammo, which are always squirming around whilst sitting on your weapon ready to be fired. Some of the views into the distance are nice too – looking above you’ll often see vultures circling in the sunset. Some of the cinematics haven’t translated too well to the Vita and there’s a few jagged edges here and there, but all in all, there’s not too much to fault visually. It dwarfs some big budget titles like Resistance and Call of Duty, which is testament to how much effort Just Add Water poured into this project.
As you’d expect from a last-gen title, there are a few annoyances, like enemy lines being repeated over and over again during a single section and Stranger’s jump being accompanied by a really grating grunt. However, the background music and improvements to the dialogue outweigh these factors. Generally speaking, the sound is passable. I would definitely recommend using headphones though as I did encounter some horrible noise from the speakers, which immediately ceased once I plugged in my Sennhesiers, through which the game sounded crystal-clear.
This game is single player only.
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD has the look and feel of a full Vita retail release; so much so that at times, you’ll be left scratching your head wondering how this only cost you $15. Is it worthy of another purchase if you already bought it on PS3? Probably not. It doesn’t have enough unique features, and while it looks great, it’s not quite up there in the highest echelons of Vita titles that are almost identical to their console counterparts. For newcomers however, this is absolutely one of the best titles currently available on Sony’s new handheld. Unique gameplay, a sense of atmosphere, wonderful charm and a solid length rank this as a must-buy PSN download.