An old Xbox exclusive has been given a fresh lick of paint; Strangerís Wrath is a true cult classic that deserves a lot of attention. Just Add Water having given Oddworld a complete overhaul and itís about time too. Right from the opening cinematic you know you are in for something special.
Strangerís world is a Western full of weird and wonderful creatures and characters. You quickly get the feeling that the protagonist, Stranger (a hairy creature in a cowboy hat) is a powerful yet vulnerable beast in his world. He runs around laying traps and darting around the environment which sets you up for exactly what you will be doing for next ten to fifteen hours of gameplay and you can just tell youíll have a blast doing it.
Stranger doesnít believe in guns. He tells you as much himself. What he does believe in is a double barreled crossbow that can be loaded with a variety of Ďliveí ammo. That's ammo that lives and breathes and must be hunted from your environment. All the ammunition is based on real creatures and the effect it has in-game corresponds to the real life properties of that particular beast. Zappflies are unlimited; they are your standard Ďbulletí and can be charged up for a more powerful shot. With your Zappflies you can hunt the rest of your ammo; they are the bread and butter of your ammo belt. Thudslugs are powerful shotgun-esque whereas Chippunks attract enemy attention and Bolamite Spiders wrap enemies up,
rendering them temporarily stunned. All the ammo has been given personality, characteristics and dialogue that they mutter to Stranger throughout the story based on how they should
talk. They are funny as well, which is a running theme throughout your adventure.
Oddworld was always a humorous place but Strangerís Wrath is almost guaranteed to raise a smile from even the most stony faced player.
Stranger is a bounty hunter with a back-story. You arrive in a town populated with swearing chickens (which are also pretty funny) with the sole aim of rounding up outlaws to raise cash. Once you accept a mission you go off and attempt to capture the outlaw in question. You get more bounty if you bring them in alive and it is here that the live ammo system really shines. All enemies can be killed and taken in by a special device Stranger helpfully has on him, or incapacitated and arrested before their bodies decompose. You get more cash to buy upgrades and equipment if you bring your enemies in alive, which pushes you towards non lethal means of acquiring your prey. In a sense itís a furry version of Metal Gear Solid. Boombats might be a good way to take out a large group of enemies (they explode Ė obviously) but stunning them and wrapping them up in a spider's web will reap better rewards in the long run.
As you progress through the story the ammo selection opens up to unveil some ingenious inclusions that cater for a wide variety of play styles. Going in all guns blazing is always an option but you wonít get the most out of Oddworld that way; stealth (Stranger cannot be seen in tall grass) and planning will yield better results. This is one of the gameís greatest strengths. Freedom of choice is often restricted in modern titles and whilst the path you tread through Oddworld is almost completely linear the way you tackle each situation is entirely up to you. There are a few strong weapon choices that you can fall back on repeatedly but each type of ammo has had enough thought put into it that you can apply them all to nearly any situation. You have a radar to help you take down enemies before you go for the big boss so you can lay traps for a few and lure others away from the pack to take them out alone.
Bosses themselves each have unique weapons and characteristics that encourage you to use your environment and your arsenal to proper effect. Some of them are challenging enough to make you rethink your first strategy to achieve success. This is a good thing, there is no need for hand holding in a game targeted at adults.
Strangerís Wrath is also a hybrid of first and third person perspectives. Movement is faster and easier in third person and shooting is taken care of in first person. On Vita you alternate between the two with a double tap of the front screen. The rear touch panel acts as a punch when you are in first person perspective. Initially this can be frustrating for those with large hands; you will be punching too often when you donít mean to but you will quickly adapt to this. Visually the Vita does an astounding job with the updated visuals. All the character models have been updated with added visual detail and it runs smoothly at the screen's native resolution. This is something that very few titles have been able to manage so far and praise is definitely due. Elsewhere upgraded lighting has been added and new age visual flair applied so that it comfortably stands up to any peer available on the handheld console.
The character driven nature of the story is also excellently handled. You come across villains and allies that drive hidden motivations right from the start of the tale. By the time youíve completed it and been through a few plot twists along the way, Strangerís Wrath will stick in your mind long after the credits roll. At the end of the day Stranger has a secret and once you start to learn a little about him as a character and the world he lives in, youíll want to see it through to the end.
Strangerís Wrath was always a fantastic game. This remaster proves that and goes further. In a time when everything else on the market is being funnelled down the same corridor full of set pieces, an injection of humour, compelling narrative and gameplay full of choice is a much needed breath of fresh air. The Vita performs strongly against the PS3 and Xbox360 versions of the same game and deserves to do well in its own right. It stands as proof that a first person shooter can work on the handheld, you just need to have a good game there to start with.
+ Totally unique design
+ Brilliant freedom of choice
+ Engaging story and gameplay
- Nothing. Buy this game.
System: Sony PlayStation Vita
Genre: Action Adventure
Developer: Just Add Water / Oddworld Inhabitants
Publisher: Just Add Water
Reviewed: December 2012
Writer: Blair Macdonald