Review – Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee (Switch)

Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee was released back in November of 2001. It was originally slated to be released on the PS2, but instead ended up being a launch title for the Xbox. And boy, what a title! This was the first game in the series to take advantage of the new hardware to create a 3D platforming experience. That, in conjunction with its zany characters and humorous plot, made for a hilariously good time. Now it’s been ported to the Nintendo Switch nineteen years later and the question on everyone’s mind is: is it as great as we remember?

Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee follows the adventures of two heroes, Munch and Abe. Munch discovers that the evil Glukkons have hunted his race, the frog-like Gabbits, to near extinction. They eat their eggs, which they consider a delicacy known as “Gabbiar”, as well as harvest them for their lungs which they use to replace their own due to their chain-smoking habits. Munch is captured and taken to Vykker labs, where he discovers a new race called Fuzzles, which they use in all sorts of cruel testing for new products. The Vykkers fit Munch with a sonar head device in the hopes of having him locate more test subjects, but it quickly goes haywire and Munch escapes.

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The Fuzzles remind me of Fizgig from “The Dark Crystal”.

Meanwhile, Abe is on a mission to free his Mudokkon brethren from the clutches of the Glukkons. He eventually meets up with Munch and the two join forces to save the Mudokkons, free the Fuzzles, and obtain the last can of Gabbiar so Munch can hopefully save his race from extinction. It’s an amusing darkly satirical plot, centering around consumerism greed and corporate environmental devastation, but it does tend to get rather ham-fisted at times.

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I’ll admit, hearing Munch cry in anguish as he realizes he’s the last of his kind, made me choke up a little.

The controls feel just like they did back in 2001 and that’s not necessarily a compliment. Back when this game was first released, I struggled a bit with the controls, but that was commonplace for a game released during that time, so I didn’t think much of it then. Nowadays however, we have access to much more refined hardware and better game engines in which to create more competent and enjoyable gameplay experiences. So going from a 3D platformer like Super Mario Odyssey to this, really makes the wonky controls stand out like a sore thumb.

Munch and Abe will tend to slip off thin walkways and platforms, even if they aren’t too close to the edge. Munch, being an amphibian of sorts, moves very slowly on land, but swiftly in the water. Surprisingly, the swimming controls are more responsive than the land movement, even for Abe. Abe can’t swim, but he can run fast, throw his companions to safety, and even temporarily possess enemies. The possession mechanic I found most of the time to be more of a hindrance than a help, so I barely used it.

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This might be the first time I think the swimming mechanics are better than normal walking around.

Munch can use the device on his head as a sonar to locate nearby Fuzzle cages, zap enemies, or take control of Snoozers (large armored weapons) and Grabbers (moveable crane claws). Abe doesn’t have much in the way of combat except for a slap and his possession ability. There are some vending machines throughout some levels that will grant Munch and Abe some temporary boosts, like an espresso machine that will make them move really fast and a zap drink that will make Munch’s cranial apparatus shoot a strong laser. The effects are brief, but necessary to complete certain objectives.

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I’m not going to help you with that attitude.

Our heroes also have the option to send their rescued comrades to fight their enemies for them. This is a pretty effective option, however, doing so will usually result in some of them perishing. Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee offers multiple endings depending on how many Fuzzles and Mudokons you are able to successfully free throughout your adventure. Depending on your level of “Quarma” you’ll get the Angelic, Good, Bad, or Black ending. Obviously, in order to get the Angelic ending, you’ll have to free all the Fuzzles and Mudokons, while conversely, you’ll need to eliminate them all in order to get the Black ending. This is a great incentive to replay the game, if it doesn’t frustrate you too much, that is.

Another important point to note is that the AI in Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee is remarkably stupid. I can’t tell you how many times one of the Mudokons would get separated from the group because they got stuck on a doorway or around a corner. There were numerous times that I would instruct them to fight, only to have half of them listen, while the other half just stood there watching their friends get massacred. There was another time when I had a Mudokon follow me down into a pit with a well to jump into, only to have him stand there and stare at me. I couldn’t pick him up either, so I had to restart my game to make sure he didn’t get himself stuck again.

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What are you doing there, Abe?

3D platformers have always had a horrible time with controlling the camera and Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee is no exception. The camera can be incredibly aggravating most of the time. If you’re too close to a wall, it will go haywire and zip around in a circle back and forth, unsuccessfully trying to figure out how to get behind you. Sometimes it will even raise or lower its angle of focus for no apparent reason. By far the most annoying aspect is that it’s slow to move around initially, but once it does it flies so fast you’ll more often than not have to correct it and repeat the process. It feels like it’s constantly fighting you every step of the way.

The graphics in the Switch port have been greatly improved. The characters and surrounding areas have sharper details and cleaner textures throughout. It does however suffer from framerate drops, especially when there are many enemies on screen, as well as numerous environmental glitches. I got stuck a few times inside a wall and had to restart the level. Plus, when moving the horrendous camera around, the screen gets blurry like the game is struggling to keep up. It made me feel slightly nauseous a few times when I kept having to swing the camera around to see the surrounding area.

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Controlling the Snoozer is actually pretty fun.

The sound design is decent enough; the music fits well with the tone and feel of the game, and the vocal performances were serviceable. However, I do have two big gripes with sound department. Occasionally, Munch will have access to a wheelchair to help him move around on land faster. This is fine and dandy, except that you’ll have to listen to its squeaky wheel the entire time. There are a few instances in which I opted to just have him flop around on the surface instead of forcing myself to listen to it.

Also, any time the characters stand still for even a moment, they’ll start scratching themselves. Frequently and incessantly, and it’s not quiet either. There were plenty of times that I struggled to hear what someone was saying because my group of Mudokons wouldn’t stop scratching themselves like a dog infested with fleas.

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Someone get this chair some WD-40.

All in all, I do have to say that Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee was a nice nostalgic experience, but its quirkiness isn’t quite enough to make up for its frustrating controls and terrible early 3D platforming camera problems. It’s a shame that the recent ports have only given it a facelift and not some desperately needed quality of life improvements. It’s charming and has some hilariously weird characters, but that’s unfortunately buried under the faulty gameplay mechanics. If you like the appeal of the Oddworld games, maybe try Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath instead.

 

Graphics: 7.0

The Switch port has gotten a nice face lift in terms of graphics, but there are still lots of framerate issues and environmental glitches.

Gameplay: 6.0

A 3D platformer from the original Xbox era and it definitely feels that way. It’s too easy to slip off ledges, even if you aren’t very close to the edge, and the camera can be a nightmare to control.

Sound: 6.0

The music fits the game well and the voice acting is decent, but listening to the characters scratch themselves silly whenever you’re stationary as well as the squeaky wheel on Munch’s wheelchair is annoying.

Fun Factor: 7.0

Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee is a a fun and quirky game that has zany characters and an amusing darkly satirical plot. It could’ve used some updated tweaks on its controls and camera, however.

Final Verdict: 6.5

Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee is available now on Xbox, PS3, Gameboy Advance, PC, and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of  was provided by the publisher.