Review – Oddworld: Soulstorm

Oddworld: Soulstorm was announced more than half a decade ago by the franchise’s creator, Lorne Lanning, as a sequel to the then recently released Oddworld: New ‘N’ Tasty!. Both games were conceived as expanded remakes of the PS1 classics, in a similar vein to the Final Fantasy VII Remake. They not only feature improved graphics and controls, but also new levels, storylines, and a lot more overall lore. After so many delays, Soulstorm is finally available on PC, PS4, and PS5. Was Abe’s debut on the newest generation of consoles worth the wait?

Oddworld: Soulstorm Intro

This is how the game BEGINS.

Being a sequel to a remake of the original Oddworld (a remake to Abe’s Exoddus), I was impressed with the fact that Oddworld: Soulstorm doesn’t care at all whether you’ve played the previous games in the series or not. It starts off with Abe and the freed Mudokons running away from the Glukkons and Sligs from the previous game. The game doesn’t give you an explanation as to what is happening and why it is happening. Honestly, I’ve come to respect this decision of keeping a nearly decade-old vision intact. The overall plot of the game, as well as its background setting, might be a bit confusing for newcomers. However, Oddworld: Soulstorm is such a fun and well-written game that you’ll probably decide to read summaries about the previous games because its world is so captivating.

All of the mechanics featured in previous Oddworld games are featured in here. Abe can run, jump, press switches, pull levers, and most importantly, he can use his spiritual powers and leadership skills to either guide fellow Mudokons to safety or possess nearby enemies. In each and every level, Abe needs to save as many slaves as possible, guiding them through traps and dangerous foes until he reaches a bird portal, a weird time-space anomaly that allows you to permanently save any slaves following you. Meanwhile, possessing enemies lets you control them, using their weapons against their own kind.

Oddworld: Soulstorm Cutscenes

Oddworld: Soulstorm features some damn impressive cutscenes.

There are tons of puzzles based around these gameplay mechanics. This is a brutal game where the slightest mistake will result in your death, but that’s not an issue at all. Oddworld: Soulstorm is so freaking generous with its checkpoints, as there’s literally a new one before and after each individual puzzle, that dying doesn’t feel like a hassle. You’ll respawn a mere milliseconds later, right in front of the beginning of the puzzle. It’s a perfect implementation of the tried and true “trial and error” mechanic.

One thing a lot of Oddworld fans have always complained about with the previous games in the franchise was that they featured weighty controls, heavily inspired by (dated) games like Prince of Persia and Blackthorne. I’m glad to inform that this is not the case in Oddworld: Soulstorm. Sure, the game still retains a bit of that classic “cinematic platformer” feel, but the main playable character Abe feels nimble and responsive, like never before. He jumps with Mario-esque levels of precision, and is even able to perform double jumps and change their direction mid-air. This directly impacts the game’s overall level design, as there are tons of hidden areas to unveil by performing jumping tricks in hard-to-reach places.

Oddworld: Soulstorm Sorrow Valley

Sorrow Valley? What an inviting name!

Oddworld: Soulstorm features a great gameplay loop and excellent controls, but believe it or not, that’s not what I liked the most about it. I downright loved its presentation. I’m not going to affirm that what I’ve seen in this PlayStation 5 port could have only been achieved with the power of the next generation of consoles, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t appreciate its graphics and sound design.

Surprisingly enough, this game was crafted on the Unity engine and it looks amazing. With the exception of a few ugly textures here and there, Oddworld: Soulstorm is basically comprised of massive levels with great lighting effects. I could see the quality of the game’s lights and shadows whenever I used Abe’s chant ability to light up a path inside a pitch black cave, for instance. I was also impressed with the excellent character animations, and most importantly, its cinematic cutscenes. Every single character in this game is equally intentionally hideous and absolutely adorable. Abe is one hell of an ugly Mudokon, but his expressions are so vivid I can’t help but want to hug him, just to say everything will be alright in the end.

My stealth skills are off the charts.

The same can be said about the sound design. Every single Oddworld game has been praised for its soundtrack, but one thing I wasn’t expecting to like so much was Soulstorm‘s voice acting. All characters have the weirdest of voices. The Mudokons sound like a mix between Bubsy, Donald Duck, and a heavy smoker. Yet they are portrayed with such enthusiasm and charisma that I would constantly make Abe interact with an object he wasn’t supposed to just to hear him say “I dunno what to do” in his weird yet charming voice. The game also uses the DualSense’s built-in speakers to utter a few sentences every now and then, especially when Abe uses his chant abilities.

Me and the lads going to the pub on Friday.

I don’t simply just adore Oddworld: Soulstorm, I also deeply respect its vision. Lorne Lanning and his team took their time to craft an incredibly well-polished game aimed specifically at fans of the franchise. Yet it’s so fun to play and has such an engaging story that even those who have never played an Oddworld game before will still have a great time with its endearing characters, polished controls, and creative puzzles. This game took forever to come out, but it was most certainly worth the wait.

Graphics: 8.5

Despite featuring some occasionally underwhelming textures and a few graphical glitches every now and then, Oddworld: Soulstorm features impressive visuals, with massive levels, great lighting effects, and excellent character animations. This might possibly be the most visually impressive game ever made on the Unity engine.

Gameplay: 8.5

It retains everything that worked in previous Oddworld games, such as the chant powers and the challenging level design, while modernizing its controls to a more acceptable standard. Gone are the weighty jumping mechanics, for instance.

Sound: 8.5

While Soulstorm‘s soundtrack is already quite good in its own right, I wasn’t expecting for a game like this to feature excellent voice acting.

Fun Factor: 8.5

Oddworld: Soulstorm is not only an engaging experience that will even captivate people who have never played a game in the franchise, but also a challenging and addictive puzzle platformer that offers a staggering amount of content.

Final Verdict: 8.5

Oddworld: Soulstorm is available now on PS4, PS5, and PC.

Reviewed on PS5.

A copy of Oddworld: Soulstorm was provided by the publisher.