Even though the Oddworld Inhabitants are best known for the puzzling antics of Abe, everyone’s favourite Mudokon, the initial plan for the creation team was to deliver multiple series of games, with different gameplay takes and mechanics.
There’s no doubting the fact that Abe’s Oddessy was the most successful of those ideas, spawning Oddworld: Soulstorm some decades later. But Xbox players may well have fond memories of Munch and his Oddysee, as well as the rootin’ tootin’ Wild West shooting moments of Stranger.
It’s that latter character who allowed the Inhabitants and the development team at Square One Games to go wild, with a shooting adventure that could be flipped and flopped between first person and third person viewpoints with ease. For many it worked and whilst there was never the same amount of love sent the way of Stranger, here and now, with Stranger’s Wrath HD, a whole new generation of gamers can bear witness to those best laid plans.
And you know what? For a game that is basically utilising mechanics that were first put in place way back in 2005, and visuals which have only been tidied up a little, it works really well. At least it does if you can put the retroness it brings to one side.
Stranger’s Wrath HD focuses all efforts on Stranger, a Wild West gunslinger who is intent on taking home the biggest of bounties. You see, bounties – dead or alive – mean money, and for anyone to survive in the war torn environments that he thrives in, moolah is king.
It’s up to you to take charge of Stranger, jumping, running and mostly shooting your way to glory, bagging up victims and reaping the rewards. Set in a wonderful world that, whilst fairly linear, allows for a little exploration, Stranger’s Wrath HD will have you chatting with the strangest of folk and attempting to take down even freakier foes. Rid the land of badness and Stranger can saunter off into the sunset, cash in hand. It’s a simple premise.
Back in 2005, Stranger’s Wrath was a bit of a trendsetter. The main focus was on Stranger’s offensive capabilities as his dual-ammo’d crossbow allowed for a variety of tactical attacks. But the switch between first and third person viewpoints, on the fly, whenever you would wish, was also a clever mechanic. I’ll admit, it does feel a little cumbersome in use now, and for this reviewer, sticking to the first person action at all times would have been preferred. But it’s nice that the option is there.
It’s in the ammo options where Stranger’s Wrath is set apart from others though. You see, ‘live’ ammo needs to be obtained and so you’ll need to go on the hunt for the critters which can frequent your bow.
There’s a nice range of options too, with the likes of the Bolamite capable of incapacitation, the attraction of the Chippunk, or the damage which lay within the Zappflies, the Thudslugs and gorgeous little Fuzzles ensuring that it’s easy to mix and match attack options. Whether you use specific ammo as a distraction, or go in all-guns blazing, Stranger’s Wrath HD caters for it – at least as long as you spend just enough time hunting down the ammo you need.
Taking down enemies in the usual way is very much the aim, but you don’t always need to go for the ultimate kill. Stunning foes – both the grunts and any ‘boss’ characters – will mean Stranger can then bag them out instead of letting them rot in the ground. It’s here where he’ll be able to spend time exchanging his bounty for larger amounts of cash: something which should always be the preference.
Upgrading abilities, ammo and more is all possible too. In fact, in those terms Stranger’s Wrath HD very much plays like a more modern, everyday shooter.
For all the good though, whether you get on with Stranger’s Wrath HD will be determined by your take on gaming as a whole. This is very much a game of yesteryear and even though it’s been put together well enough and is visually impressive – smacked with the HD tag – personally we’d like to have seen a full reboot. That’s not to say we’ve not enjoyed our time rootin’ and tootin’, but we’d have preferred more, particularly in the way of the audio, which feels extremely old hat and repetitive.
Perhaps though – much like how Abe had a New n’ Tasty experience prior to the release of Soulstorm – this HD version of Stranger’s Wrath will lead to something similar. We’d be first in line to see how those adventures would unfold.
For the most part though, and no matter how many years have passed since the first release, Stranger’s Wrath HD holds up well – and that’s coming from a player who rarely feels the need to retrace gaming steps from years gone by. Stranger may not have the utter appeal of an Abe title, and he might feel a bit rough in places, but the basic premise and ideas of Stranger’s Wrath HD are so great that the old school elements can be somewhat overlooked.
Stranger’s Wrath HD is available from the Xbox Store