From the Vault: Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath
"ODDWORLD: STRANGER'S WRATH"
Electronic Arts, for the Xbox, rated T for Teen (blood and gore, strong language, violence), $49.95.
Clint Eastwood might have just won an Oscar, but chances are he never fired off a Boombat or a Chippunk.
They're just two of the creatures you can use as ammo in "Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath," a stylish, original shooter that takes several pages from Eastwood's "Man With No Name" Westerns ("For a Few Dollars More," "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly") and adds a large dollop of creature-feature weirdness.
"Stranger's Wrath" takes place in the "Oddworld" universe but is separate from the previous games in that series ("Abe's Exodus,""Munch's Oddysee"). Here, you play the Stranger, who is a cross between Eastwood and Joe Camel. He sounds like he had a few too many cigarettes, too.
The Stranger desperately needs a life-saving operation, and to raise the necessary money, he becomes a bounty hunter, rustling up law-breaking varmints such as Filthy Hands Floyd and Looten Duke to collect the cash rewards.
That's where the Boombats come in. In order to corral the miscreants and their rather large posses, you'll need to collect the different species of "live ammo" that dot across the countryside and load them into your crossbow.
Each animal comes with unique abilities. As the name suggests, Boombats explode upon impact. Bolamites spin webs that tie up your opponents. Stunkz spray an obnoxious odor that brings the bad guys to their knees. Chippunks lure enemies out from hiding with their snarky comments.
Should you run out of ammo, or just tire of firing round after round of wasps, you can head butt or punch gangsters in third-person mode. Usually, toggling back and forth from third- to first-person viewpoint would be a stomach-churning experience, but here it's seamless, as is just about every other aspect of the controls.
The trickiest part about collecting bounties is bringing them back alive. You can slay your enemies if you like (or need to), but that brings in less money, which you need for your mysterious operation.
Wearing them down and then capturing them is essential to success in the game. "Doom" this isn't. And thank goodness. "Stranger's Wrath" combines elements of humor, suspense, action and melee shooting and melds it all together into its own wonderful, unique package.
What's more, the game play here is well thought out and designed. There are a variety of ways to take down a villain's fortress. You can charge in and spray Thudslugs or take a more stealth-based approach.
The enemies tend to be a bit on the dim side -- they'll quickly forget about you if you run away or hide behind a rock -- but the game compensates for that by throwing dozens of them at you at a time. And while you can shake off any wounds you receive, it takes only a few well-aimed shots to do you in.
On the minus side, the challenge bar is set a bit high, especially in some of the boss fights. And it's a shame there's no multiplayer option to speak of. But these are minor quibbles in the face of a game that's so thoroughly and delightfully original.
If you're a shooter fan, don't let "Stranger's" oddness put you off. It's one of the most enjoyable first-person shooter games to come down the pike in quite some time.
Copyright The Patriot-News, 2008
Labels: video games