I didn’t need to read a single sentence about Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath to know it was going to be out-of-the-ordinary. There it is right in the name, Oddworld; the people at Oddworld Inhabitants obviously pride themselves on not being mainstream. Stranger’s Wrath is a western adventure game; you take control of a bounty hunter known only as Stranger, in a world filled with ill-tempered frog bandits wearing Cat in the Hat caps and stuck up chickens who will pay money for captured outlaws. The abandoned junk yards and under ground taverns are packed with outlaws and if Stranger is to raise the money he needs for his mysterious operation, he is going to have to cash in on a fair share of bounties.
Stranger’s Wrath is an adventure game in which you can switch between the 1st and 3rd person perspectives by pressing in the right thumbstick. The 3rd person perspective provides better awareness and when running in the 3rd person, Stranger will go down on all fours and gallop at a much quicker pace. Battles are best fought in the 1st person. Though you can perform a spin move and a powerful head butt in 3rd person, the 1st person gives you access to Stranger’s double-barreled crossbow. Instead of arrows, Stranger’s crossbow can be loaded with chipmunks, skunks, yellow jackets, and other “Live Ammo.”
The majority of Stranger’s Wrath’s gameplay circles around the “Live Ammo” concept. Each type of ammunition provides a unique purpose, almost all of which are useful in certain situations. Chipmunks, chippunks rather, can be used to lure an enemy towards them with their squeaky voices and below-the-belt insults. When an enemy goes to stomp on the irritation he could possibly walk into a fuzzle, and landmine of sorts that will jump up and gnaw any outlaws passing by. Or, by firing a bolamite (Oddworld’s equivalent of a spider), you got yourself a defenseless bad guy, all rapped up like something out of Spider-Man.
There are, of course, straightforward explosions everywhere, take no prisoners solutions. Stingbees can be fired rapidly and home in on a target while boombats pack enough punch to kill a tightly knit group of gossiping outlaws. However, it is a good idea to refrain from doing this most of the time. Running out and killing an enemy where he stands will usually attract the attention of all his buddies, and when that happens the arrows start flying in from every direction and Stranger’s health depletes quickly. You can run off where Stranger can’t be seen during which time “shaking off” the damage can regenerate Stranger’s health. It should be noted, once you learn the do’s and don’ts the ability to heal so quickly takes too much away from the challenge of the game. But in the beginning you may find yourself unable to escape before Stranger gets killed, after which all the enemies in the area will run over and kick and poke Stranger’s body.
For the majority of the game Stranger’s missions revolve around capturing a single foe, who he has a show-down with after fighting through his or her posse. Firing some stingbees and then running for cover will chip away the boss’ health but, like all outlaws, a boss captured alive will reap a considerably heftier reward. Since a boss isn’t as vulnerable to bolamites or skunkbombs (a normal enemy can be captured while vomiting from the stench of a fired skunkbomb) getting the extra few hundred dollars for capturing him or her alive is a bit of a challenge. Under the boss’ life gauge is another bar, one that replenishes over time. In order to render a boss helpless this bar must be lowered almost or all the way, which requires a continuous fire from Stranger’s arsenal.
While you wouldn’t think western environments would leave much room for creativity, what with all the ghost towns and vast deserts, Stranger’s Wrath is surprisingly colorful. There is some cheating (some of the more stunning surroundings aren’t found in the west, but far off lands), but even the dusty trails look good, making you feel like you’re in a wasteland.
However, the wasteland feeling might be done too well. The towns Stranger will travel through are brimming with talkative cluckers, the talking chickens, all doing their own thing, yet these towns often feel ghostly, due to the absence of music. This would be redeemed somewhat by some quality background noises adding some life to the surroundings, alas they are also lacking. I can see the Texas oil pumps but I can’t hear them.
Live Ammo was definitely a nice change of pace from your, now lame in comparison, regular projectiles. Although a little too easy, with the exception of the final half hour, and too short, Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath is an enjoyable game. Just when the cashing in of bounty after bounty starts to get stale the game takes a considerable twist, making some significant gameplay alterations, which keeps things interesting for the remainder of the game.
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