Oddworld: Soulstorm is the latest entry in the long-running franchise and a reimagining of sorts of Abe's Exoddus from 1998. I wasn't incredibly familiar with the series other than hearing about it in passing, but I do have a soft spot for side-scrolling platformers, so when Sony announced that Soulstorm was launching into PlayStation Plus on PS5, I was eager to try it out. It's... ok.
I've seen several critics more familiar with the series praise Soulstorm's improved platforming, and if that's true, that's actually really concerning to me. I found the platforming in Soulstorm to be rather stiff and janky. Without great precision, I ended up dying all too often when I'd miss a jump or fall off a ledge only to find myself face to face with a Slig. Abe's arms are no match for a gun.
Thankfully, you have various tools at your disposal — water to put out fires, stun mines, flares, etc. — to aid you. Not to mention things like tape that can be used to tie up the Sligs after you knock them out or crafted items like the Bouncy Candy that can be used to hit Sligs from a distance. It took some getting used to the item wheel you have to pull up and how to aim the items themselves without accidentally throwing them, but they became instrumental in progression. I think it'd be near-impossible to complete Soulstorm without them.
The level design is a standout aspect of the game, and I love how everything flows together when you're platforming through a level. The 2.5D environment is meticulously crafted and honestly just looks amazing, even the dark caverns and muddy browns of the opening.
A big element of Soulstorm is its Quarma (karma) system. Save your fellow Mudokons, and you receive positive Quarma. Let them die (or kill a ton of enemies), and you'll get negative Quarma. This is fine in theory, but I just became frustrated with it in practice. While Mudokons can climb and jump to avoid enemies, they're still pretty much helpless if a Slig sees them. One of the first levels when I was tasked with saving 200, I saved just over 40. The rest were gunned down in their attempt to escape. No matter what I did, I could never figure out how to stop the Sligs from killing so many. As soon as I took one down, it seemed two more would appear.
And when it comes to its story, I'm pretty neutral on it. It picked up right after the previous game, so I was definitely out of the loop, but there are enough contextual clues that you'll understand the basics. Your mileage will vary on how much you appreciate Soulstorm and all of its aspects, both good and bad.
I want to reiterate because I know some people will take issue with this, but this is how I view Soulstorm as a newcomer to the series. As others can attest, longtime fans may actually see Soulstorm as a big step forward. I can't see the improvements when this is the only Oddworld I've known. And I realize part of the attraction and charm to Soulstorm will be that nostalgia. That said, this just may show that it's better suited for fans of the series and maybe not for everyone else.
Multiplayer access, free games, and a lot more
PlayStation Plus is offering Oddworld: Soulstorm this month, the latest new release to launch for free on Sony's service. It will be hit or miss depending on your tastes, but I think it's worth at least a download to see if you like it. Grab a PlayStation Plus membership to get all of its other perks, including access to online multiplayer and additional cloud storage.
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