One of my most memorable reviews that I wrote in my career was for the 2005 Xbox game Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath for the original Xbox. At the time, there were very few games that stunned me the way this one did, with Oddworld’s devotedness showing in every ounce of its production.
Now, fifteen years — and a lot of aging — later, Stranger’s Wrath has returned, this time as a Nintendo Switch release. And I’m happy to say that I’m just as giddy to play it now as I was on the original Xbox. In fact, the game’s gone through a bit of technical boosting, so that it looks and plays than it ever did before. But does that mean the game aged well? I believe so, though it depends on the player.
The game lets you control a bounty hunter-type creature who goes by the moniker of The Stranger, picking up bounty by capturing them with specialized ammo and then vacuuming them up. It’s a nice play on defeating enemies without necessarily leaving a high body count, and fits right in with the Oddworld style of mantra.
There’s a nice mix of third-person platforming/exploration and first-person shooting, with some unique live-creature ammunition to fire from your crossbow. It all handles very nicely, and makes for some good combat scenarios. That said, it might be jarring for some to switch between the two at first, but eventually settles in after about an hour of play.
If you play it like an action game, Stranger’s Wrath feels wonderful. Oddworld did suggest a stealth-style of play a while back, but, really, you’re best off just getting the bad guys and continuing on your way. And what’s more, these action sequences help train you better for the boss battles, so it never hurts to take the general route in this case.
The first-person shooting is accurate and fun to take control of, and the third-person platforming is great, too. Sometimes the falling effect can be a bit clumsy, though you don’t really take any damage from that, so dust yourself off and keep on.
Playing docked is the best way to go with Stranger’s Wrath, if only because you can see all the exquisite beauty the game has to offer this way. It looks sensational, running at (mostly) 60 frames per second without sacrificing that much detail. That said, if you do go handheld, it’s still a great looking game, with the speed to match. Just not as good. (But your call — if you wore out your PS Vita and need a way to take Oddworld on the go with you, this is how to do it.)
Along the way, the Stranger can up his gear game a bit, while also going after bounties that are available in the area. These round out the experience with the terrific story, which still stands out after all this time compared to Oddworld’s typical fare. It’s a great Western tale with a twist you probably won’t see coming — and once it opens up, you’ll be wowed by it.
This, backed by great Western music and voice acting (the Stranger tries to sound like Clint Eastwood, but with his own defining touch), makes the package well-rounded overall. Sure, there are a couple of things that take getting used to, like navigation and switching between camera perspectives. But Stranger’s Wrath remains just as much of a treat as it was 15 years ago. And now, a new generation can discover it and see what they missed. They definitely shouldn’t be a stranger to this awesome release.