During the N64 and Playstation era, free-roaming collectathon platformers reigned supreme. Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, Crash, Spyro- rave-reviewed, fondly-remembered kings of their time. As the next console generation rolled in, however, the genre suddenly seemed to die on its arse. With these early-mid 2000′s era platformers getting a second chance on Steam lately, I think it’s becoming apparent why.
The Oddworld series, beginning with Abe’s Oddysee (which was awful) and Abe’s Exoddus (which was super) somewhat defied definition. They were, I guess, 2D puzzle-platformers? You were tasked with using Abe’s acrobatics to solve rooms full of traps so that your mudokon buddies could escape with their lives (or, alternatively, throw them under the bus so you could escape scot-free). To a large degree, gameplay was gated only by how thorough you were in saving all of the mudokons, combined with the player’s skill versus the (really bloody difficult) platforming sections.
In transition to a 3D free-roam collectathon platformer, Oddworld’s lost its way. To begin, the controls are atonishingly bad, with each button being assigned two or three different functions based only on how long you hold it down for. Most of them are used to speak with and issue commands to the mudokons you find along the way.
What really scrabs my paramites, though, is the entirely arbitrary addtion of collectible currency. Dotted around the entire world are Spooce Spores, which Abe must collect in order to open doors. These are not challenging in the slightest to obtain, being used in much the same way as coins in the Mario series. You can even, as many times as you like, chant over a spore to cause it to regrow in a matter of seconds, ready to be collected again. The doors are therefore entirely pointless- if you find yourself short on spores, you can simply stand over a site and chant endlessly until you have enough.
Oddworld became a collectathon Just Because, and I think a great many other games did likewise. The genre didn’t die so much as become ubiquitous.
Fin or Bin:
The most recent title, Oddworld: Super Mario’s Oddysee, came out on Switch in 2017. I’ve got high hopes for that one. Munch, however, can go back into the Bins of time.