When Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath first came out a few years ago on the original Xbox, I simply couldn't get enough of it. Here was a thrilling game experience that combined the fun of creative first-person shooting with superbly polished third-person platforming, all wrapped up in a story that I consider one of the best that Lorne Lanning and his team at Oddworld Inhabitants put together. Unfortunately, Electronic Arts' lack of marketing left the game being more of a cult favorite than a best seller and soon after Oddworld shifted to making films instead.
But the legacy of the Stranger is not forgotten. Late last year, the development team at Just Add Water worked on a beautiful high-definition version of Stranger's Wrath, releasing it just in time for the post-holiday rush and finding audiences both old and new for a very affordable $14.99. In addition, the team added new perks to the package, including 3D visual support and the ability to use the PlayStation Move.
The journey STILL isn't over. A couple of months ago, the team confirmed that it was also bringing the HD port over to the PlayStation Vita, adding another killer title to Sony's holiday 2012 line-up. We assume that every morsel of humorous goodness that went into the original game and its predecessor will be present and accounted for here.
The story follows a shadowy bounty hunter named the Stranger who uses non-violent (but very effective) means to hunting down his prey in the form of specialized bugs that perform various duties and a special "wrap-up" technique that stuns enemies, before sucking them into a vacuum for collection. From there, he collects his rewards as necessary before moving on. However, there's a deeper story at play here, one dealing with a sinister enemy that could very well have some sort of tie-in with the Stranger's ancestry. It's your job to hunt down the group of varmints and see where the truth lies.
Stranger's Wrath stands out as one of Oddworld Inhabitants' best efforts in a number of ways. First off, rather than putting you in control of a hapless hero like Abe (who's still likable – don't get us wrong), you're a gunslinger that can actually do something against your foes, whether you spin-fist them and knock 'em down for the count or shoot them with a variety of bugs wandering across the plains. Switching between first person and third person perspectives is practically seamless and sometimes necessary when it comes to facing groups of enemies you need to bring down quickly.
Though Just Add Water hasn't confirmed any specific gameplay elements that could take advantage of the PS Vita's touch-screen capabilities or cameras, it will be suited for general controls with its twin sticks. You'll be able to aim at enemies with ease using the dual-analog controls, while also controlling precision movement in the third person.
The real question is how the game will come across in terms of presentation. The Vita is limited compared to how the PS3 runs, but knowing the developer they've probably got the development kit figured out well enough that the game can run efficiently. At the time of this preview, the game is just about wrapped up and ready for submission and likely to be released in a few weeks' time.
The game is amongst the most visually lush efforts to come out of Oddworld Inhabitants' stable, with a huge Western town to explore and several miles of mountain-covered land to check out while you hunt down criminals and bits and pieces of the story. The early screens we saw from the Vita build are quite impressive, with a lot of work put into the textures and animations. When the Stranger scampers around, he does so with a bit of confidence but never to the point of being too cocky. Enemies are also well personified, from the big gun carriers to the smaller varmints that are harder to shoot.
As for the audio, expect plenty of great voicework as the Stranger tries his best to impersonate Cline Eastwood from the old Sergio Leone flicks. The other characters sound great too and this version should be backed by a compelling soundtrack, just like the PS3 edition has.
Now we're left wondering one thing – will Stranger's Wrath be one of those games that qualifies as a Cross-Buy title? We already own the PS3 version and can't help but wonder if we're paying extra pocket change for this one. $15 isn't a big deal to us, but to some people, it might be a bit of strain on the wallet.
We'll find out all the details soon enough when the final downloadable version of Stranger's Wrath releases for Vita next month. If the previous PS3 release was any indication, you're in for a great romp on your next car trip.