An ode to Abe.
So you hate your job. You weep every night, dreading the next day’s laborious activities. Your boss treats you like a slave, an exaggeration of the grueling tedium that slowly grinds down your daily, waning motivation. Your overseer is demanding, never satisfied and consistently rude.
The luxurious term that we know as the weekend is a foreign prospect to Abe and his Mudokon colleagues and that goes for holidays too.
Eventually, you quit. Why should you suffer such misery for tuppence? But, as luck would have it, after the honeymoon period of your new job ends, you find yourself cursing another demon overlord of a boss, one who controls your life through the means of a shiny, slightly improved pay-packet.
Predictably, the suffering begins again, five-days-a-week, until something better comes along. Well, get over it… Do you realise how lucky you are? Let’s put things into perspective here. Lets compare your common predicament with that of the Mudokon slave known as Abe; the titular character of Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee.
I bet you’ve been caught chit chatting away once or twice by the powers that be during your course of employment. Of course you have. Perhaps you received a stern word, or a subtle dig with reference to your work ethic? Probably. But I guarantee you didn’t end up with your mouth stitched shut, an insurance policy used to prevent jibber jabber at RuptureFarms. Yeah, thought not (and if you did, you may have a strong litigation claim).
Of course, the exclamation that you ‘work like a slave’ is, to put it frankly, completely ridiculous. The luxurious term that we know as the weekend is a foreign prospect to Abe and his Mudokon colleagues and that goes for holidays, too. They are slaves by the very definition. Yet, surprisingly, these hard working, simple folk are satisfied, eager and happy with their employment – Abe was even awarded the prestigious title of ‘Employee of the Year’.
Life was good for Abe, he even thought he had a good job – bless him. That was until RuptureFarms’ profits began to fall and a new business plan was introduced.
They say that RuptureFarms is the biggest meat processing factory on Oddworld, a bold though probably accurate statement. RuptureFarms used to make Meech Munchies, that was until the Meech’s were over-harvested which led to their consequential extinction. Fortunately, RuptureFarms still produced delicious Paramite Pies, as well as some good Scrab Cakes too. But something new was coming. Something ‘new and tasty’. Something that would change Abe’s entire world and his future existence.
Scared, mortified and perhaps a little bit queasy, Abe knew he had only one choice. He had to get the hell out of there.
Casually working the night shift, the inquisitive Abe noticed a late night board meeting taking place. Interested in the company’s dealings like any good employee, Abe decided to take a peek to see what was going on. Sadly and unsurprisingly, Abe did not like what he saw. RuptureFarms announced their latest addition to their menu, a new product line-up which would transform the company’s dismal profit forecasts for the better. And do you know what the new product was? It was Mudokon Pops! They were going to harvest Mudokons! Oh the humanity!
Scared, mortified and perhaps a little bit queasy, Abe knew he had only one choice. He had to get the hell out of there. And fast! But Abe wasn’t the selfish coward that many of us may have understandably been. No, this was an opportunity for a revolution, a desperate revolt. Abe’s courageousness would liberate his fellow downtrodden Mudokons from their grim, impending fate. This was Abe’s destiny! Though he didn’t quite realise it at the time…
Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee was, and is, a rare oddity. The sinister plot was a thought provoking concept: a disturbing vision which depicted the rise of an oppressed and abused race against the corporate global giants. A vision in which the consequence of failure was horrifying.
Few games have crafted such an interesting and compelling story. You desperately wanted Abe to survive. You genuinely feared for his safety. You felt determined, even obliged to free your fellow Mudokons from their hardship. You wanted to make things right.
This was more than just the standard, stereotypical story design which involved getting to the end of the level and triggering a cutscene, or the lazy no-named solider sent to blow everything up to save mankind. Abe’s plight somehow felt very personal.
Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee was strangely charismatic, though equally, unnerving and disturbing. It was a game which would frighten and amuse, one which was never silly enough to detract from the magnitude of the story, nor cold enough to deter the player. It was a game that to this day, successfully performed the perfect balancing act. One minute you could be farting gleefully and laughing at the quirkiness of Abe and his kin. The next, the player could forcefully control an enemy’s mind, watching as they screamed and ran in desperation, eventually exploding into fleshy, bloody chunks.
Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee was strangely charismatic, though equally, unnerving and disturbing.
The factory’s grinders would splice your frail body into a thousand fragments. Deathly drops would be joined by a curdling cry. Each fallen Mudokons blood was on your hands. Every step was met with peril, risk and a longing desire to escape to freedom. The world was hostile. Enemies were ruthless. The environment: deadly. The game itself was extremely difficult. And oddly enough, pardon the pun, we all loved it.
Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee was a two-dimensional platforming game at heart. However, unlike the ever side-scrolling format of others, Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee was split into screens; when the player reached the edge of the screen, the environment was replaced. Hazards could be heard on the other side of the screen, providing an added sense of trepidation with each move.
Abe was bestowed with a number of unique abilities. Abe could walk, run, roll, hoist, jump, crouch, creep; talk to other characters, deactivate mines, pull levels or use his powers of possession to control enemies.
Each screen would present a different challenge, requiring the correct utilisation of Abe’s techniques. Players would have to creep to a shadowed area, roll at the opportune moment, then run and jump over a gap before they were seen by a patrolling Slig. Your mind was constantly tested, as were your platforming skills.
If there’s one aspect that gamers will fondly remember about Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee it has to be Abe’s interaction with other Mudokons or even possessed enemies. Using the mechanic coined GameSpeak, Abe was able to interact with enslaved Mudokons using a variety of short phrases or even flatulence. The funny sounding Abe could control allied, non-player characters by stating “Follow Me!”, or “Wait!”. Alternatively, Abe could fart, whistle, angrily grunt or even chant, adding to the charming, realistic AI encounters. When in control of an enemy Slig, players were able to move and speak to other enemies in the Slig’s native tongue, as well as murder them through the power of telekinesis. Sweet.
Abe’s rhythmic chanting was also used to open bird portals. When in the proximity of a bird portal, Abe’s chanting would activate a gateway, granting any nearby liberated Mudokons the chance to teleport to safety. Although the player wasn’t forced to save Mudokons, the amount of saved slaves would trigger either one of two endings upon completion of the game; a good ending or a bad ending. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which ending is triggered if you chose not to save many Mudokons. Selfishness was not tolerated kindly.
Working Class Hero
So the next time you think “Jeez I’m having a bad day”, pause for a moment and think, “Did I just find out that I was going to be harvested by my boss?” Emotionally? Probably. Physically? Definitely not. Hats off to Abe for not only saving himself, but the future generations of his people.
Employee of the decade.