When Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee was released as a launch title for the Xbox in 2001, I didn't pay much attention. At the local CompUSA I saw demos for it and for Halo, and dismissed both out-of-hand. I thought that a thumbstick was a terrible way to try to aim a gun, and that third-person perspective in a game would ruin immersion. Only a first-person view would do.
Now, with the benefit of nearly six years of experience, hindsight, and surgery to remove the stick from up my butt, I see things a little differently. Halo is one of my favorite game series, and Oddworld has just become one of my favorite playgrounds. It's not about immersion, it's not about anal-retentive aiming accuracy, it's about entertainment. And Munch's Oddysee does not fail in that regard.
As I've mentioned in my previous reviews for Abe's Oddysee and Stranger's Wrath, I'm a fancier of the strange, the bizarre, the off. Stranger's Wrath disappointed in that department, for my impression of it was not one of weird creatures from another world, but of cartoon animals from this one. Munch's Oddysee, on the other hand, is as wonderfully weird as Abe's Oddysee.
I almost didn't buy it this time, because of that demo experience years ago. What I remembered of it wasn't that strange. The portion in the demo was not so weird and was very like other platformers. Perhaps Microsoft thought the Oddness of the rest of the game would frighten off potential customers, when actually it's the series' defining characteristic.
But I'm happy I did buy it, because this game is good.
It's everything that Abe's Oddysee was, in a 3D world. All the moves and actions seem natural in 3D, never like a poor translation. The design of the characters and environments is identical to the 2D games, and no little bit of the Oddness is lost in the transition. Nowhere is this more evident than in the design of Munch, a frog-eyed big-headed pot-bellied single-flippered amphibian who is quite speedy in the water but who hops awkwardly on land.
And it's just as much fun if not more. Read my earlier review of Abe's Oddysee to find out why it's fun, and imagine it in 3D to find out why it's more. I recommend a purchase from your local bargain bin or Internet store.
Xbox 360 Users: At the time of this writing, Munch's Oddysee is on the compatibility list, but I experienced jerky cutscene playback. Those who always skip cutscenes probably won't care, but I found the issue annoying enough that I played on an original Xbox instead.