Developer: Oddworld Inhabitants
If I ever found myself teaching Game Design 101, there’s no doubt in my mind what I’d do first: hand every student a copy of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath. Hopefully they’d all be gamers already -- without a basis for comparison, it would be easy to overlook how deep the brilliance runs in Stranger’s Wrath, how elegantly and studiously every element of design coalesces into a rich gameplay experience.
Stranger’s Wrath does everything perfectly, more or less. It transplants the quirky charm of Oddworld into a dusty western, and the two mesh unbelievably well, creating the most memorable old west setting this side of Red Dead Redemption. Stranger’s arsenal of living creature ammunition echo the traditional machine guns and shotguns of gaming, but they’re constantly evolving, taking on new abilities that encourage player freedom in every combat situation. And they’re fun—no real bullet can compare to an odorous Stunkz bomb, which instantly sends nearby enemies into fits of barfdom.
Even the level design in Stranger’s Wrath demonstrates remarkable care and cunning. There are always new places to explore and adventure through, but you’ll find no backtracking in Stranger’s world. Wrath never loses its forward momentum, never stops offering the player new choices. Fight in first-person or third? Bring that bounty in dead or alive? Blow away a gang of outlaws with explosive Boombats or distract them with insult-slinging Chippunks?
The ultimate choice, of course, is whether to play Stranger’s Wrath at all. With an HD port in the works for Sony’s PlayStation Network and a Steam Oddworld compilation on the way, tracking down a copy of the game will no longer be an obstacle. When the game is released anew, play it. Pass it up a second time, and you’ll be poorer for the choice.