Game: Oddworld – Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus

Finished playing on: 24th and 18th of April respectively.

Abe’s Exoddus has been one of my favourite games for a large number of years, but I only played its predecessor, Oddysee, for the first time last year. And I felt it was time for another playthrough, and another comparison.

This time around I played right through Exoddus, but took the more unusual route of killing as many Mudokons as possible rather than saving them. It’s very pleasing to my sadistic side. Evidently, when you do kill them all, you come back about halfway through the game (at the point where you’re asked to change discs) with invulnerability. I’ve yet to take advantage of this…

Anyway, it’s kind of a fun way to play the game, for some reason. One of Exoddus’s changes from Oddysee was that the Mudokons now have moods, so they might be angry or depressed. If their fellow Mudokons die onscreen, they become depressed – or if they’re already depressed they’ll kill themselves. And if they get angry next to each other, they’ll kill each other, so a lot of the work killing them is done for you. I’ve yet to confirm properly, but I suspect the same won’t be possible in Oddysee – since you can’t always get the Mudokons to kill each other in the same kind of way, it’s probably harder at least, since you actually have to find other ways of doing it more often.

Overall, there’s not much difference gameplay-wise between the two games; the main one, of course, is the size of the game itself – Exoddus is on two discs and requires you to save three times as many Mudokons for 100%. It also has the aforementioned angry, depressed, blind, sick and laughing-gassed Mudokons for you to deal with, and one can also possess more of the beasts that inhabit the original game.

The biggest difference by far is the savestate, or “Quiksave”, feature in Exoddus. Annoyingly, I got 97/99 on my playthrough of Oddysee, and I entirely blame the fact that there was no savestate feature, so I probably died and forgot to fucking repeat a secret area or something. As for the secret areas themselves, in a way it’s a shame that Exoddus kinda marks them (well, all except the one on the very first screen) out with subtle-but-obvious-as-a-brick-once-you-know-the-trick clues, but at the same time, it’s annoying that Oddysee doesn’t give you a similar concession. Its secret areas require more trial and error, and sometimes just a keen eye, to spot. And therefore, despite having to use a guide to make sure I didn’t miss any anyway, I still evidently ended up missing one. I suspect that that’s what happened, anyway. So annoying. Fortunately, it’s not as long a game as Exoddus and therefore maybe easier to repeat over, although I’m not as familiar with the levels, so tend to spend longer solving them. Kinda balances out really.

Oddysee also fills in a lot of the bits of Exoddus that I thought, ironically, were lacking; evidently they decided they’d covered that ground already and didn’t need to bother, or something. In particular, there’s a mechanism for Sligs to have Slogs follow them; a mechanic which is sort of sprung on you in one of the final levels of Exoddus but which was explored more in full in Oddysee.

Overall, they’re basically just one big long game, since the basic gameplay is exactly the same. One big long, graphically-rich-despite-being-2D, wonderfully-characterised story set in an exciting world. Exoddus does iron out a lot of problems, though!

One last thing… I saw a speedrun video of Exoddus recently, and the guy had exploited a bug in order to climb through floors, which at one point basically allows him to skip about half the game. Blew my fucking mind.


Film #11: Trainspotting (1996)

director: Danny Boyle
language: English
length: 94 minutes
watched: 23rd April

Danny Boyle is a stylish motherfucker. Perhaps too stylish, because while this film does portray all the horrors of drug abuse… they still come across as having a more exciting life than viewers do. Oh, I can’t even be bothered reviewing this properly, just gonna jump straight for the beating heart of that old “is it glamorising drugs???” chestnut. And my answer is a boring, non-committal “Maybe, maybe not…”. It’s not exactly nice about them, put it that way…

So yeah, I could easily harp on about the complex characters or scene composition, but I can’t be bothered – I’m two months behind on my film reviewing now (even though there are a couple of massive gaps of like 3 weeks). Gotta catch up.

TV: The IT Crowd series 4 (2010)

director: Graham Linehan
episodes: 6 * 24 minutes
finished watching on: April 19

I’d actually forgotten that I’d watched this. But apparently it’s my first entry in the TV category. Hooray!

I’m not really sure what to make of it as a whole… it’s good, certainly, but I feel it’s got strong episodes, such as the Countdown episode pictured above, and decidedly weak ones. All I remember of the other ones are a D&D-themed one, one that takes jabs at Scientology, and one that, for some reason, has Noel Fielding’s character turn up in a courtroom at the end. I’ve completely forgotten the context.

Now… I think, to be fair, that this is a trait shared by all the IT Crowd series; they’ve got their strong episodes that I’ll want to come back and watch again, and they’ve got their weak ones that I just feel embarrassed watching, but I’m fairly sure I thought the earlier series were slightly better than this one, in that they had more “strong” episodes. Or maybe I just need to rewatch the episodes or something.

My other complaint is the DVD menus – while previous series generally tended to lampoon famous games from different gaming eras (including Zero Wing, that fighting game, Grow Cube, and even Lemmings on the second series DVD, which I still think is one of the coolest things…), this one bases all its menus on the same game, and at that, apparently an obtuse puzzle game from the internet and one that I’ve not even heard of. It’s kind of annoying really – while it’s not strictly a complaint about the series itself, having fun extras has always been one of the cool things about the IT Crowd DVDs. But never mind.

Here’s to series 5, anyway. This one was certainly a good series – it’s just that I’m having trouble remembering what goes on during it! Should teach me not to delay updating this for so long.

Film #10: Safe Journey (1993)

aka: Latcho Drom
director: Tony Gatlif
language: Romany, et al.
length: 103 minutes
watched on: 14/Apr

This film has some really beautiful imagery and music in it… but it’s terribly boring. Perhaps it’s because I was told it was something that it wasn’t really… namely that it was a documentary about gypsies travelling across Europe. And that’s only sort of true; the film is filmed in a matter-of-fact style, although not one that I would immediately label “documentary”, but it’s the film, not the gypsies themselves, that travels during its hundred-minute course.

Basically it starts in the ancestral Romany homeland of northern India and goes west from there, through Iran and Turkey and into Europe, finally ending up in Spain. And in each location we’re treated to a performance by Romany musicians. And a lot of the music was genuinely really good – and as I say, beautiful imagery along the way too! – but just not at all memorable. And there’s absolutely nothing in between; one song will finish, the film will jump to the next location, and the next song will start. So I didn’t feel that the movie had enough to tie it together.

It also does that annoying thing of not subtitling enough of the lyrics – evidently only the ones that “matter” or whatever. I find this annoying… but maybe just because I’m the kind of person that wants an interlinear gloss with every line of dialogue in a film rather than the loose translation that one normally gets with subtitles!

For me, it was just a great big meh of a film…

Book #12: Good Omens (1990)

authors: Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
language: English
format: audio; read by Stephen Briggs
length: 10 glorious hours
finished on: 2011-04-14

Some book snob might look at the fact that I listened to this in MP3 format rather than reading it in dead tree format and judge me adversely for it. I don’t really care, I still consumed the same words. Actually I’m probably better at listening to stories than I am at reading them sometimes, since if I’m tired I sometimes accidentally skip over a bit. And with audio I can listen to it while walking a lot easier than I can with a proper book. And having an audiobook to listen to encourages me to go for a walk to have an excuse to listen to it, so I get exercise… Oh whatever.

Anyway, this story was very enjoyable and I found myself getting enthralled in it quite easily. A lot of it’s standard Pratchett fare – it uses a lot of the tropes that crop up all the time in Discworld, like the Grim Reaper, and people being generally dense, and that whole “weirdness censor” thing that humans allegedly have. Seeing as I haven’t read any of Gaiman’s other works, I can’t say for sure whether this applies to him as well. I shall have to see (I have since bought one of his books but have yet to start it).

I can’t really be bothered getting into the nitty gritty of it all at the moment, particularly because I finished listening to it two months ago (damn you laziness at updating the blog!). I do remember liking the characters, as a sort of general statement, but finding it a bit too south-of-England-centric (again, roughly standard Pratchett fare then, and it’s never put me off before). One complaint I’d have about the audio version in particular is that Stephen Briggs can’t seem to remember how he’d decided to pronounce the name Crowley; in particular, whether the first syllable rhymed with “low” or “now”. But that’s more of a nitpick and just something that distracted me.

But anyway, those who haven’t read it, which I suspect among my particular group of friends is likely to be a low number of people, go and read it!

Film #9: Léon (1994)

aka: The Professional
dir: Luc Besson
lang: English
length: 133 mins
watched on: 12th of April

Creepiest fucking film ever, and in more ways than one. It’s basically a far too young Natalie Portman trying to seduce Leon, the hitman of uncertain nationality (referred to as Italian a few times, but I believe the actor’s French, and certainly has a certain, um, Gallic charm about him) for most of the film.

Of course, it wasn’t just that (and at least Leon wasn’t returning Portman’s advances, otherwise it would have made even more uncomfortable viewing), but there was an excellent musical score from Éric Serra, Besson’s frequent collaborator, which lent the movie a different kind of creepiness, but this time the sort related to the thriller genre and things like not knowing what’s around the next corner. And thus a good kind.

Besson, of course, is immaculate as a director, and Gary Oldman plays the villain, on top form as usual. But this is the bit that I must admit caused me the most trouble understanding story-wise, because Oldman’s character was a cop, and yet he comes in blazing weapons in the opening act of the film, killing all of Portman’s family. I thought they were organised criminals or something – the explanation seems to be that Portman’s father was involved in a drug deal of some description, but that still doesn’t explain why an undercover cop had to come in and kill everyone… or maybe it’s all a cover. I dunno.

The rest of the film seems to be people doing effortlessly cool things that one couldn’t possibly get away with in the real world (as most films are, of course). Or in the case of Leon, being effortlessly cool when on business, but turning into a bumbling idiot whenever he’s at home. And then getting into sticky situations that you wonder how they’ll get out of. Minus the creepy bits, very fun to watch.

Comedy: Bill Bailey – Dandelion Mind (2010)

length: 92 minutes
format: DVD
watched on: 8th of April (argh, behind!)

If anyone’s even reading this, yeah, I’ve been putting it off … quite a lot, seeing as I watched this more than 2 months ago.

Thus my comment on it is going to be quite brief. Good, but not as good as Part Troll, which is the only other Bailey comedy gig I’ve seen. I got the impression from this that he’s not necessarily putting in as much effort with his shows; he’s now set for life, and has fans that will adore whatever he does unquestioningly. He seems to just need to crack a funny face and get the audience in stitches.

His particularly co-operative Dublin audience really seemed to make a massive difference to his show, in this case helping to take a joke and string it out into a mock religion or something. So that was good.

But there were certain other times when a joke seemed to come out from left-field – obviously this is standard fare for the comedian in question, but in some ways the freshness seemed to be stripped away when he showed a video towards the end that was a kind of montage of all the weird jokes he’d made during the show, reified. Because suddenly the jokes didn’t feel very special anymore – it’s the same effect that I get if I ever see a comedian twice doing the same routine. Maybe I’m spoilt by the rarer kind of comedian that will just get up on stage and start ranting about whatever pops into their head.

Oh, and he used that whole rewrite-a-well-known-song-as-a-German-techno-mashup trope already (in Part Troll… du machst das Hokie-Kokie…)! Get something new!

And maybe I’m just an old fart about this, but I really don’t “get” encores. Why can’t they just finish and leave? By the time he came back to do the third encore, most of the audience had left!

Anyway, I did enjoy it (and will have to watch it again), but I was just as interested in the extra on the DVD which was a short documentary about him travelling round backwater villages in the highlands and islands of Scotland and weird corners of England and playing to local audiences. Very different atmosphere to the DVD itself which was filmed in a massive arena in Dublin.