Odd Is Key in ‘Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath’ [Monster Mania]

Monster Mania is a monthly column celebrating the unique and varied monster designs in horror gaming.

Developer Oddworld Inhabitants have always prided themselves on their games’ singularly abnormal connected universe, Oddworld. After all, “odd” is right there in the title. No matter the gameplay or narrative deviations with each game set within Oddworld, the through line is a fantastically weird world filled with oddities and even odder inhabitants. And while modern Oddworld entries have solely consisted of remakes of classic Abe adventures, it isn’t difficult to long for new adventures in the vein of the series’ most unique and innovative entry to date: Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath

To say Stranger’s Wrath is a deviation from tradition would be a massive understatement. Longtime lovable series protagonist Abe is replaced with the Stranger, a bounty hunter equipped with a wrist-mounted crossbow and a mysterious past. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly meets Looney Tunes wouldn’t be the worst way to describe the game. Stranger’s Wrath revolves around bounty hunting, but this is never done at the expense of Oddworld’s inherent humorous tone. This monumental shift from a 2D side-scrolling puzzle platformer to an action-oriented third/first-person shooter hybrid was uncharted territory for Oddworld Inhabitants. Yet, in staying true to Oddworld’s identity, Stranger’s Wrath still put its monsters at the forefront of the experience.

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The eclectic rogue’s gallery of Oddworld bounties featured a mix of scumbags, distinguished by their Western steampunk weaponry and juvenile crassness. Blisterz Booty, Filthay Hands Floyd, Lefty Lugnutz, and who could forget the loveable Jo’Mamma? And while these bosses are notable in their own right, Stranger’s Wrath’s live ammo mechanic is the true monstrous star of this Oddworld pivot. 

Players are given a wrist-mounted crossbow rather than a revolver or rifle. That would be far too typical of armaments for an Oddworld game. In true Oddworld fashion, even this slight deviation in traditional first-person shooter weaponry has one hell of a unique edge to it. The Stranger’s crossbow uses not conventional arrows or bolts but different types of living critters collected within the game’s environments. 

All Stranger’s Wrath environments have thriving ecosystems of pint-sized critters and insects populating interior and exterior areas. These critters can be stunned with the Stranger’s bow’s primary ammo type, zappflies, an electrified fly collected and placed in its ammo pouch. Given that each of these critters has a unique combat property tied to it. They replace the traditional need for a litany of firearm types as the crossbow can, quite literally, do it all. 

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Given their different strategic effects in combat, each critter is a creative replacement for traditional first-person shooter firearms. The slow-rate-of-fire but unlimited zappflies is an electrically charged pistol. The rapid-firing sting bees are a submachine, and the thud slugs are a forceful shotgun. And those aren’t even the most eccentric Oddworld critters at the player’s disposal. 

When the player is not firing the crossbow, their selected critter ammo sits readily on the caster, awaiting launch at unlucky Oddworld henchmen. Rather than waiting idly, these critters’ personalities come through even in these moments of calm. There’s the incessantly chattering chippunks (a chipmunk used to bait and lure enemies), the boombats (a bat with TNT bandoliers) who yawn and inquisitively eye the Stranger, or the creepy crawly bolamites (a spider used for non-lethal takedowns) which slowly stretch their tendrils in eager anticipation of webbing its prey. These humorous critters and entomophobia-inducing insects continue to fuel Oddworld’s commitment to weirdness. This all serves a functional purpose instead of being just a nice aesthetic touch.

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Having a healthy selection of critter types for the crossbow is one thing. But the versatility of the crossbow’s dual-wielding empowers and rewards player experimentation. The player can have two critter types equipped at a given moment, which takes things further than the traditional primary/alt-fire modes of FPS firearms. Learning through trial and error how to string combos together using various types of critters is essential for surviving Oddworld.

For instance, planting an enemy on its butt with a chest full of thud slug before webbing them with a bola mite briefly immobilizes them. This allows for an easy capture or kill. Likewise, luring a group of baddies into a corner with a chippunk before launching a boom bat at the unsuspecting group always has a devastatingly satisfying effect. 

While it’s constantly rewarding to blow up gangs of creeps with the Stranger’s deadly arsenal of critters, smartly, Oddworld has considered the more passive side to the bounty hunter’s dead or alive mantra. Not unlike Metal Gear Solid‘s masochistic option for players to complete most of the series entries without killing, in Stranger’s Wrath, the player has the option to incapacitate bosses and common enemies alike while still earning a bounty. This far more stealth-heavy option requires meticulous planning for all encounters, and thankfully, the Stranger’s arsenal facilitates this non-lethal approach. More often than not, this approach will require the player to scour environments more closely for nests of specific critter types. But, given their plentiful numbers, it’s not an additional burden on the player.

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While a non-lethal approach ratchets up the difficulty considerably. The player is rewarded with more moolah that can be spent on upgrading the Stranger’s arsenal and abilities of specific critter ammo types. What’s better than a chippunk luring one enemy? Why not three?! In addition, the Stranger can upgrade their pouch to carry more of the critters. This helps place less emphasis on hunting down nests but never outright replaces the practice. Ensuring the fundamentals of Stranger’s Wrath remain intact throughout. 

From a functional standpoint, the crossbow’s ammo management is ultimately less cumbersome than scrolling through a weapon wheel to find the right gun for a given combat scenario. And by literally putting monsters in the player’s hand, it gives them more agency to play to their preferred style, while continuing to honor Oddworld’s 20+ year commitment to the odd.



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