The growing trend of bringing console and PC games to mobile is both a blessing and a curse. While we occasionally end up with an unexpected bit of brilliance, they can’t all be XCOM. This trend brings core games to a wide audience that might otherwise pass them by, but does that really matter if the games’ design simply doesn’t fit on a touch screen?
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath, originally released for the Xbox in 2005, is widely regarded as an underrated gem, caught in the unmarketable space between cartoony and gritty. Set as a spinoff to the Oddworld series of platformers, Stranger’s Wrath follows a lone bounty hunter (the Stranger), out on the frontiers of Oddworld. With an uncommon mix of third-person platforming and first-person shooting, players take the Stranger from town to town, capturing outlaws in a quest to cure his mysterious illness.
This new version preserves all the gameplay, with only the slightest changes made for touch devices. In the original, a button press would make the Stranger “shake off” damage, draining his stamina to fill his health. On mobile, players actually shake their device to heal. It’s a harmless little gimmick that works pretty well, given how the new control matches the Stranger’s animation. Selecting different ammo types is done via touch, which is exactly what you’d want.
The controls are fairly standard for both 3D platforming and shooting. Movement and camera are controlled by simulated thumbsticks on the left and right of the screen, with jumping and attacked relegated to simulated buttons, all with moveable positions. This works well enough until the shooting sections, since players have to release their aim in order to fire. Platforming fares better, though I found the jump button a little unresponsive, often leaving me single-jumping when I was trying to double-jump.
The game itself holds up well, with the exception of those sections that require an itchier trigger finger. It’s a mostly open world, with the Stranger arriving at a town to pick up bounties, and going off to narrow branches of the world to collect those bounties – basically a mission-based structure without load screens. While enemies can be killed, much of the game is focused on non-lethal combat. Knocking outlaws unconscious will let you scoop up their bodies for a bigger cash reward.
A big feature of the game is its “live ammo” mechanic, where the Stranger’s crossbow fires living creatures, rather than traditional projectiles. These creatures end up fulfilling the role of the most common guns: Zapflies are an electric charged machine gun, Fuzzles are like mines that eat people, and Boombats…well, they go boom. Collecting ammo requires that players hunt down and stun these critters to pick them up.
The heavily stylized world makes it a prime candidate for downscaling to mobile. The developers have included PC-style graphic controls, allowing players to adjust resolution, texture quality, and more to their liking. Unfortunately, the default settings prioritize textures over resolution, making the whole thing look pretty muddy, but with a little fiddling, I was able to get the game to look like my memories of the Xbox version, while still running quite well.
I’m glad that more people will get to give this game a shot. Its bizarre charm might draw Android players toward more core games, if they’re willing to stick with Stranger. The inability to aim and shoot will likely be a stumbling block in some of the harder battles, but it’s remains one of the more substantial packages available on Android. Definitely worth a look.
While it’s not the ideal way to play Stranger’s Wrath, its as good looking and fun as it ought to be, meaning: well-worth the price of admission.