By Chad Sapieha,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Side-scroller provocative despite bugs, stiff controls.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Dark sci-fi story about a revolt of enslaved workers serves as message against enslavement, poor working conditions, environmental destruction, even capitalism. Players are rewarded for saving and helping other characters, and finding ways to avoid or disable enemies rather than kill them.
Positive Role Models
Abe is a messianic figure, presented as savior of his people. He's also humble. He genuinely wants to help but is afraid to and worried he doesn't know how. But he always summons the courage and finds ways to overcome obstacles. Whether he decides to kill or non-lethally disable enemies is largely up to the player.
Ease of Play
Generous contextual tutorials provide plenty of guidance. Puzzles aren't too taxing. But stiff controls and occasional glitch are bound to cause at least a little frustration for most players.
Violence & Scariness
Abe can take control of enemies' minds, cause them to shoot each other with guns or simply explode, creating a deluge of bloody bits. He can also burn enemies to a crisp with fire, causing them to scream. Abe dies in a variety of ways, including being shot, blown up, and burned, causing a flock of birds to rush from his corpse toward the camera.
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Dialogue contains occasional instances of mild profanity, including the word "damn."
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Products & Purchases
This game is part of the Oddworld series.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Abe collects bottles of flammable "brew" -- which we see consumed by other characters to become intoxicated -- to use as weapons and to solve puzzles. Corporate bigwigs smoke cigars.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Oddworld: Soulstorm is a side-scrolling action game for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Windows. It's set in a world in which evil corporations abuse enslaved workers and destroy the environment so that they can manufacture more products and rake in more money. Players control Abe, a timid but charming worker who's defied his masters and helped his friends escape, and must now continue to help them as the corporations retaliate and chase them. Abe is frequently attacked by corporate soldiers, but he doesn't directly fight back. Instead, he does things like take control of their minds and cause fires, both of which can result in their bloody deaths. Alternatively, he can stun most enemies and tie them up, which can be tougher but is better for his karma and results in various player rewards, including trophies and badges. Parents should also be aware that a flammable "brew" is seen to have intoxicating effects on some characters, some villains smoke cigars, and dialogue contains a small amount of mild profanity.
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What’s It About?
ODDWORLD: SOULSTORM is the latest game in the Oddworld series, a collection of side-scrolling and 3D action games set in a sci-fi world in which evil corporations use an enslaved workforce to manufacture products and ruthlessly exploit the environment. This entry picks up with the franchise's most notable hero, a gangly Mudokon worker named Abe who has messianic abilities, having just liberated a group of fellow workers. He and his friends are discovered in the opening scene, forcing them to go on the run. Abe begins his escape alone, moving left and right, and climbing and jumping up and down along set two-dimensional paths. Players can have him avoid enemies, stun and disable them, start fires to engulf them, or use his mind-control abilities to make them attack one another. As the game goes on, Abe begins not only helping his fellow Mudokons escape, but also earning followers he can command to help him overcome obstacles. Scenarios gradually grow more complex and challenging, with new abilities and items -- like stun mines and medicine -- added to the mix. Players are awarded badges based on their performance in each level, encouraging them to replay levels in order to find hidden secrets and rescue more Mudokons.
Is It Any Good?
While this adventure does a great job staying true to the series' darkly comic themes and unique look and feel, it suffers from stiff controls and a handful of annoying bugs. Oddworld: Soulstorm's story captures both the sadness and hopefulness of the Mudokons, who, having once accepted their fate, are now willing to fight for it. The beautiful cinematic sequences and carefully crafted dialogue help us make an emotional connection with Abe and his fellow workers. Plus, the puzzles and the action, which have been designed to reward players who are thoughtful, strategic, and merciful, are reminiscent of the sorts of challenges players faced in earlier games. Simply rushing in to situations is almost never the best option, especially since Abe can't directly attack or defend himself. It's always better to examine obstacles, enemies, and objectives and then plan out your actions before doing anything.
But there are a couple of issues that keep Soulstorm from really shining. First, the controls are stiff and a little awkward. It's very easy to miss jumps that ought to be a piece of cake, and the controls for sneaking and aiming thrown objects, such as brews, water bottles, and mines, never quite seem to click. It doesn't help that one tiny mistake is all it takes to cost Abe his life, sending him back to the last checkpoint and forcing players to retackle sizable stretches of hazardous ground. Add in occasional glitches -- mines falling through the floor rather than sitting on it, an inability to interact with certain objects if they're on a bend in the path -- and it's clear that this one needed a little more fine-tuning. Oddworld: Soulstorm should prove entertaining for longtime fans of the series who enjoy its themes and characters and are perhaps used to some of its quirks, but it's not quite polished enough to welcome new players with open arms.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about character strengths. What sort of traits does Abe have that many other video game heroes do not? Do you think he has what it takes to be a leader of a repressed and subjugated people?
Do you think real-world corporations are motivated to do the right things for their workers and the environment? How much should the government be involved in regulating corporate behavior?
- Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Windows
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online?: Available online
- Publisher: Microids
- Release date: April 6, 2021
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Space and Aliens
- ESRB rating: T for Blood, Language, Use of Tobacco, Violence
- Last updated: August 20, 2022
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