The most atmospheric game I've ever played...
All right, let's start from the very first thing that makes this game perfect: story. It is obvious that whoever produced the story did it with great care and happens to be a very imaginative person. The story goes something like this:
Abe is a small human-like creature of a race called Mudokons. He lives on the planet Oddworld, which is about 7 times the size of our Earth. Abe is an "employee" (to be fair, he is a slave) in the Rupture Farms meat factory, with an assignment to clean the floors. Rupture Farms is the largest meat processing plant on Oddworld, and some of its famous products are "Meech Munchies", "Paramite Pies" and "Scrab Cakes". Abe was a hard working employee, never troublesome and never lazy, which was pretty untypical for the Mudokons working in the plant. All was well, until one day Abe stayed up late and overheard what some of the Glukkons were talking about at their conference.
Glukkons are another life form you can meet on Oddworld. They are a satirical representation of us humans, being selfish, highly technologically advanced and caring only about themselves. Glukkons are very unappealing as they have peanut like heads and very small arms which they cover with business suits. Since they are handicapped in that way, they need to rely on their "underdogs", the Sligs, to fight and work for them.
Sligs are small creatures without legs, so they use mechanical ones which provide them great speed and mobility. They usually work as guards in Glukkon institutions (like Rupture Farms in this case) and as soldiers. They carry small automatic guns which can kill Abe and other employees in a single shot. Needless to say, they are very dangerous, but also very dull, and can be tricked easily with little skill. Another dangerous characteristic of these Sligs is that they can communicate with dog-like creatures called Slogs. Slogs are not very friendly to anyone except the Sligs and the Sligs are very aware of that, so they use them as a weapon.
Let's continue with the story. One night, Abe sneaked to overhear the Glukkon conference. They were talking about their business plans. It seemed that the Oddworld creatures they were previously hunting were turning up thin, and that the Meeches, which once were their primary prey, were extinct. That forced all the Glukkons to panic, as they didn't know what they should do next. But the CEO, Molluck, was as cool as the ice. He had a plan.
Abe was watching carefully until he saw a Mudokon projection on the big screen. So, the plan was to actually use Mudokon meat to boost sales! Frightened, Abe stormed out of the office, only to be caught by security cameras. He now became an escapee that the entire RF (Rupture Farms) was looking for.
Being agile, smart, and having possession of enchanting powers, Abe had very little problems escaping RF. After he escaped RF and the surrounding stockyards, he found himself looking at the big white moon on the edge of a cliff. He saw a big projection of what seemed to be his hand right on the face of the moon. Confused, he lost concentration and fell off the cliff. One Mudokon sorcerer, called BigFace (called like that because of the mask covering his entire face) came there to rescue him. BigFace said that Abe was dead, and that he must be revived as his fate is to rescue the remaining creatures of Oddworld that are the Glukkons' main prey. Those creatures won't be nearly as friendly to Abe as Abe is to them, so it is like having to help someone while he constantly tries to kill you...
After he got revived, Abe first went into Monsaic Lines (caves that were the Mudokons' hideout for centuries) to get a break. There he played nicely with his mudokon friends, forcing them to fight off bees he brought on them... After a "short" walk, Abe found two entrances, one leading into Scrabania, a desert-like part of Oddworld inhabited by Scrabs, and the other one leading to Paramonia, a mountainous part of Oddworld covered with forests and inhabited by Paramites.
Scrabs and Paramites are the other two creatures living on the planet, which are, unlike the Glukkons, "unconsciously" hostile towards anything that moves. They were once inhabiting the largest parts of their respective territories, but now they live in the temples which can be found in the centers of those territories. But even there they can't have peace, as the Glukkons got there as well. There are great differences between these species, and here is a quick description of both:
Paramites live in the Paramonian temple. They are spider-like creatures that are very speedy and deadly. There are two rules you should follow when facing the Paramites: "One can be fun, two - you better run!" and "It is not bright to corner a Paramite!". That's right. When cornered, a Paramite will try to attack you. If he is alone, he will run from you until you corner him, but if he is in a group... "You better run"... When found in large groups, Paramites become aware of their superiority and attack you without second thoughts.
Scrabs, residents of the Scrabanian temple, are quick, large and agile beings that differ completely from Paramites. First, their body is completely weird and it certainly doesn't look like anything I've ever seen. They have four legs, and a fat worm-like body ending with a large, scary mouth. Unlike their Paramonia cousins, they hate each other more than they hate you, so while they are fighting you can use the moment to escape.
After Abe completed his Paramonia and Scrabania temple tests, it was time for the big attack at RF. Upon completion of his quests, BigFace gave Abe a superb power allowing him to destroy the Slig defense and make his way back to RF easily to rescue the remaining Mudokons and ultimately shut RF down.
Once Abe came back to RF, he found out that the things were slightly different this time, and that the Sligs were clearly busy making some changes to defenses and scenery to catch Abe off guard. But what can stop a green, mean runnin' machine such as Abe? It seems nothing can...
While Abe was getting deeper into the RF rescuing Mudokons and getting closer to the oval office, Mullock was getting aware of the problem he has. He just said: "Gas 'em!", and the Slig pulled a lever, starting a countdown to the release of a deadly gas which was supposed to kill all remaining Mudokons and Abe alike. But Abe defeated the Sligs, stopped the countdown and went into the oval office. Surprisingly, Molluck wasn't there, but there were a lot of other Glukkons co-responsible for the idea of slaughtering Mudokons. When Abe defeated them all, two guards came and knocked him unconscious. The next moment, he was hanging above a meat grinder that the Glukkons reserved specifically for Mudokons. Molluck came in and Abe was (unwillingly) facing his former boss. Now, there are two endings:
If you saved over 50 Mudokons (out of the games' 99), a lighting bolt suddenly hits a Slig before it pulls the lever to release Abe into a meat grinder. It also hits Mullock, and BigFace comes quickly to teleport Abe before the factory is destroyed. Abe celebrates.
If you saved less than 50 Mudokons, the other Mudokons are having a meeting to decide what to do with you. They all agree you didn't do much to help them, and even though RF is put out of business, you are too. Abe falls into the meat grinder and Molluck laughs.
The second epic part of this game is certainly graphics. The game was produced in 1997, so please don't mind the graphics being only in two dimensions. The only bad thing about the graphics is the lack of the option to change resolutions, which would make the game look great even on super big monitors. Graphics are rich in details, correct and realistic. Perhaps the PS version has a bit better contrast and color options than the PC version, but that can easily be fixed because every graphics card has brightness and color controls.
Each part of the game is atmospheric and pulls you right into the screen. Watching deserts of Scrabania or the dense forests of Paramonia can really be a breathtaking experience. On the contrary, there are dark hallways in RF that look highly industrial and dirty.
The gameplay of this game cannot be simpler. You are controlling Abe, and you can do so using either a joystick or a keyboard. Perhaps communication is easier on a keyboard, but when you get used to either you will be very comfortable with the easy controls. You can jump, roll, sprint, walk and chant. While chanting you can annoy Scrabs and Paramites and enchant Sligs, which you control then. A very important part of the game is also communication, which is done by pressing a combination of tasters on a joystick and pressing numerals on a keyboard. You communicate mostly with other Mudokons trying to lead them to bird portals and rescue them, but you can also talk to Sligs (while they can't see you) to annoy them or just have fun. There are various secret areas all around the game, and you must complete all of them to get the perfect ending and some bonuses.
Communication with your friends is easy. You can say: "Hello", "Follow Me", "Wait" and so on... Some of the commands, like "Fart", are done purely for fun, while others, even though it looks they don't have a defined use at first can really make your life easier in some areas.
I hope you can get this game and have as much fun with it as I did! I can also recommend you to try the sequel, Abe's Exoddus, but, as the announcer in Conan says: "That is another story" :)