Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee HD (Switch) Review

Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee never crossed my radar as a kid. Perhaps I was too young for its release in 2001 and people had seemingly forgotten about it by the time I bought an Xbox six years later. Still, when the chance to review Munch’s Oddysee HD came around, I took a look at it and thought “Hmm… That looks weird. Let’s do it!”

I’m not the biggest fan of platforming games, but the art style and themes seemed interesting, and boy were they! Maybe I’m biased because the writers managed to ride almost all of my personal hobby horses, but Munch’s Oddysee had me hooked during the recap cinematic before I even started to play the game itself. Unfortunately, it lost my fascination within about three hours of playing. Munch’s Oddysee HD is more of a port rather than a remake and it seems to have fixed none of the clumsy mechanics from twenty years ago.

Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee Concept Art

The Engrossing Story

Never having played an Oddworld game before, I nearly cheered aloud when I found out that there was a cinematic recap of the entire plot thus far. Seriously, more sequels need these. Sure, I could have played the game blind, but I would have been lost and a story is nearly vital to me in a game. Right away, said story turned dark, which, I must admit, rather appealed to my cynical sensibilities. The protagonist, Abe, has much of his mouth sewn shut while others have their eyes sewn shut, which is partly a representation of their conditions as disenfranchised slaves owned by mega-corporations.

Within a minute, we discover that the evil big-wig alien guys are planning on eating those slaves, so Abe escapes his forced labor and begins a campaign to free his species. Between the themes of slavery, mutilation, unethical pharmaceutical testing, greedy businessmen, and addiction (among others), Oddworld comes across as Soylent Green meets Django Unchained meets the Opium War meets Avatar (the blue guys, not The Last Airbender).

However, the story is almost instantly mixed in slapstick comic relief and goofy dialogue. The dichotomy between humor and horror is perfectly represented in that backstory cinematic and toward the end, we hear one of the bad guys scream in agony as he burns to death after delivering a funny line. Speaking of which, I would love to know whose bright idea it was to mine the interns’ workspace in the evil company. While it certainly matches the game thematically and it’s amusing to watch the stitched-lipped interns squeal as they fly into the air, I was an intern quite a few times and this is a frighteningly accurate allegory for American internships.

The story kind of derails during the opening cinematic, however. Abe is told by a geriatric, Beholder-like sage called The Almighty Raisin that he must free Munch, who has been captured for experimentation. Munch is an amphibious (kinda?), intelligent, one-legged creature and potentially the last of his kind. Somehow freeing him is a necessary step in finding the rest of Abe’s enslaved brethren. However, there’s no explanation of how freeing this fish-guy of a totally different species could help attain that goal and it never really comes up again.

The Game

While the story is funny and interesting, playing the game itself felt more like a chore. The controls are imprecise and in some cases unintuitive, the level design is somewhat boring, the camera is usually too distant, and the graphics are often indistinct. Your task in every level is to reach the end with both Abe and Munch and hopefully free some slaves or unite fellow tribesmen along the way.

The second part means that you can gather a group of Abe’s buddies who follow him around and are often necessary for solving puzzles. Abe can also order them to gang up on bad guys. When that happened the first time, watching these wiry little aliens with annoying, wimpy voices swarm to the attack was wonderful! You hear Abe shout “Get ‘em!” and his friends rush forward to jump an enemy and start smacking them. It was like watching a collection of nerds swarm the school bullies and sissy slap them into next week! Satisfying to the extreme.

Otherwise, you often need to pick up these guys because for some reason they cannot jump on their own. To do so, you have to stand behind one of them almost exactly in the right place before your frantic jump commands turn into grabbing someone. Heaven forbid if you use the jump/interact button near any interactive fixture too. Abe or Munch will snap to the object and you cannot cancel the action, so you must sit there watching them drink liquid cocaine or give up your hard-earned points for purchases that you don’t need.

You cannot do simultaneous actions either. Say, for example, that you are carrying a buddy. You have to stop moving before you can throw him. Likewise, if you are fleeing bad guys, you have to stop entirely to call your posse and tell them to attack. That usually results in getting a bullet or a baton to the back of the head. Although you have tons of lives, this can be the difference between progress and having to respawn and retread something you have already done two or thirty times.

When playing as the amphibious(?) Munch, you also spend a lot of time on land, but will automatically dive into water if you press the jump/interact button while too close to the edge. Though his on-land jump is more of a limp flop, diving into water turns him into Michael Phelps mixed with Usain Bolt or Mike Powell. This tremendous leap was accidentally triggered several times and once dropped me right onto an explosive mine. The blast subsequently launched me back onto a platform with three ravening doggy things that promptly chewed through two more of my lives like I was a stray cat covered in steak juice. In other situations, if either Abe or Munch hits a mine, it often launches them into yet more mines, killing them. While this was kind of funny the first time, it got old after the twenty-seventh iteration.

The movement controls are a bit clunky too, not allowing the full directional flexibility that a Switch joystick allows. You could be jumping onto a platform and need to make a slight adjustment in-flight, but the controls do not allow such minor changes, resulting in you plummeting to the ground or onto a landmine or off of a cliff. The camera also cannot zoom in, so it is often difficult to see which way you are exactly facing in the first place or otherwise adjust.

While hovering thirty feet from your character, that lack of color differentiation can make it hard to tell what’s a bit of tiled floor and what’s a drop into a death trap. I spent ten minutes just trying to cross two platforms. It shouldn’t have been that hard, but I just couldn’t see where my feet were on each poorly lit platform. Furthermore, the camera likes to move around and adjust itself, which can be rather hazardous when navigating a minefield. As if that were not annoying enough, if Abe jumps into water and drowns (a frequent occurrence on some levels), he takes AGES to die. Just kill him already so that we can try again and move on with our lives!

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Thematic Questions

While on the subject of drowning, Abe gets the power to possess people quite early in the game. There’s no explanation as to why, but there you have it. Well, I possessed an enemy and, having dispatched his buddies, made him commit suicide by drowning to death, during which they cried for help again and again. Frankly, I felt a little morally frightened by that. Between that gruesome death and how you can make possessed people spontaneously combust into chunks of meat and bone, I can see why this game wasn’t rated for everyone by ESRB.

That does make me wonder about the game’s intended audience though. It is rife with intense and somewhat horrifying themes, but mixes it liberally with fart jokes that grew old after elementary school. It’s like they couldn’t figure out what age group they wanted to market the game.

The Game’s Overall Appeal

Aside from promising to review the game and my due diligence to the developers to complete it, the only thing that kept me playing was to see the next joke or story development. However, when the game crashed and I lost five levels of progress due to a lack of auto-save, even the thematic elements were not enough to tempt me onward. Yes, maybe I should have been assiduously saving my progress as I went along, but when is the last time that you needed to do that in a game? Invisible checkpoints and auto-save have become something of an industry-standard by now because, well, they’re a really good idea and relatively easy to implement! Failing to include them in this remake just seems lazy.

While regaining that progress would not have been terribly difficult, it would have been tedious and time-consuming. Most levels involve lots of running back and forth, repeatedly picking up Abe’s friends or Munch and throwing them, shepherding them around, crossing the whole map to upgrade them before backtracking for the fourth time… During much of the game, Munch does not even seem like a terribly vital character either. While you can only approach most of the levels one or two different ways, you can often ignore Munch entirely until you need to pogo hop him all the way across the map to hit a lever or end the level. He’s just an escort who doesn’t even keep up with whoever is escorting them.

The Last Word

The thing about remakes is that they present an opportunity to fix or refine mechanics that could use tweaking. Perhaps Oddworld’s developers were trying to stay true to the original, but Resident Evil 2’s remake was applauded for being true to the original while it fixed the twitchy, outdated gameplay and bizarre camera angles. Seriously, if you’re going to do a remake after twenty years, at least polish the controls a bit.

And why slap the “HD” at the end of the title? The graphics haven’t significantly changed from the original, which means that even the characters look like they’re still made from hundreds of tiny watercolor boxes. There are only some slight touchups in this rerelease. This doesn’t seem so much like a remake or an HD release as it does a vanilla port. These are the same sorts of controls and graphics we had with the old Spyro and Tak games.

Perhaps Oddworld Inhabitants and Nintendo were banking more on nostalgia rather than content for sales. Perhaps they only recently had the idea to rerelease this game. Either way, considering that they had twenty years to fix the issues, the result is disappointing. So developers, please, if you’re going to do a remake, at least give the game a bit more than a facelift. Fix the things that were buggy or flawed about the original. Otherwise, it’ll just be a repeat of Charlie Sheen after rehab: It looks a bit nicer than before, but it’s still an aging mess underneath.

For more information about Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee HD check out the official website. A digital Switch copy was provided for the purpose of review. For more review content, check out my take on the less than stellar Switch port of Dungeon of the Endless or Arc of Alchemist, an RPG that just didn’t hit the mark at all. For insight into life in quarantine and living with depression, check out my featured piece on the subject.


  • Fun, contemporarily relavent story and themes
  • Fairly forgiving deaths and respawns


  • Clunky, outdated controls
  • Indistinct graphics
  • Tedious gameplay
  • Did not bother to fix what was wrong with the original version


Gameplay - 7
Controls - 6
Music/Sound - 5
Graphics - 5
Replay Value - 2
An English and Western Laws & Ethics graduate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Matt’s doing his best to find his way back to Middle Earth or Naboo. However, the closest he can get is reading, writing, or gaming, so he’s trying to accept his lack of pet dragons and devoting himself to those things instead. In his spare time, he practices traditional Chinese Ken-Po in the hopes that he will someday become an Earth Bender.

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