games have always been about giving players something a little different than what they expect to get. The original game in the Oddworld
series looked like a platformer, but concentrated more on the puzzle elements. Stranger’s Wrath
is no different, combining elements of 3D platformers with those of an FPS. The combination sounds odd, but so did the idea of mixing peanut butter and chocolate.
You are the Stranger, a bounty hunter with a mysterious past, essentially making him Oddworld’s answer to Star Wars’ Boba Fett. As the story progresses, you eventually learn that Stranger is in need of a mysterious life-saving surgery that, unfortunately, costs 20,000 bucks – money he doesn’t have. This sets up the game’s main premises, capturing bad guys and collecting the prices on their heads. The story is generally good, and includes a nice twist that changes at least part of the game’s feel.
Structure is set up to offer some freedom while at the same time keeping the pacing clearly in a level-based environment. Missions take place in towns that serve as hubs. Bounties are taken out in each town and lead you to different areas in the vicinity. Once all of the bounties in the area are collected, you move on to the next. The larger the town, the more complex the bounties become, allowing for level-based pacing.
Bounties can be collected whether the target is dead or alive. Bringing in a live target nets you considerably more money than a dead one, so it’s usually in your best interest to keep them alive. Live bounties are, of course, much harder than dead ones and require more strategic thinking.
Towns also serve as areas to upgrade Stranger, which can be purchased at the general store. Which upgrades you can buy depend solely on where you are in the story and can help out greatly. The downside is that the money spent on upgrades comes from the same pot as the operation money, once again making live bounties more desirable than dead ones. Upgrades include new armor and faster reload times for your bow. You can also buy ammo or items that help you trap new ammo.
Yeah, you heard that right. One of the more unique twists to the game is that Stranger literally uses “live” ammo to trap outlaws. Your standard shots are zap beetles, which are lightning bugs with a little zap. As you adventure through the wilds of Oddworld, you also come across smack-talking chipmunks, silk-spinning spiders that can wrap up foes, and other assorted animals. You’re limited in the number of critters you can hold at a time, but new ones are usually easy to come by if you know where to look.
Outside of the single-player mode, Stranger’s Wrath offers very little replay value. Once you complete the main game, there’s really no reason to replay the game other than to challenge yourself and try to bring in every bounty alive. Some unlockable items or a multiplayer mode would have gone a long way.