While the days of the Wild West have long since past, you can always recapture the feeling through video games. Of course, there are more realistic franchises such as Red Dead Redemption, but one of my favorites can be found at the other end of the spectrum. Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD, a 2011 remaster of the 2005 Xbox original, makes its way onto Switch today. While the game largely holds up after all this time, a few missteps keep it from truly shining.
In Stranger’s Wrath, you play as a bounty hunter simply referred to as Stranger. Ailing from a mysterious condition and in need of surgery, Stranger wanders into town to find the doctor. Unfortunately, the procedure is rather expensive, and thus Stranger is forced to roam the land in search of bounties in hopes of being able to afford this life-saving operation. Little does he know that this adventure is only just beginning.
Stranger’s Wrath lends itself well to two main styles of play. After all, your bounties are wanted dead or alive. As a shooter, you can always run in guns blazing and mow down your enemies. While this tends to be easier, you also don’t get as much money from doing so. If you want the big bucks, you’ll want to capture them alive. This can be significantly harder, especially against enemies in large groups, and often requires a little bit of planning to pull off. For your troubles though, you’ll be rewarded many times over, and that money will help to purchase upgrades.
One of the unique aspects of Stranger’s Wrath is the live ammunition system. As Stranger dislikes guns, he instead wields a dual-barrel crossbow, which utilizes a first-person perspective. You’ll never find an arrow in the game, though. Instead, Stranger uses the local fauna. Stranger’s Wrath features eight different types of wild creatures, each of which has a unique characteristic. Some, like the enemy-attracting Chippunks, can be used to more easily capture foes while they’re alive. Another group, which includes the explosive Boombats, is more geared toward leaving your enemies dead on arrival. Since these are wild creatures, when you start running low on your reserves, all you have to do is track down a nest to refill!
Outside of this crossbow mode, the game shifts to a third-person perspective and largely becomes a platformer. This isn’t to say you’re completely defenseless though. Stranger has both a light spinning attack and a heavier headbutt that can be used to stun enemies. Your base speed is lower in this mode (though you can run), so I preferred to stay in first-person when I could. All it takes is a click of the right analog stick to change, so you should use whichever feels more comfortable to you.
Stranger’s Wrath played rather nicely in both handheld and docked modes, though I did notice a tiny drop in frame rate a couple of times in handheld when entering new areas. It never affected my game during combat, though, so it had minimal impact on my overall experience. One small benefit of playing in handheld mode though is the addition of gyroscopic controls. I felt most comfortable using these only in the first-person crossbow mode, and even then only to fine-tune my aim. But if you’re a fan of such controls, they’re available for use whenever you want.
In addition to the frame rate issues I saw, I have a few complaints that are more present throughout the whole game. The first is the voice acting. Though I’m generally a fan of the game’s writing, as there are both clever and crude jokes mixed in, I found the acting to be grating after a while. This was especially noticeable in all the random townsfolk, which thankfully can be largely ignored. Graphically, the game looks good, but not great. Granted, this is a 2011 release, so it’s not going to look great by today’s standards, but you can tell it looks a little dated.
I also felt the menu navigation is a bit janky and counterintuitive. Despite essentially being laid out in two columns, I often found myself having to scroll upwards or downwards to switch between the two. Even after a few hours of playtime, I found myself getting tripped up by this.
Complaints aside, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath is a fun, unique take on shooters. Given that the HD remaster is around a decade old, Stranger’s Wrath does look and feel a little dated. However, if you can look past its age, there’s still a mighty fine experience to be had here.
A review code was provided by the publisher.