A Vita port of a PS3 game, which is itself a port of an original Xbox title released in 2005, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD fans already know plenty about anti-hero Stranger and his adventure(s). Still, in that context, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD is perhaps the best of example of how to do a Vita port right.
Having already been re-released for the PS3 in 2011, the Vita remake of Stranger’s Wrath has players once again take on the role of bounty hunter Stranger, an outsider looking for work in various towns. For those that have never played the game before, Stranger requires quite a large some of money for an operation, which has him (and the player) putting his bounty hunter skills to the test. The true nature of the operation isn’t revealed until later on in the game and though Stranger’s Wrath may not present the deepest of narratives, it’s still compelling enough that the player will want to keep pushing through.
What’s different from the PS3 version is the exemplary use of the Vita’s touch screen and rear touch pad. To switch between third and first person viewpoints, all the player has to do is double tap the front touch screen. What makes this so intuitive is that the player is not restricted to where they must tap the screen – simply anywhere will do. This allows gamers to quickly switch viewpoints on the fly without disrupting gameplay.
Much of the title’s user interface has also been mapped to the front touch screen. For example, the pause menu is completely controlled by tapping on-screen icons. Developer Just Add Water has done a great job making sure the pause menu is just as intuitive as the gameplay controls, with menu options all mapped to far right and left of the screen – allowing the player to quickly select what they want without having to stretch their thumbs too far.
However, rear touch pad controls can be a bit finicky, especially for those who like to rest their hands on the back of the Vita. When in first person mode, the rear touch pad is used to melee attack enemies. Eventually, the player will unlock a special sniper ammo – for use in sniper mode. To do so, the gamer must roll their fingers down the Vita’s rear touch pad. This proved problematic at times, as it can be quite common to enter sniper mode by accident. Aside from this minor gripe, the Vita version of the game has been finely tuned to the system’s unique capabilities without making the touch controls appear forced or gimmicky.
In terms of graphics, players shouldn’t expect much, as this is a remake of a 2005 Xbox title. Still, the game looks good: characters models have been improved and the animated ammo types all gleam with charm. The game retains its spaghetti western qualities and crude humor throughout, making Stranger’s Wrath HD just as funny as it is engrossing. Stranger is an easy character to resonate with, and the world itself lives up to the series’ namesake, as players will visit towns inhabited by chickens and fight a main villain who has more in common with cephalopods than humans.
In terms of gameplay, much of Stranger’s Wrath HD revolves around capturing bounties, with more money awarded for capturing outlaws alive than dead. Whenever the player enters a new town, it’s a safe bet that the Bounty Store should be the first stop. There is also a General Store, wherein the player can re-stock on ammo and purchase upgrades. The interface for both the bounty and general stores is once again controlled by the Vita’s touch screen, and just like with the gameplay it’s easy and quick to use.
The game itself is quite challenging, especially during boss fights. Each boss is different than the last, requiring the player to mixup strategies and ammo types in order to win. Thankfully, though Stanger’s Wrath can prove to be quite difficult, a quick save option lowers the difficulty from “frustrating” to “challenging.” Being able to save during the middle of a boss fight proved quite useful, as Stranger will automatically continue from the last save, not the last checkpoint.
In 2012, Stranger’s Wrath HD still proves to be an engrossing title, with a light-hearted and well-paced story keeping the gamer pressing forward. Even with the HD make up, the title hasn’t lost it’s campy charm, and proves to still be a compelling title nearly six years after its release. Just Add Water has made sure the game was finally tuned to the Vita capabilities, and has done so in a way that is intuitive rather than intrusive. If there’s one game that shows how to do Vita ports right, it’s Stranger’s Wrath HD.
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD is available now for the PlayStation Vita.
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