For the uninitiated, the original Strangerís Wrath launched on Xbox in June of 2005. Developed by Oddworld Inhabitants (famous for the classic of many a childhood, Abeís Oddysee) the game received rave reviews, with many praising its innovative ďlive ammunitionĒ system, beautiful artwork and great sense of humour. It marked the last original title in the Oddworld series to date, and left many clamouring for more tales of the Odd universe.
While fans might have to wait a while for a brand new installment in the series, in the meantime British developer Just Add Water have been souping up Odd games and re-releasing them in HD on various platforms, beginning with the Strangerís Wrath remake on PC. Shortly after it was ported to PS3, with many reviewers giving high praise to the release; it earned a very respectable 82 on Metacritic. Now, just under a year later, JAW have released Strangerís Wrath on Sonyís Vita handheld. While the quality of the gameís actual content is under no question, how has Stranger handled the move from home console to handheld device?
In short: remarkably well. The game looks great on the Vitaís OLED screen; the graphics are crisp and clean, and some lovely water & lighting effects can be seen throughout the 12-15 hour campaign. There is the occasional graphical glitch (in one part the sky started flickering rapidly between blue and red, before settling back to the normal pastel pink sunset) but itís never enough to spoil the experience, and the game comes off looking one of the best available on the handheld; in fact, it looks roughly the same as the original Xbox title - no mean feat on a handheld. Pre-rendered cutscenes, however, have been noticeably scaled down in terms of visual fidelity from their console counterparts - a slight shame, but not unexpected as fitting the game onto the Vita must have required a lot of squeezing.
Overall the game runs fairly well too, though I did experience occasional stutters and slowdowns, particularly towards the end of the title. The music is great, and while itís perhaps a little tinny on the Vitaís built in speakers, plugging in a decent set of headphones does great justice to Michael Brossís stellar spaghetti western-cross-electronica soundtrack.
The controls are a dream. This is the exact opposite of most ports on the handheld - the controls feel like theyíve actually been tested, for one, and are comfortable and intuitive while making the most of the Vitaís unique capabilities. Two taps on the touchscreen flicks between third person (for platforming) and first person (for combat), while a swipe of the back touch screen while in first person uses Strangerís melee attack. Itís refreshing to see a port make use of a consoleís unique controls without making it feel tacked-on or gimmicky.
While not exactly a criticism, something I really would have loved to have seen implemented in this title is Sonyís CrossPlay initiative. Strangerís Wrath seems like the ideal candidate - bounty some outlaws on the way to work, then pick it up exactly where you left off on the big screen at home. You canít even manually transfer your save from the PS3 version to the Vita version, due to a limit on savegame file size on the handheld. Furthermore, those who bought the game on PS3 wonít be getting the handheld version for nothing - CrossBuy isnít implemented either, meaning it will still cost the full £9.99 even if you do already own it. Whether this is due to a lack of enthusiasm on Sonyís part is unknown, but incorporating these two features would have made the game unmissable.
Nevertheless, for those who havenít yet experienced Strangerís tale I can highly recommend the Vita version of the game; while itís not better than its PS3 counterpart, it certainly stands equal alongside it. JAW have done a great job porting Oddworld Inhabitantsí Wild West adventure to the handheld, and as a result Strangerís Wrath is something very welcome in the Vita store: a solid & fun adventure which actually feels like next gen handheld gaming.