It’s easy to groan at the thought of another first-person shooter. With “Halo 2” still spending plenty of time in everyone’s Xbox, what could a game like “Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath” possibly deliver? Even if it promises “live ammo” — an arsenal made up of critters instead of bullets — and the ability to beat up foes in third-person mode, what’s to say that these features aren’t just a cheap gimmick?

TV/New Media Reviews
“All we need now is a Wal-Mart.” (Courtesy of EA)

As it turns out, those capabilities are just cogs in the wheel of a solid game. Add elements like cartoonish humor, an interesting plot and well balanced gameplay, and “Oddworld Strangers Wrath” is a winner. The game features the same ugly-yet-cute artistic style as previous “Oddworld” titles like “Abe’s Oddysee,” but takes place in a country western environment. The main character is Stranger, a bounty hunter with an over-the-top John Wayne voice. Afflicted with an unidentified illness, Stranger needs money, or “moolah,” for the operation and must collect bounties by capturing outlaws wanted in each town.

Although it may be tempting to use the explosive or deadly weapons, more “Moolah” is awarded for capturing villains alive. By knocking enemies to the ground with either a melee attack or with certain weapons, Stranger can suck enemies up with his vacuum and then cash them in at a bounty store in town. However, this means that players must endure enemy fire and step out into the open before downed enemies rise up if they want to grab any bounties. Often, Stranger will narrowly escape death after sucking up a foe by using third-person mode to dash to a hiding spot on all fours.

Fortunately, the health system is conducive to this style of play. Stranger has a normal health bar as well as a recharging stamina bar to regain health. Though the strategy of killing, sucking and hiding can be repetitive, missions are short and the boss battles are varied.

The dialogue and voice acting steal the show. Many characters deserve praise, but the best is the Chippunk. Part of Stranger’s live ammo, this chipmunk-like creature rests on Stranger’s crossbow and offers high-pitched taunts like “You da man, Smelly!” while he waits to be launched. It’s refreshing to have a game that’s funny and fun to play.

Besides an awkward control scheme, the game’s only shortcoming is its lack of a “wow” factor. That said, it’s a harder game to come back to than meatier shooters like “Halo 2.” But once it’s in the Xbox, casual and hardcore gamers alike may have trouble putting the controller down.

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