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PO’ED: DEFINITIVE EDITION

Written By:

Chris Jackson
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PLATFORM: PC, PS4/5, SWITCH, XBOX ONE/SERIES (REVIEWED) | RELEASE DATE; OUT NOW

Having worked their restoration magic on classics like Doom 64, Quake and the Turok series over the last decade or so, Nightdive Studios now turn their attention to one of the lesser-known titles in their catalogue. Originally released in 1995 on the ill-fated 3DO console, with a PS1 port arriving the following year, PO’ed stars a space-faring chef named Ox whose current mission to feed a bunch of mercs on a space station goes awry when aliens turn up and kill everyone in sight. Tucked away in the kitchen, Ox is the last person to find out what’s happened, ultimately getting quite cross about the whole situation and taking it upon himself to get revenge for his fallen comrades.

While the developers at the time, Any Channel, took most of their inspiration from popular first-person shooters like Doom, Wolfenstein and Quake, PO’ed sought to differentiate itself by moving away from the tunnel-based layouts of similar titles, structuring its levels in a seemingly haphazard way that makes for a heck of a confusing journey. Levels sprawl in all directions vertically and horizontally, with nothing to guide you through other than the idea that if you can see some enemies, you probably need to head that way. Corridors can be hidden behind nondescript walls with only chance collisions or studious examinations of the in-game map revealing the onward path, while the verticality of each environment adds an extra element of “where the hell am I supposed to go now?” that doesn’t quite achieve its desired result. When you suddenly realise that a vast proportion of each level is pretty much voluntary – all you ever need to do is find the exit, which is often little more than 30 or so seconds away from your starting point – it becomes apparent that the gameplay doesn’t quite match the developers’ lofty ambitions.

On the plus side, you’re given a nice range of weapons to play with, starting with Ox’s (admittedly quite weak) frying pan and throwable kitchen knives before progressing to stronger weapons like the flamethrower, uzi and pulse rifle. You’re also equipped with one of gaming’s most satisfying jetpacks that helps you reach higher ground – simple to control, zipping around each level is excellent fun, pausing only to hover above mobs of aliens to blast them to gooey smithereens. And what a strange bunch of baddies they are – one of the first enemies you come across is a walking pair of buttocks that attacks you with murky brown clouds of guff, then there’s the weird luscious red lips, the possibly naked buxom valkyries, and the shirtless musclebound skinheads. From which planet such a bizarre collection of creatures might have originated is anyone’s guess, but the enemy design is certainly one of the game’s high points.

As far as overall game quality goes, PO’ed doesn’t come close to reaching the heights of its contemporaries, but preserving such quirky oddities for future generations – and with such care and attention – is a noble pursuit indeed. In this Definitive Edition, the resolution has been ramped up, the controls and motion are way more responsive and fluid than they used to be, and the multitude of bugs that were present in the original have all been squashed (although, amusingly, they can be switched back on in the settings menu). It might not be the greatest game ever made, but nevertheless it’s pleasing to know that this forgotten relic is once again out there in the digital wilds, waiting to be discovered by curious explorers.

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