Odyssey Review

Posted by: Jenny100

Odyssey Review - 04/07/01 08:43 PM

I finished "Odyssey" last week. I have mixed feelings about it. Since I don't like vague walkthroughs myself, there will be some spoiler material incorporated into this review. So if you hate spoilers, don't read it.

I'm sure some of you will want to know that yes it's keyboard (Gyaaa! - run and hide, run and hide). But worse than that, it's clumsy keyboard. Your character will run into invisible boundaries and turn corners when you don't want him to. Sometimes he will have sense enough not to step off the edge of a precipice and sometimes he won't. Each time he corks off, you'll be presented with a view of hooded dead souls inexorably marching into Hades and a closeup of your character as one of them. This is interesting the first couple of times, but after that you'll want to hit the escape key to get directly to the load screen. Fortunately reloading from a saved game is relatively quick. It could be quicker, but it isn't bad.

Odyssey is third person. It is actually fortunate that there aren't too many closeups of your character in this game because he's ugly as a mud fence. Of course there are plenty of uglier characters in the game, like the things that eat him. You'll be eaten a lot in this game. The Cyclops will just pick you up and toss you down the hatch. But the Laestrygonians will cook you up and serve you for dinner. If you spend 3 days in their prison, there will be a charming video showing a couple of the big dopes chomping away at your drumsticks while your headless torso lies on the dinner table. Chomp Chomp Ptui. It's actually too vague to be truly gory, but perhaps it's the thought that counts.

One of the more annoying things this game does is to flip the screen around when you start to move into a different area. You don't have to be at the edge of the screen for it to shift, and it seems to be rather unpredictable which way you'll be facing after the shift. This is an undesirable feature in mazelike areas, such as the Trojan ruins and the Elysian Fields, which is the "nice" part of hell. The people at Cryo seem to firmly believe that there are mazes in hell. First we see this in Atlantis II, and now in Odyssey. I liked the one in Atlantis II better though. You could walk on the ceiling. The one in Odyssey is outdoors so of course you can't walk on the ceiling.

The screen-flipping was also particularly annoying outside the Gorgon's cave, where I was trying to sneak around behind stones near the edge of the cave and kept having the view shift to outside, even though the character was still inside. I couldn't see what I was doing and couldn't even tell which direction I was walking. When I was inside the cave, I kept running into small rocks which I should have been able to step over, and having the character turn in a direction I didn't want him to go. And then of course the charming Ms. Gorgon would see him and zap him and send him on yet another trip straight to Hades.

Another of the things that annoyed me was that the game wouldn't give you the chance to run away or hide if you were spotted. Once the Cyclops sees you, it's all up. The game takes control away from you and you stand there gawping helplessly as the Cyclops picks you up and it's down the hatch with you. The Laestrygonians are even worse. They can spot you from clear across the screen. Then your fingers push in vain at the now-useless arrow keys as the Laestrygonians stomp over and whomp you flat with their clubs. It's all quite bloodless though.

I had them. Not too many, but some very annoying ones. For example in the Elysian Fields, one of the things you must do is deliver a loaf of bread to some vegetating souls who are lounging by a lake and babbling useless nonsense. You must deliver the bread before it gets cold. Otherwise you'll have to do it again. Didn't I mention earlier that the Elysian Fields was a maze? Yes, that's right - a timed maze. Yech! Now for the bug...
I had a hard time figuring out exactly where to go in that maze. It wasn't easily mappable because of all the flipping around. One hedge looked so much like another and I often wasn't sure where I was. I could find the souls, but not usually on the first try. So I'd go back to the little girl and get another loaf. 3 times I was able to get the loaf to the souls in time and guess what? 3 times the game froze as soon as I clicked the loaf on them. Whatever they were supposed to say after you bring the hot loaf after first bringing the cold loaf was not loading. The escape key worked and I was able to reload the game. Eventually it occurred to me that if I succeeded in bringing them the hot loaf the first time, they might say something different and maybe it would load properly. Sure enough that's what happened. If you play this game, just be sure you save as soon as you get the bread the first time so you can reload from the saved game if you aren't fast enough with the bread on the first try.

Another buggy place was in the Laestrygonian kitchen sequence. In disgust, I sought a walkthrough, which said to pick up a certain item. Only I couldn't see the item. There was a big, weird-looking log with a chain wrapped around it that was blocking my view of that part of the kitchen. Surprisingly I was able to walk through this big log instead of having my character turn a corner as he so often did. But I could not find the object I needed. Nor could I interact with the log at all to try to move it. Eventually I went back to a saved game. Behold! The log was no more! and there was the item I needed, laying there in all its glory! For some peculiar reason the game had loaded the image of that log instead of the item I needed. It's too bad it wouldn't let me pick up and use the log the same way as I was to use the item. That would have been amusing to see.

The last bug worth mentioning took place on Circe's Island. Evil, murderous Merops got stuck walking into a pig. I considered this a helpful bug since I didn't want to bother avoiding him all the time. Circe's house was pretty cool, and I enjoyed exploring it. I also enjoyed leaving the level knowing that Merops was condemned for all eternity to walk into a pig. It seemed a fitting punishment for his intention to go and slaughter them all.

So what's good about the game? The graphics for one thing. I suppose some people would complain that they don't have photorealistic resolution, but they are varied and imaginative and do a good job of recreating the world of ancient mythological Greece. You visit several interesting locations in the game. If you don't know anything about Greek mythology, you might even learn something (though I can't claim to have learned much myself).

The music in the game was very good. It wasn't distracting and added to the ambiance of the different locations in the game. It was interesting how it changed in the land of the Lotuseaters before and after you took the potion. The look of the place also changed, which I thought was a nice touch.

The voices were decent. Most of them anyway.

The keyboard commands aren't too difficult to learn. Escape gets you the menu screen where you can save, load, quit, or adjust your game options. F1 gets you your inventory. F2 puts what you're holding into your inventory. Spacebar is to talk to someone or pick up an item. In inventory, spacebar selects an item. Enter makes your character use an item that he's holding. Arrow keys do what you think they will, moving your character in the game or moving inventory items around in inventory. It's pretty straightforward.

Also the game isn't really based on how fast your reflexes are. It's more about figuring out where to go and how to maneuver than about moving your fingers at the speed of light. Not all the puzzles are about figuring out where to go before you are eaten. A few are more typical of what you find in adventure games. The plot is rather predictable, but there are a few unexpected things that happen and I enjoyed seeing all the places the character travelled to in the course of the game.

It's an unusual adventure game. Apparently it uses the same basic game engine as "Time Machine" and the yet-to-be-published-in-the-USA "Tales of Chivalry." In a way it reminded me of "Atlantis I: The Lost Tales" because you're dying so often. Of course you never get eaten in "Atlantis I" (unless that cannibal chief decides to salvage some street pizza after shoving you off the cliff). But in both games there's a lot of reloading of a saved games. Be sure you do save often in "Odyssey." There is space for 30 saved games and after that you can overwrite earlier games.
Posted by: syd

Re: Odyssey Review - 04/07/01 10:50 PM

Jenny I may be wrong here but I think you've found your calling -

I can tell you that you hit the nail on the head with this review. I thought the same thing about Odyssey. The floating camera angle just about did me in - I have a poor sense of direction at best - throw in a maze and a camera that zooms all over the place and you can forget it. There were times I wanted to sit down in the Elysian Fields and scream. I decided instead to let the wine guys keep filling my glass - those lazy so and so's never did get their hot bread, but after 8 glasses of wine I didn't care one way or the other.

I did however wind up after all was said and done quite liking the game - I thought it had a great ending - replayed it three or four times just to watch Posiden get his after all he put me through

[This message has been edited by syd (edited 04-08-2001).]
Posted by: Zanthia

Re: Odyssey Review - 04/08/01 02:33 AM

HI Jenny,

I agree with pretty much what you said. I can usually deal with the changing camera view as long as it is not a maze area. Sure, I rather a game didn't have it but I have seen it used in games for years. If this is your first time, it can definitely be quite daunting.

When I played, I didn't experience a single bug or crash. Over all it was just an okay game with me but it did have a good ending.

Posted by: Jenny100

Re: Odyssey Review - 04/08/01 12:04 PM

Before I played "Odyssey," the only game I played that had switching camera angles was "Twinsen's Odyssey." (Interesting similarity in the names.) "Twinsen's Odyssey" also had keyboard control, like "Odyssey." Beyond that there wasn't much similarity, but having acquired some experience with the switching camera angles in "Twinsen's O" definitely helped in "Odyssey."

Unfortunately I don't seem to be able to fully adapt to the switch. I tend to briefly memorize the different screens instead of having a real feel for how I'm oriented in the gameworld. It's a bit like being turned around by a complicated intersection on a highway where you have 3 multilane interstates converging around the same area. After being turned around by a couple of exits, you just look for a sign and hope.

Having played Tomb Raider, I can tell you that the shifting camera angles are definitely more confusing in Odyssey. In Tomb Raider you nearly always have butt cam with Lara's rear planted directly in front of you. The view changes gradually according to which direction you aim Lara. At certain rare points in the game, you have a cutaway shot that shows you a panoramic view of her location. And you can use the look button at your leisure. I had no trouble figuring out my orientation in Tomb Raider.

But with Odyssey, the character can end up at the other end of the screen, aimed a different way, and a completely different size. Also, where one screen may have been facing north, the next may be suddenly facing southeast, with no transition between. Just Whomp! you're there, and you have to pause and think about which way you're facing now compared to the direction you want to be headed. It may take some time to adapt to the shifting camera angles. As I said, I'd had a little practice with "Twinsen's Odyssey." It's not impossible, but it's annoying and often confusing in some areas, like mazes.

I don't want to turn anyone off of playing this game. It's kind of fun to visit the places mentioned in Homer's Odyssey. But you know your limits better than I do.

I purposely bought this game even though I'd heard that a lot of people had trouble with the changing camera angles. I wanted to see whether I could adapt to them. The answer was 'not very well,' but they are manageable. It is sort of an extra puzzle - figuring out where you're aimed whenever you go to the next screen. Sometimes it's easy and flows along just like a movie. But usually it's "Huh? Now where am I aimed" and I have to look for landmarks to orient myself. If you think of it as a puzzle, rather than an impediment, you may be able to deal with it better. Of course if you had trouble with the occasional cutaway shots in "Tomb Raider," you'll probably be in big trouble with "Odyssey." I've only played the first "Tomb Raider" by the way. I assume that's the one you were referring to and that the others are not somehow worse.
Posted by: Becky

Re: Odyssey Review - 04/25/01 08:28 PM

Jenny -- I really enjoyed your review. I liked this game more than you did, though I agree that it is something of a mixed bag.

Heriseus certainly isn't traditionally handsome, but the thing I noticed most about him was that he wasn't particularly detailed. He seemed more wooden and expressionless than the more graphically developed characters in (for instance) "Beyond Atlantis". His movements, though, were much more fluid than theirs -- and I spent a lot of the game watching him move.

I found the graphics improved tremendously when I changed the Display settings to 32-bit color. I don't know why the game doesn't use this as a default, because it should.

I actually got a kick out of watching myself being consumed. It somehow fit in with the gorgeous "ancient world" graphics. I also liked the idea of surprise and transformation in the game -- the feeling that anything could happen. I think this may be why I didn't mind the shifting camera angles so much. Yes, it did take some getting used to, but (except in the timed Elysian Fields maze and in the Krisis encounter) it didn't really bother me.

I decided that I liked zooming way out to see the landscape from the viewpoint of a god. And I liked looking at things from a different angle -- in many ways, that's what the game is about. Are you seeing what is "real," or is your mind playing tricks on you? Is that person standing next to you still your trusted friend? Are you walking through a ruined city among the living dead, or is everything just an illusion?

(By the way, if you know a great deal about "The Odyssey", you may find yourself annoyed that the game doesn't follow the story precisely. When I played, there was a little bird watching over my shoulder who kept saying things like: "What!!! The Gorgon isn't even IN "The Odyssey!" Well, that didn't make any difference to me. Encountering the Gorgon was a lot of fun, and carrying her head around afterwards in my inventory was great.)

I experienced two bugs while playing. I got stuck between a column and a doorway, and I also benefited from the Merops "feature." I too was happy to keep him trapped in the pig. However, I did get too close to him once and he came unstuck from the pig and fried me.

How I loved being a pig! I liked using only my wits and snout to solve puzzles.

Odyssey's portrayal of the Elysian Fields surprised me. I have always thought that the Elysian Fields were like Paradise. In this game, they are luxuriously beautiful and disturbingly languid. The "blessed" souls in the Elysian Fields seemed to lose much of their personality. They all looked and acted alike. They weren't that much different from the spaced-out characters in the Land of the Lotus Eaters. Only the people in the lowest level of the underworld still seemed human. (Hmmm...perhaps that is the point? Only those who are still human can suffer?)

Anyway, what I remember most about this game was the portrayal of a lost world full of monsters and shapeshifters and magical flying machines and eerie dream visions. Everything was beautiful, dangerous, with unseen forces all about; where the gods amused themselves by playing tricky, confounding games using human game-pieces.

[This message has been edited by Becky (edited 04-25-2001).]
Posted by: o1alien

Re: Odyssey Review - 08/18/01 08:05 AM

I could almost feel the angst all over again just reading the reviews . I had to put this game in the box and I HATE not finishing games. I just could not stand the keyboard and yet I am playing Arthurs Knights and having a great time with the keyboard. As you said not being able to see where you are going, tripping over and falling into everything it was just to much of a pain to play. So it is back in the box and it will stay there. ET
Posted by: Anodyne

Re: Odyssey Review - 08/19/01 02:05 PM

Great reviews, Jenny and Becky! I agree with Becky's review wholeheartedly. I played this game recently, and I actually loved it. Go figure!

I despise action games, and I didn't get past the collapsing bridge in Time Machine. Now, THAT game was a nightmare for me. But somehow, Odyssey was different for me. It was much more logical and flowed pretty smoothly once I got used to the controls and shifting camera.

Yes, the shifting perspective with the Gorgon was a debacle, and I had to use a saved game for that. I had to run my fanny off with the spears, the Cyclops and Larry, Curly and Moe, but I actually enjoyed it, once I got the rhythm down and planned my path correctly. I also found some shortcuts which cut down on a lot of the frustration, and finding those shortcuts was half of the fun of the game. And I absolutely loved running around as a pig! I laughed so hard.

So, all in all, I really enjoyed the game. The story was intriguing, and the graphics were beautiful. You never knew what you would encounter in the next scene, and how (or if) you would be able to defeat your mythical adversary. As a pure adventure gamer (I wouldn't go near Tomb Raider with a ten-foot pole ), the game was a real challenge for me, and I felt like I had accomplished quite a lot when I finished the game. If I could finish this game, then anyone can.


P.S. You can completely avoid the Elysian Fields maze problem if you plan ahead.