Reviews// Odama (GameCube)

Yoot Saito's Brain is Wired Differently From Yours

Posted 1 Jun 2006 12:09 by
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With all the negative press that Odama has recently received, you would be forgiven for believing that itís a bit of a stinker. Well, to coin a phrase - one that we've just bastardised - donít believe the tripe. Odama is a good game: itís not the best piece of software ever made, but it accomplishes everything that it sets out to do, and providing you approach it in the right way, it can be a fun and rewarding experience.

For those of you who havenít been tracking the development of officially the weirdest game on the GameCube, Odama gleefully splashes the video-pinball genre with plenty of Real Time Strategy paint to create a whole new type of videogame. It is the vision of industry oddball Yoot Saito and, as you would expect from the creator of Seaman, it makes full use of the microphone peripheral for the GameCube.

Orders must be barked at your troops to guide them in their quest to overcome the enemy and carry a giant bell from the bottom of the battlefield to the top. This would be a fun and innovative concept in its own right, but Saito-san - being the tirelessly inventive chap that he is - clearly didnít think it was enough, which is why the battlefield also doubles up as a pinball table. Using the shoulder buttons of the GameCube pad (or Wavebird if youíre a trendy Nintendo-phile) you are able to control a pair of giant flippers to propel an enormous ball around the battlefield and crush any enemies that get in your way, whilst also destroying fortifications, opening and closing floodgates, and generally smashing stuff to pieces.

Itís a complicated game and requires extreme concentration to master. Hands, eyes and mouth must be completely co-ordinated if you are to stand a chance of seeing any tables beyond the first two. Progress on the battlefield cannot be made unless you flip the ball into the right spots - to free a key or open a gate, for example - whilst considered command of your army is essential for staying in the game: neglect to defend the flippers and the enemy will render them useless for several seconds, but lose too many units and thereíll be nobody to carry the bell to the goal. Like looking after quintuplets, itís a juggling act that can so easily descend into chaos if you donít pay attention to everything that is happening at all times. But with the two minute time limit ticking away, it can be all too easy to panic and lose the game.

This is where Odama has divided the gaming community so dramatically. Some players will hit the brick-wall difficulty curve that peaks somewhere around level two, and give in straight away. Theyíll bundle the game, the Cube, the pad, the mic and the bongos (used by player two to rally more troops) into a huge ball and lob it through the window in a vain attempt to make themselves feel like theyíve beaten the game. This may go some way to explaining the negative reviews that Odama has received, as we can only assume that those reviewers either couldnít get to grips with the game or assumed that their readers just didnít have the patience to bother trying.
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