Fri 17 Jun 2011
It’s time to dust off your old school books and brush up on your Latin and Greek mythology, because we’re going to play a game that closely follows the story of Ulysses as related by Homer’s Odyssey, in a faithful retelling of the epic.
Or so it would seem at first glance.
Upon further inspection, it’ll become quite clear that Odissea is anything but a literal interpretation of Ulysses’ story. Granted, it features roughly the same characters and locations as in the original work it was based on, and even much of the clothing, architecture, and general appearance of the game evoke the ancient Mediterranean. But some of the situations Ulysses encounters in the game are so outlandish that at times it comes closer to James Joyce’s Ulysses than Homer’s Odyssey.
If that doesn’t sound like an interesting premise, I don’t know what does. But games, unlike books, need to get more right than just premise, or even story or dialogue. And a big part is played by the method in which the player interacts with that amazing world the creators devised. Unfortunately, as far as interface goes, Odissea doesn’t earn as high a score as it does for its originality.
There are several gripes I have with the game’s interface. First of all, ‘walk’ is not the default action. Imagine that in The Secret of Monkey Island, every time you have Guybrush look at or use something and you want to walk somewhere else when you’ve done that, you first have to select the ‘Walk To’ action. Every single time. That gets annoying fast – add to that Odissea’s interface that’s always hidden unless you right click, and you’ve got one cumbersome interface, relieved only by the ability to scroll through the actions using your mouse wheel (that is, if your mouse has a scroll wheel). Some of the hotspots and walk routes are also a bit iffy, and I found myself misclicking at times or not at once going where I wanted to.
Speaking of which, sometimes I wasn’t even clear where I should go. For instance, hotspots on the world map (which is admittedly very pretty) only appear once you’ve visited a location, so there’s nothing for it but to keep exploring until you find a place to land. Rather more serious is the lack of motivation explanation. What I mean by that is, at times it’s not exactly clear what Ulysses should be doing to move the story forward. Paired with the pixel-hunting nature of some puzzles, I was completely stuck more than a few times. On the other hand, some puzzles were quite easy, perhaps too much so.
The game, however, isn’t really a waste of time. The music is nice, the graphics are decent, and the sound effects are great (sadly there are no voices). If only the end result was a bit better. I wouldn’t go so far as to call Odissea a diamond in the rough, but it’s surely a rhinestone in the rough. And for the price Odissea is selling at, you can always take a chance checking out this rhinestone – just don’t expect a diamond.
Jan’s Score: 3 out of 5 starks
Note: Odissea can be bought for $3.99 from Midian Design ‘s own website. The studio offers also a sci-fi adventure game Quantumnauts and has several new titles in production.