of the most unique game experiences I've had in years,
but that doesn't necessarily translate into "Rush
out and buy it." by
12, 2006 - Odama,
or as I call it "Odama Pin Ballin" which
is admittedly a very weak in the knees pun, is definitely
one of the stranger games to be released in North
America. By comparison, it makes Namco's off the wall
Katamari games look positively white bread normal.
What is Odama? That would be telling....all right,
I'll dish. Odama is a feudal Japan simulation pinball
real time strategy action voice-actived microphone
game. I know what you're thinking, "Do we really
need another feudal Japan simulation pinball real
time strategy action voice-actived microphone game?"
Don't be too coy; I know some of you can't get enough
and designer Yoot Saito have done "quirky"
relatively well in the past. Some of you may remember
their extremely bizarre Sea Man game for the Dreamcast
which was one of the pioneering voice-activated games.
It's been quite a few years since the development
and release of Sea Man and yet it appears that voice
recognition in games still has a way to go. But more
on that later.
the deal: You play as the legendary general Yamanouchi
Kagetora, or "Yamanouchi Kagetor" for short
(I remove the "a" at the end of Kagetora
to save time) and your goal is to have your revenge
against the enemy general who betrayed your father.
Unfortunately you don't seem to have a lot of men
on your side so you can't just walk over to the enemy
villages and start kicking ass. What you lack in sheer
numbers, you make up for with some truly insane weapons.
These weapons of mass 'distraction' include the Odama
which is a large pinball-esque sphere that is controlled
by, what else?, a right and left flipper allowing
you to reign rolling hot death upon the enemies and
if you're not careful, friendly fire (or friendly
squashing more accurately) casualties on your side.
The Odama can also be used to destroy buildings and
weapons while acting as a juggernaut, helping to advance
your troops. Second in terms of raw power is the Ninten
Bell, which when carried onto the battlefield, can
be struck with the Odama sending out a powerful energy
wave that will decimate your foes. You can also toss
gigantic rice balls onto the battlefield. No really,
you can. But that's not all! You will also be able
to power up the Odama with green orbs and hearts.
If you power the Odama by capturing green orbs, you
will then be able to "recruit" enemies to
your side without harming your own troops, by simply
rolling over them. Capturing hearts affects the Ninten
Bell, causing it to glow a nice ethereal white. If
you ring the Ninten Bell with the Odama while it's
glowing white, you'll also get the green glowing Odama
recruitment bal and be able to make the enemy switch
teams. Maybe the US army should get one of those...
On top of all of that, you'll also be giving out vocal
commands to your troops with the microphone, which
is included and is the same one found in the recent
Mario Party and Karaoke Revolution Party games.
with these awesome weapons at your disposal, this
battle won't be easy. I don't know about you but if
I was fighting an enemy that sent out a huge metallic
ball to crush me or a bell that would cause me and
my comrades to die instantly, I'd turn tail and leave
my post. Unfortunately for you, the work ethic of
your enemy is far sturdier than mine. Odama is a needlessly
difficult and frustrating game at times, which really
diminishes the fun you could be having. I like a challenge
just as much as the next guy, but Odama pushed me
to my boiling point on a few occasions for a myriad
of reasons. First off, while the game looks like a
pinball table, the phsyics of the Odama aren't quite
as fluid or as quick as you'd expect. Secondly, like
in real pinball, it's game over when your Odama falls
between your flippers. Thirdly, having to push the
Ninten Bell to various locations on the map often
requires far more troops than you've got - which results
in the enemy pushing the Bell past your flipper which
culminates in you losing. Fourthly, if you actually
do make it to the end of the level, it will usually
be by the skin of your teeth. You will start the next
mission with what you ended the last mission with,
which usually isn't much. Odama allows you to replay
the level again in hopes you can increase your ending
level cache, but since you're relying on the physics
of a pinball, a lot of your success comes right down
to luck, rather than strategy. Here's the kicker -
if you return to earlier levels for a replay and lose,
you won't be able to return to the later levels you
already unlocked. You'll have to replay them again.
If that's not worth hucking your entire GameCube against
the wall, I don't know what is.
learning curve of Odama will probably send most casual
gamers right back to the rental store to play something
else, but those who stick with it, far beyond the
urge to burst into tears, will find a game that effectively
plays different each time. The touchy controls play
a part in the overall ineffectiveness of mastering
Odama, which might actually appeal to some gamers
hellbent on playing the next impossible to master
video game. Using the flippers is easy enough, but
Vivarium has given the player control over the playing
field as well. The left analog stick allows you to
tilt the battlefield, which is supposed to give you
control over the path of the ball but it mostly leads
to, what else...frustration. The microphone mechanic
works moderately well, but will often not recognize
what you're saying in the heat of battle, which also
leads to frustration.
the feudal Japan battlefield is bland and won't hold
the interest of eye candy junkies in the slightest.
I found the environments to be quite lacking, which
really hurts the games overall appeal as you'll only
want to end the stage, rather than be excited to see
what's coming next. The sound quality of the game
is another matter entirely - as the sounds of war
emanate throughout and are quite excellent. Good soundtrack
owners are usually more inviting to these kinds of
quirky titles and chances are high that some of them
will definitely be singing Odama's praises. I just
can't get behind it as it suffers from too high a
frustration factor which could have been easily tweaked.
There are simply too many gameplay elements going
on at once which results in an uneven experience.
It's definitely oddball and innovative, which I applaud,
but it's not executed well enough to be considered
a classic in the same vein as Katamari Damacy or other
equally imaginative games.
giant flippers, players aim the giant Odama ball
to bowl over enemies, shatter their defenses and
wreak havoc on the battlefield.
With the Nintendo GameCube Mic, players command
men to charge the enemy, defend positions, seize
the enemy gates and much more.