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Odama Package Art
GENRE
Pinball, Military Strategy
DEVELOPER
Vivarium
PUBLISHER
Nintendo
NUMBER OF PLAYERS
1
CONNECTIVITY
no
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Odama

Nintendo lives and dies with innovation. They are unafraid to take risks and gamers everywhere, regardless of their console of choice, are better for it. But every so often, even Nintendo takes a misstep. Odama is one of them.

visuals

For the most part, the graphics are very well done. Odama gives great expansiveness to the environments--quite impressive considering each level takes place on a contained pinball playfield. Players will often feel as if they are in the vast, gorgeous Japanese mountains and plains. Along with these attractive landscapes, most of objects in each level are fully destructible. Towers topple to form bridges and houses crush under the weight of the Odama, leaving behind items and a pile of rubble. And the Odama itself is, if nothing else, cool. It rolls over enemies, sometimes bringing them back to your base behind the flippers. Watching the enemy army fly through the air can be a treat.

But quantity often won out over quality. Much of the detail in a level is grainy, and it never feels like Odama can keep up with its own speed. Levels were sometimes a strain because I didn't recognize a required object quickly enough through all the commotion; and since each level is timed, any delays usually mean failure. Give credit, though, to the sheer number of moving parts Vivarium and Nintendo crammed on-screen; it does have it's moments of beautifully rendered chaos.

audio

One of Odama's strengths is its grand soundtrack, booming special effects and fitting Japanese narrator. Odama is the surround sound gamers dream, as it will leave any subwoofer rumbling with joy and any small animal shaking in fear. Even the menus are an auditory delight. Nintendo also decided it best to let the often heard guide speak his native tongue. While some would likely prefer an English-speaking narrator over English subtitles, the wonderfully acted Japanese adds a level of authenticity to the game's feudal Japan setting.

gameplay

Odama presents the strange but appealing idea that the player is a young army general with the strength of the Odama, a gigantic boulder of incredible power. The Odama is controlled by flippers (what else?) to send it careening around the playfield, but it hurts both allies and enemies. This means players will need to direct their troops, who work to move a bell through gates at the end of the stage, using the GameCube Microphone (and its convenient plastic controller mount) to maximize the weapon's effectiveness.

For a game based on the idea of simplistic controls--a verbal command of "move left" replaces a "move left button"--Odama is unpleasantly complex. Each controller button is used, and most will be pressed at least once in every battle. Add to this the need to hold down X while speaking into a microphone and many brains will quit on their bodies.

It's not that the system doesn't work. In fact, it's technically flawless. Troops never miss an assignment, they never misunderstand and they even pick up on what a misspoken player meant to say. Like any army, they only follow a leader they respect. A meter tracks army morale, which lowers when the Odama kills friendly soldiers and raises when the player gives aid, usually by sending in extra attackers. Maintaining morale is crucial, as a mentally defeated army will stop responding to commands. Some special items, particularly the recruiting power of the green, glowing Heavenly Odama, spice up battles and permit moments of sheer pinball joy. Later levels have players controlling two sets of flippers at once, and some stages require strategic planning, such as seizing a catapult or controlling a river dam, all done by speaking the appropriate commands to your troops.

It's all just more difficult than it's worth. While the game has multiple available verbal commands, players can get past nearly every level speaking just two (and sometimes only one) orders. Instead of strategy, brute force takes over as keeping track of the Odama is tough enough. Rather than blend the two genres, Odama is stuck in between. It's too fast and wild for any tactical planning, yet requires too much planning to allow for a fun game of pinball.

multiplayer

N/A

overall

Give Nintendo an A for effort. The idea is solid, solid enough that it should be revisited in the future, even if the execution this time around is lacking. With all the great things Nintendo has given the gaming world, a few sub-par efforts in innovation are both expected and forgivable. Unfortunately, in the face of the Canvas Curses, Nintendogs and Brain Trainings in Nintendo's world of originality, Odama doesn't live up to the company's own high standards.



final score 6.5/10





WRITER INFORMATION
Staff Avatar Dave Magliano
Staff Profile | Email
"Tiger uppercut!!"


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