Odissea - An Almost True Story
First posted on 07 November 2011. Last updated on 07 November 2011.
|Ulysses arrives at a strange bar where trouble awaits him inside.|
|The crew cannot tear themselves away from the nasty sirens.|
|Ulysses stands outside of Circe's house.|
|Can Ulysses find a way to the floating castle?|
|Ulysses finds a funfair in Hades.|
Odissea - An Almost True Story is proclaimed by its developer Midian Design to be a game which "almost" recounts Homer's story of the journey of Ulysses (or Odysseus in the Greek myths) as he tries to return home to Ithaca after the fall of Troy. The game has early glimpses of potential and tries hard to entertain with an offbeat plot and humorous dialog. Unfortunately, it is let down on several fronts, resulting in a mediocre and unfulfilling experience.
The story is where the game excels most. It begins with Ulysses, King of Ithaca, as he begins his journey home after the decade long siege of Troy. With his ego buoyed by the success of his wooden horse ruse, Ulysses mocks the god of the seas, Poseidon, during a celebration after the massacre. In retaliation, the trident wielding deity conjures a ferocious storm that forces Ulysses to dock at an unknown island. Unfortunately, for Ulysses, he finds the island to be inhabited by savage, man-eating sirens. Here, the game gives the first hint that its story is not a traditional interpretation of the Odyssey. The bar that the sirens inhabit looks like a seedy Soho wine bar, complete with gaudy neon sign outside. While Ulysses himself manages to escape, the nasty sirens promptly devour his crew. Conveniently for Ulysses, the Goddess Athena who evidently has a bit of a soft spot for the poor and now crewless Ulysses turns up and gives him a raft. This enables Ulysses to begin his epic journey home to Ithaca.
Once on his raft, Ulysses must journey around the world, trying to find his way home. Wherever he stops, he encounters all manner of creatures determined to get in his way. Gamers who are familiar with the original tale will find some bizarre additions and alterations to it. Elements of the original mythology underlie the story, but they are also blended with the modern and the utterly weird. As such, fans of classic literature who are seeking a traditional, authentic retelling of The Odyssey will likely be disappointed here. As the story progresses, Ulysses encounters the nymph Calypso on a crashed spaceship which she needs help repairing. He also meets the goddess Circe on an island where she seems to spend her time drugging pigs. Among other strange encounters are naked vegans, psychotic robots, and a Cyclops with a rather embarrassing secret. Occasionally, the story cuts to Ithaca to follow the unfortunate predicament that Ulysses' wife Penelope finds herself in. As in the original tale, Penelope is surrounded by suitors convinced that poor Ulysses is not coming back, urging her to pick one of them as a replacement. Being the dutiful wife she refuses, but the pressure on her is mounting.
The result of all of this oddness is a story that is a quirky and playful gambol through the developer's imagination, but therein lies the real tragedy of the game. This game just does not live up to its potential.
The game is distributed as a single archive file and runs straight away after unpacking. There is no installer to run for set up. There is, however, a separate application to configure various technical settings, such as whether to use DirectX or DirectDraw and whether to run in full screen mode or windows mode. Oddly, I was unable to configure the game to run in windows mode on Windows 7. Beyond this glitch, I encountered no other compatibility issues on either Windows XP or Windows 7.
The production quality of this game is at best average. The music is pleasant and appropriate to the setting but starts to grate after a while. The graphics are only mediocre. The developer bills itself as a company that creates retro graphic adventure games, and the visuals in this game certainly appear retro. They are colorful and cartoonish but have an unfinished quality to them. Alas, this makes the game look low budget and unpolished.
The game has a number of non-interactive cut scenes. They usually involve a lot of dialog as some event or character tries to hamper Ulysses' attempts to get home. The dialog between the different characters is at times genuinely funny. Ulysses' irreverent comments are witty, and despite being translated from Italian to English, the dialog retains its humor in the process. The downside is that there are no voices. All the dialog is delivered through lines of text, which pop up above the characters heads.
The gameplay is essentially linear. There is no way to die, and there are no dead ends. You spend the major part of the game floating around on the raft trying to find places to dock. This is tedious because the map is completely unmarked until you find a place to stop, so you end up inching your way around the coast hoping to find a location to stop at. It is also not always entirely clear what you need to be doing or why you are doing it. The wandering feels aimless. When you actually find somewhere to dock, the quests you are presented with are generally solved by putting some items in your inventory, carrying them somewhere very nearby, and dropping them on some other items. There are only a couple of puzzles that are not of the inventory type. The puzzles are not very inspiring or inventive, and they quickly start to feel like a grind.
The controls are annoying. A right click brings up a bar at the bottom that contains the inventory, action buttons, and the save and load options. There are very few actual actions you can perform. You can look at an item, use an item, walk to a location, or talk to a character. You select your option from the bar then click on your item, location, or character you wish to talk to. If you are playing the game using a mouse with a scroll wheel, you can cycle through the options with the wheel. However, if you are playing the game using a trackpad (on a laptop, for example), you lose this option.
Despite this apparent simplicity, however, the controls quickly get irritating. The main annoyance is that the default action is set to not walk. If you stop to use an item, you then have to click back in the action bar to select walk before you can move. As such, you will find yourself clicking back and forward repeatedly as you play. Also, there is a lack of consistency in the controls. For example, when you need to go through a door, sometimes you have to select "use" from the action bar and then click on the door, whereas other times you just walk through it. When you need to read a piece of paper, you do not "look at" it, but instead you have to "use" it. The result is an interface that feels unintuitive and badly thought out, and it detracts from the enjoyment of the outlandish storyline.
Even with its problems, the game possesses a quirkiness that makes it enjoyable at times. However, at its core, this is a very basic point-and-click adventure game. There is simply not enough to do in the game. The production quality is too uneven, and the puzzles are too easily solved. As a budget title, it may be worth spending a few hours with this game to enjoy its unusual twists on a classic tale. Yet it is hard to dismiss the disappointment that the game has the potential to be so much more.