Odyssey: The Search for Ulysses Download (2000 Adventure Game)

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Remember those text-based adventure games like Zork? Well, they live on! With 3D computer animations so accessible, it's relatively simple to wrap a graphic interface around a basic storyline, as evidenced by the multitude of DreamCatcher Interactive games.

Case in point: Odyssey: The Search for Ulysses follows the adventures of Heritias (or is it Heriseus?) in his quest to find the missing Ulysses (or perhaps it's Odysseus. The story, inexplicably, switches back and forth between the use of Greek and Roman terminology for its characters, as evidenced by the mix of references in the game's title, an aspect guaranteed to annoy scholars.

Everyone else will simply be annoyed by the interface. Odyssey: The Search for Ulysses looks like a typical adventure game because Heritias has a sword that he wields, walks around in an ancient setting and meets mythical characters. But this is far from a typical hack-and-slash game and, in reality, is nothing more than a series of puzzles that our hero must figure out in order to advance in his quest to find Ulysses.

The quest itself has all the depth of the old text-based adventure games, to wit, the likelihood of Heritias completing his quest is exceptionally low unless fate intervenes -- which it does by bashing him over the head and it's downhill from there. Heritias doesn't have a lot of choices although there are two different moral paths he can pursue -- neither of which is particularly clear.

Because there's only one action function, hitting the spacebar, many quests can simply be resolved by walking over every square inch of terrain and pressing the spacebar repeatedly. On the surface, this would seem to make the game minimally playable but, unfortunately, it's especially unforgiving in its implementation of Heritias' choices. For example, at one point he must remove a basket from a hook with his hands tied behind his back. Now, it seems feasible that our hero would use his head to nudge the basket over or his teeth to tug it off the hook. But, no, there is only one acceptable solution and it's not the most logical: he must turn his back to the hook to remove the basket.

Although Heritias has a sword, combat is not strategic in nature, as some opponents will simply kill him outright, regardless of whether or not he's armed. In short, his sword is usually there for show only. Odyssey: The Search for Ulysses is a hard game but not because it's challenging. An awkward interface, combined with a limited plot, makes for an unfulfilling rote adventure.

Graphics: The game does not contain exceptionally flashy graphics but uses what it has effectively. A lot of work went into the options menu, which is decorated with authentic-looking designs from ancient vases. The lighting effects are exceptional: Heritias walks in and out of shadows and flames flicker in torch sconces in the background. The characters are wrapped images around polygons, which lends a certain "dummy" quality to their interactions. On the other hand, Heritias picks items up and holds them in his hand and puts them away in his pack during the movie sequences (as opposed to the item simply disappearing).

Sound: The voice acting is adequate. At times the actors infuse more emotion into their lines than is necessary but that's not unexpected in a game of this type. However, the subtitles are often misspelled or simply inaccurate, which is inexcusable for a game so dependent upon cerebral challenges. The background noises are well done, as evidenced by the first screen by the shore in which Heritias' footsteps crunch in the sand and splash in water accompanied by the sound of seagulls in the background.

Enjoyment: The game is hard, very hard; not so much in terms of challenges but because the requirements are so precise and controls so imprecise, that you can spend hours on end trying to overcome a particular task. This is akin to typing fifty different variations of "pull lever" in the old text games. It wasn't fun then and it isn't fun now.

Replay Value: A remarkably easy save game mechanism provides a convenient screenshot of Heritias's last location. Since the game encourages a lot of saving to ensure his survival, it's the only viable means of continuing the game. Players with a single-minded tenacity will find that beating the game is little more than a battle of wills. Additionally, there are different outcomes based on the moral choices Heritias makes, so one could, in theory, go back and play it again to see how those choices change the game.


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