We're all for innovation but, even by our forgiving standards, Odama isn't so much treading off-the-beaten track as hurtling off it to stride into the wilderness with bloody great steps. Genre mash-ups are certainly all the rage nowadays - taking two seemingly diverse and non-related themes, shoehorning them together and making something new and innovative from the result. However we'll wager there's not too many games that manage to combine the twin delights of pinball and real-time strategy.
At its core, Odama is a pinball game, but not as we know it Jim, with your standard pinball table transformed into a battlefield where two opposing red and blue armies clash. Just to add to the intrigue, your army carries a massive mystical bell and to win each battle you have to complete set objectives and mini-missions on the table/battleground, eventually transporting your bell through the enemy's gates and winning the level. If you lose your Odama (that's the ball) or if its forced back through your own gates, then the battle and indeed the Odama war is lost.
While you control your flippers in a relatively normal way, Odama's innovation is to throw control of your tiny army over to the Cube's microphone (packaged with the game) and introduce you to the joys of voice command. You can order your men to push forward, retreat or maneuver laterally, protecting your bell or moving to seize vital positions like a bridge, or perhaps secure a key to unlock some cool level feature. It's certainly a, erm, unique pinball experience to say the least, but it does makes for some interesting and highly unusual gameplay.
Each new battlefield or table throws up some diverting challenges and sub-missions and it's here you'll need to deploy both your men and your Odama to conquer man-made or natural obstacles - for example crossing a river or opening some sluice gates to drown your enemies. It's not exactly a piece of cake either, and you'll have to work extremely hard to complete your objectives which, ultimately, proves quite rewarding. However, you'll also fail as often as not and this is where Odama doesn't come up to the mark, with failure due to seemingly random bad luck and a distinct lack of real control.
It's pinball right, so you want to whizz that Odama around the table with all the usual abandon, but it seems almost impossible sometimes to avoid splatting your men by accident. This isn't helped by the variable voice command system, which doesn't really offer the exact degree of control necessary. Often your chaps will just plod along or change direction so slowly that it's almost impossible to avoid collateral damage if you slightly miss-hit your Odama. You can also accidentally crash into obstacles like sluice gates which wash away your entire army in one fell swoop, leading to some distinctly un-parliamentary language. Strangely, your men don't seem drilled to understand the wave of expletives exhorting them to get out of the bleeding way. It's unfortunate and mars what's an otherwise interesting and original 'Cube offering.
ODAMA-D IF YOU DO, ODAMA-D IF YOU DON'T
Still, on the whole, there's lots to admire about Odama: the mash-up idea's splendid and it offers real depth and innovation. In fact, once you get over the control hurdle, you'll find a very decent, challenging and rewarding game. There's not too many stellar titles appearing on the 'Cube right now, so our advice would be to forgive Odama its few flaws and bask in its unashamed quirky weirdness - you'll never look at pinball in quite the same way again.
Quirky, weird and fun, Odama certainly has flaws but it's well worth the asking price
- Innovative and intriguing mix of pinball and RTS
- Challenging and unusual
- Variable voice control system
- Sometimes random events and bad luck play too much of a role