Okay, so I’m doing a terrible job of getting this out on Saturdays. I could just change it to Sunday Specials, but then I probably wouldn’t be able to get it out on Sundays. Then there’s always the generic “Weekly Specials”, but Saturday Specials has a better ring to it. So, for right now we’re going to leave it inappropriately named but sounding cool. At any rate, this week there are only two games, because they are two parts to a series of adventure games that hearken back to a time of burgeoning technology, a time when people dared to be different – a time that brought us the oddity known as FMV games. Read on to find out what I’m talking about and how that translates to today’s iDevice gaming world…
Odyssey: Trail Of Tears / Odyssey: 2012
In the early 90s, when CD players were coming of age and developers realized they could use them to make bigger, badder (sometimes quite literally) gaming experiences, an unusual breed of adventure game surfaced – the FMV game. FMV stands for “Full Motion Video”, and the idea was that the actual story sequences would be video clips, and every now and again you’d be presented with a set of options to help guide the story. It was sort of like “choose your own adventure” with bad acting. Here we are 15-20 years later, and we get to relive this phenomenon on our iPhones and iPod Touches thanks to a two part series entitled Odyssey: Trail Of Tears and Odyssey: 2012. Unfortunately, I have much the same feelings towards the sub-genre now that I did back when it first debuted, and I once more recall why it basically faded away.
On the plus side, the camera work in these two games is not bad. At times there are some nice shots of beautiful scenery such as a waterfall in 2012, and the driving sequences are actually more professional looking than a lot of the stuff you see in TVs or movies now. The acting is okay, which I don’t fault anyone for. I suspect the people in the videos are friends of the guy that put the games together. There’s no background music, which I suppose adheres to the “realism” of the way the video was filmed. It would have been nice for it to be a little more theatrical in this sense, but it’s no big loss. The down side to the video is that there is no way to skip it in part one, which makes replay a drag.
The interface is slightly better in 2012, but it’s really not user friendly in either game. All you have to do is click on the option you’d like and click a button to “submit” that option, but the second tap seems totally unnecessary, and over the long haul that’s potentially a lot of extra taps. If there were some way to cancel the initial selection of what I wanted to do I could see the “submit” being necessary, but as it stands right now it’s just silly. To make maters worse in Trail Of Tears, you’re treated to a little animation every time you submit a choice that is supposed to represent your message traveling back in time. It’s kind of interesting the first couple of times you make a choice, but after that it becomes unnecessary.
2012 is actually the prequel / sequel to Trail Of Tears, wherein you and your friend are camping on the day the world ends according to some interpretations of the Mayan calendar. According to some radio broadcasts from France the world is headed into the toilet, and you need to figure out what’s going on. Sadly, this takes all of about 5 minutes of game time and then an external Youtube video to figure out. Personally, I would have preferred to see this all meshed together as a single Youtube video, and somewhere in the credits of Trail Of Tears say “for an intro to what this game is all about, go here” with a link to Youtube. As a game, 2012 just doesn’t really work.
So now on to Trail Of Tears. There’s definitely a lot more “game” to be played here, but in the end it doesn’t work out a whole lot better than 2012. In this chapter you are a scientist from the future who guides an amateur adventurer from 2008 to try and solve a murder. You would think this would actually be interesting, but the problem is that it really ends up being more of a geography / Native American history lesson than an actual game with an interesting story line. That’s great if you’re into that sort of thing, but I’ve never been a fan of either subject, so for me it was very hard to enjoy the videos. Plus, with all the talk about the terrain and such the game really loses focus on the whole murder plot, though I sometimes wonder if that was the actual intention.
In the end, the Odyssey series doesn’t have a whole lot going for it. The story isn’t that interesting, the interface is more obstructive than practical, and the lack of ability to skip videos makes constant replay a drag (and there will be need to replay Trail Of Tears when you make a wrong choice). I like the concept of FMV games, but I’m just not a fan of this particular series.