A few years ago, one of the biggest "sleeper" hits on the adventure game scene was, aka (LBA). In it, you play Twinsen, a simple quetch living in a dictatorship, who discovers an insidious plot that could destroy the whole planet. It was one of the most involving and well-played games I have ever played, in spite of a couple of quirks in it.
Twinsen’s Odyssey is the sequel to Relentless, and it boasts a host of improvements over the original. First of all, the folks at Adeline were very responsive to user feedback, addressing the two or three issues (including a confusing savegame feature) that detracted from the original. To it they added 3D environments, lighting and atmospheric effects, multiple planets, and an even more expansive, more enthralling plot. This is one of those games that, if you can get into it, you may not be able to get back out again.
As described on Activision’s homepage, Twinsen has been the hero of the planet Twinsun since he vanquished the evil dictator Dr. FunFrock in Relentless. Trouble begins with the arrival of unidentified space ships piloted by strange beings called Esmers. Twinsen, now a graduate magician, is kidnapped by the Esmers and taken to the planet Zeelich. He learns of their plot to kidnap the children of Twinsun, but is too late to stop it. The Esmers, under the spell of their mysterious god, the Dark Monk, have also built powerful jet engines to ram the Emerald Moon into Twinsun and destroy it. Twinsen must battle the aliens and their mysterious god, the Dark Monk, and save his planet and family.
This is the one area over which gamers seem to be divided. While most of the people that play this game seem to really like it, there are a few people that just don’t get into it, and most of them are looking for something different in the gameplay department. Don’t get me wrong -- this game has excellent gameplay, and I was hanging on from beginning to end. However, there is a matter of opinions and likes/dislikes, and that is the area where this game takes the most flak. Some gamers simply are looking for a Quake-like shooter or a Myst-like picture book adventure game. This is neither.
What is this game? It is a beautiful, interactive puzzle/adventure game with a little bit of action and RPG-style character progression thrown in to match. In my opinion, it is exactly what was intended, and it is done very well. Whether or not you like this game will be determined by one factor -- how much you like this kind of game. If you like puzzle games, adventure games, and really like to get absorbed into a game, this is for you. If you get bored as soon as a body stops twitching or are just looking for a game to play fifteen minutes a day during your lunch break, this may not be for you. Either way, download the demo and give it a chance -- it will be worth it either way.
Twinsen’s Odyssey is a blend of an isometric (3/4 overhead view) and floating-camera 3D adventure game. The isometric portions typically represent underground or indoor areas, which are typically very detailed, while the floating 3D viewpoint is used outside, where you need to see more wide areas and have total freedom of movement. The transition between the two is very natural -- when you are outside, you can pivot the camera to view anything in the angle or depth you wish, so that nothing is hidden. In the indoor areas, while the camera is fixed, there is nothing hidden behind walls or otherwise blocked by the viewpoint, so it fits as well.
As in the original, Twinsen is a pretty moody guy. What I mean is, you set your character’s mood to determine how he interacts with his environment. When in normal mode, he will be curious and will open doors, search containers, etc. on your command. In athletic mode, he runs around, eager to jump and roll around. In aggressive mode, he’s quite grouchy, and will fight if necessary. Finally, in discreet mode, he tiptoes around and hides upon command. You simply set Twinsen’s mood, and the action key does the appropriate action. This works out very well, with not only his actions changing with his mood, but the music as well.
The controls are fully customizable, and you can now can access some of the actions (such as fighting) without having to switch moods. Twinsen now has a variety of weapons and items to use, and many areas of the interface have been refined, giving a more freedom and interactivity. In addition, the holomap has been improved as well, directing you to unfinished areas or quests in case you get lost or forget. All in all, the controls and interface have improved dramatically. The attention to detail and to customer suggestions is obvious in this area, and while I thoroughly enjoyed the original, the sequel has been polished even further.
The graphics are one area where Twinsen’s Odyssey shines, and the best part is the low system requirements. You don’t need a 3D board, Pentium II, or 24X CD-ROM drive to play this game, and it does fine without those things. When Twinsen is outside, you can see an obvious transition of daytime and nighttime, rain, flowing waves, and other good effects. When Twinsen is inside, the rooms are picture-book perfect, humorously rendered, and excellently executed. Even though it has enough plot and adventure to get by on its own, the graphics in this game are superb, and very system-efficient.
Although I think the audio is done quite well, I have one gripe. In my opinion, the voices are not done as well as those in the original. While they are still very good, Relentless set up a very high standard, and I think that some of the voices in the sequel do not quite match up to the whimsical voices in the original. However, the music continues to be excellent -- this is one of those game CDs that I would listen to on my computer while doing work. In spite of my one gripe, I feel that the audio in Twinsen’s Odyssey is good, certainly better than many of the other games that occupy the shelves.
Documentation is sufficient. While there is no 200-page manual to accompany the game, gameplay is very simple and documented, and several characters in the game will actually throw suggestions or advice to you in the beginning. Although I am normally pretty hard on games that have small manuals, in this case it is not a critical mistake, just a minor one. The manual has all the necessary info (if you read it), the keys are all customizable, and the game provides sufficient guidance for novice players to get up to speed.
Intel 486-DX4/100 (Pentium for Win95), 8 MB RAM (16 MB for Win95), VESA local bus or PCI video, MS-DOS 6.22 or higher or Windows 95, 4X CD-ROM drive, 100% SoundBlaster 16 compatible sound card
Twinsen’s Odyssey is a fitting sequel to a great game. In short, it has all of the makings of a classic, as did the original, and many improvements and enhancements have been implemented. The graphics, story, and characters are involving and excellently done. Although some of the puzzles may be difficult at times, there are always several quests to attend to at any one time, and by the time you get back the where you were stuck, you usually find that the solution was right in front of your nose the entire time.
The game is somewhat divisive, though. Those that like it love it, and those that don’t like it can’t figure out what the other people see in it. If you enjoyed the original or get into this kind of game, you will love Twinsen’s Odyssey. If you haven’t played the original, go get it (it is available at your local computer store for between $5 and $15), and pick up Twinsen’s Odyssey while you are at it. This game is absorbing from start to finish, and is an addition to my short list of classics.