Everyone loves to play an epic adventure, but there's also a place for lighthearted, bite-sized gaming — especially when it comes to portable titles. Despite its "epic" title, Ohno Odyssey, a physics puzzler from Big John Games, offers a bite-sized experience with addictive trial-and-error gameplay and a fair amount of charm. While a limited amount of content and a one-note sense of humor hold Ohno Odyssey back from greatness, fans of classic titles like The Incredible Machine will find a lot to love.
In an introductory cutscene told through still storyboards, the clumsy Ohno aliens cause a major incident when their spacecraft is destroyed following a spilled drink on the mainframe. The aliens — whose name is derived from their one phrase, "Oh no!" — are scattered throughout the planet and the player must get them back to their escape pods. There are 35 stages spread throughout several different areas, each with its own specific obstacles to overcome. At the beginning of each stage, you're given several different items to help the Ohno get to the escape pod safely by rolling down rails and avoiding falling off, hitting bombs, or getting stuck. Laying ramps will help Ohnos jump from rail to rail, while placing a mud ball for the Ohno to hit slows it down, which comes in handy when the little green alien is about to travel down a steep slope. Just a few of the items at your disposal include cannons that help Ohnos travel when there are no slopes, gas tanks and fire to help them burn wooden boxes blocking their way and springs which propel them high into the air, avoiding obstacles and travelling for long distances.
Of course, there wouldn't be much of a challenge if all items are available to the player at all times. Each area introduces new items and mechanics, and the player is given a predetermined set of items at the beginning of each stage. Although this imposes limits on solutions in each stage, we found that placing items in different spots had varied effects and that we were able to solve each stage more than one way. An early "eureka!" moment came when we realized we could place a ramp so that the Ohno would rebound, sending it in the opposite direction. Adding barriers like this then became a frequent tactic.
Wisely, the player is not penalized when an Ohno falls to its death or fails to reach the escape pod. Certain stages require quite a bit of thinking, which the game encourages. After placing items, the player selects the action button and the Ohno begins its mini odyssey to the escape pod. At any point, the player can pause and go back to the beginning or return to the editor and change item locations. This trial-and-error execution is all the more satisfying when the Ohno finally reaches the goal.
The visuals, while certainly cute and colourful, could use a little more detail. The Ohnos — all of which are identical green aliens — have some funny facial expressions as they go through the stage, including a look of horror as they fall to their deaths, and a subtle eye-roll when they slow down. The 3D effect, while minimal, is not intrusive and doesn't hurt the framerate. The music is rather generic and forgettable, but mercifully not grating or intrusive. That being said, players may begin to lose patience with the constant "Oh no!" sound-bite repeating every few seconds — giving the Ohnos different voices could have made it less annoying.
None of the graphical or aural shortcomings are deal-breakers, though; the game is over before anything gets too frustrating. A little more content wouldn't have gone amiss here — additional stages would have helped maintain your interest for a much longer period of time.
Ohno Odyssey is a decent little game that fans of physics puzzlers will enjoy. While the presentation is a little generic — and the game's scope is limited at 35 stages — there is a good amount of challenge offered here without things becoming too frustrating. If you're the kind of gamer who enjoys trial-and-error play and doesn't get easily frustrated by the "error" aspect, you could do a lot worse than giving Ohno Odyssey a spin.