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Strange Odyssey (Apple II) artwork

Strange Odyssey (Apple II) review



Have you been pining to read a death message as cute and chillingly succinct as this one for years? If so, you should make a beeline for Scott Adams' (Adventure International) classic 1980s Apple II text adventures NOW!!! Crack obscure puzzles, find and store *Treasures* and stumble through 1000 entertaining deaths using only your brain to defend yourself. You control it all with typed 2-word sentences usually of verb-noun structure - GET AXE, CHOP TREE, SHOOT HOUND, etc. There are no graphics OR sounds to get in your way here. Descriptions of rooms are sparse but evocative 2-liners and there's the odd flickering of the text display to indicate changes and action.

Strange Odyssey was number six in the series and in case you hadn't guessed from my opening scroll, it's a space adventure. You'll negotiate troublesome spacesuits, phasers which you can set TO STUN or TO DESTROY, weirdo curtains of teleporting light, aliens and derelict planets. This game in particular is a marvel of density. There are few locations and yet they're highly varied, crammed with multiple problems and exceptionally dangerous. The most important strokes are sketched in and your imagination does wonders with the rest.

The set-up: Your scoutship has touched down on a planetoid. The ship's crippled, you can't even open the maintenance hatch, but what you can do is don your suit and venture outside. In a cave you find a mysterious hexagonal alien chamber with a rod and a plastic image of a tentacle. This will be your gateway to numerous worlds - a jungle with Centurion Slime Trees (ick!), a methane snow-world, alien mines and ships and museums and zoos, and the edge of a black hole.

Strange Odyssey is indeed 'strange' - even just working out how to move between worlds in this game is weird and fraught with peril. For a long time when I originally played it as a kid I couldn't even get into the cave in the first place! The game also cleverly makes subliminal use of the flickering text screen. Perform certain actions and the description of another location might momentarily replace the one you're looking at. You could say the 'alien' logic of the sci-fi environment makes this adventure very hard - progress comes in fits and starts and solutions are reached by bravado jumps. You'll get killed a lot, in fact you MUST get killed a lot in order to progress, because you'll keep running into alien devices and consoles and the only way to learn how they work is to grit your teeth then mash the buttons.

Whoops! I just pumped poison gas into my spacesuit! - CHOKE -

Whoops! I just overinflated my spacesuit - POP -

Whoops! I just entered a high gravity environment - squish -

Mauled by a fickle icehound, lost in a snowstorm, slipped into a black hole... This is my favourite Adventure International game in terms of endless creative and cruel deaths.

Scoring in this game is also cruel. You only achieve any score at all after you have both found alien treasures and stored them in the mothership. In other words, you won't have any score until you've solved %90 of the game. Just ignore this element since it's pretty silly and you'll have your own definite sense of achievement as you crack puzzles. There are surprisingly few treasures, but working out how to round them all up will prove to be quite grueling, and ultimately require a little bit of planning too once you've worked out what's going on.

This is one of my favourite Adventure International games. I'm attracted to the space themes and I love its inexplicable and mysterious qualities. It just drops you on a planet and says 'Off you go!' Sparser than ever and with more deaths than ever, it feels fun and has a great 'X-factor'. There are many entertaining things you can do to wreck your own game, too. Set your phaser TO DESTROY then start shooting everyone and everything, treasures, aliens, devices - be indiscriminate and show no mercy, because Strange Odyssey won't forgive you...

Save your game first though, of course!

Strange Odyssey is a smallish adventure, but still one of the best and most memorable in this series.

-- Strange Odyssey -- 8/10 --

bloomer's avatar
Community review by bloomer (February 05, 2004)

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