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Lost in Obscurity: Odama

I'm sure a lot of you know by now that it is no surprise that I love Nintendo games. There is something about their unique charm and enthralling gameplay that keeps my inner child alive and well. But there was one game Nintendo produced near the end of the Game Cube's life span that had nearly killed my inner child and left it on life support. That title was the astoundingly difficult Odama.

Developed by Yoot Saito of Seaman fame and released in the US on April 10, 2006, Odama was a hodgepodge game combining the gameplay of pinball with RTS elements that are done via voice commands by use of the included microphone. Either of these gameplay styles are absolutely fine on their own, but when combined, it creates one of the most frustratingly challenging multitasking experiences that I have ever played. What makes this game truly unusual though is not only the gameplay, but also the fact that the game is set in feudal Japan and the ball used is a giant cannonball called an odama, or "great ball." It's not hard to see why this game had fallen to the wayside.

The pinball portion of the gameplay is relatively simple enough. You aim the cannon to where you want to fire the odama and you use the shoulder buttons to activate the flippers and the control stick to tilt the field. The ball can be used to destroy and/or knock down pieces of the environment or to collect power-ups, but while pinball as a whole is usually self explanatory, the voice commanded troops that you order around with the microphone is a much more complicated task and was the result of a lot rage that I had when playing it.

The troops are your main means of getting a large bronze bell from your side of the field toward the back gate so you can proceed to the next stage. Once again, by itself, this sounds fairly easy enough, but you also have that big freaking cannonball to worry about, and it CAN kill your soldiers if you aren't paying attention. However, if you can find it, there is a power-up that can help with this. If your odama is glowing green, not only will it not flatten your army, but it will also turn any enemy soldier that you crush over to your side. This is often necessary as adding more troops to the field will raise your army's morale making them more likely to follow the orders you will eventually and inevitably scream into the microphone.

If it wasn't already hard enough that these two gameplay elements were clashing head to head with each other, there is one last one that pushes the difficulty over the threshold from being reasonably fun and challenging to being a hair pulling nightmare. Each and every level in the game has a VERY strict time limit that results in an INSTANT loss regardless of how many odamas you have left. This time limit bullcrap is the reason why I was unable to legitimately get past the eighth board, otherwise known as The Spider Temple.

While this game is extraordinarily hard, I don't at all hate it. Its challenge is excruciating, yes, but it more than makes up for its short length. It reminds me of those old NES games that were short but had enough challenge to make it worth it. All in all, I suggest you try this game out if you're looking for a legitimately challenging game that is guaranteed to make you rage. But until then, I'll be seeing you.



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