Strange Odyssey (1979)   Leave a comment

strange_odyssey_australian

If we want to compare this era in electronic games to very early film, most of the adventure game authors are still in the “point a camera and hope something interesting happens” phase, while Scott Adams is experimenting with the actual vocabulary of design.

Strange Odyssey is his first science fiction game, with the popular tack of “you’ve crashed on an alien planet, now try to escape.” There are in fact treasures to collect, but they seem to be optional, so they’re more of a nod to past works than an attempt to backpedal on his plot innovations.

The major experiment here is a “disconnected map” where you teleport between distant places.

I’m in a strange hexagonal room
Obvious exits: NONE
Visible items: Strange flickering curtain of light, Small piece of plastic flush in the wall, Rod jutting straight out of the wall, Strange looking goggles

The hexagonal room above is the central hub. The rod and plastic act as controls the destination of the curtain. Entering the curtain might lead to a methane snow storm, or jungle, or an alien art museum, or a Jovian mining colony with high gravity.

(Spoiler warning: puzzle spoiled below.)

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This section really gives the strong feel of gameplay merged with plot with trying to work out the controls to an “alien machine.” The rod can be PULLed and PUSHed at which point the plastic glows:

WHAT SHALL I DO? pull rod
Odd it only required very little force to slide out
WHAT SHALL I DO? push rod
Odd it only required very little force to slide in
The plastic GLOWED briefly 8 times.
WHAT SHALL I DO? touch plastic
OK I feel strangely disoriented for a moment!

The number of times the plastic glows corresponds to the destination of the curtain, although you have to touch the “small piece of plastic” to finalize it. Each time you pull/push the rod the plastic glow count goes up by 1. If you need to go back to a destination with an earlier number you need to “reset” the mechanism by touching the plastic when the rod is pulled.

It took me a good hour to get a hang of what was going on, but after I worked out the mechanism it made perfect logical sense. This is in opposition to mechanisms in some other adventure games (*cough* Myst clones *cough*) which often seem to be obtuse for no reason at all.

There’s no “light source” in this game but the space suit has a set amount of oxygen. It’s a tight enough window that I started writing a walkthrough. I’m not sure 100% how necessary this is (I’ve already found a machine that can refill the space suit, and it might be usable multiple times) but the suit timer is combined with a very tight inventory limit which makes me lose a lot of time just juggling items.

Other than the mechanism I mentioned most of the puzzles have been very straightforward, so I may wrap this one up quickly. I need to be careful about any promises, though, because sometimes the last lingering puzzles in a Scott Adams game are the hardest.

My main obstacle for escape is a damaged Power Crystal, which the game reports was originally in the form of a “thin rod”. I suppose I need to brainstorm ways to create one. I’m suspecting perhaps bringing the pieces the heavy gravity planet can mash them together? I also have an ice pick I’ve haven’t got to use, but other than that it seems like I’ve seen everything. The map below is likely close to complete.

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Posted February 21, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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