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Pinball / Strategy









E +10 (Everyone)



April 2006



- Decidedly interesting pinball game

- Voice commands are a perfect “military” feature

- Quite a challenge and fun in short bursts



- Progress feels dependant on luck rather than outright skill



Review: Chibi Robo (GC)

Review: Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat (GC)

Review: Nintendogs (DS)

Review: Mario Pinball Land (GBA)



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Score: 7.0 /10


Odama is one of those weird hybrid games that should never work.  On paper, the concept is almost ridiculous, and when I saw it in action a couple of years ago in its early development I thought it was ridiculous.  But it’s one of those concepts that actually grew on me.


odama          odama


Odama is a pinball game mated with a military strategy game, where you smack a giant ball around the battlefield smashing enemy fortifications, flattening troops, and causing general chaos.  The main task is to provide protection for the Bell Crew, which marches relentlessly toward the goal, and besides flipping the Odama around the field, basic voice commands can be issued to your rabble of troops to “advance” forward or “rally” to a chosen spot on the battlefield (just for an example).  (Odama comes packed with a mic which clips to the controller and plugs into memory slot B.)  The enemy will relentlessly defend itself sending out horsemen and launching its own counterattacks.  The chaos is quite fun to watch.


Just like a pinball game, the Odama can be used to smash open secrets and inaccessible ramps.  It’s also used to crack open or close dikes so that your troops can move forward (or cut-off the enemy).  Power-ups can also be acquired by whacking the Bell with the Odama – doing so shoots out an orb that can be collected.  For example, a green orb momentarily turns the Odama into a weapon of “conversion” – rolling the Odama over enemy units turns them to your side as reinforcements, which can be called up at the press of a button.   Players can also earn rice balls, which can be used to distract enemy units with “airdrops” of compacted rice.  With the right stick, the whole field can be slightly tilted left or right, just like a real pinball game, which can provide a much-needed aftertouch to almost any flip of the paddle.





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Melding these two aspects – military and pinball – is a lot of fun, at first.  Then you realize that there’s more luck than skill involved.  Being a good shot certainly helps, but there is always luck to consider.  Ordering the troops around into tactically useful positions to help the Bell Crew move up the field, is nice but when it can all be undone by a lonely cavalryman getting around your defenses and paralyzing your “flipper” crews… well, that’s not fun, it’s frustrating.



Only one Odama ball is available at the start of a round.  Lose that one and it’s back to the start, no matter how close the end of the battle might be.  Extra Odamas can be earned, but all too often there’s only one to work with, which turn most levels into nail-biters.


Up close, Odama is an awful-looking game.  Fortunately almost all the action takes place from the traditional pinball view – from a distance.  The masses of troops scurrying to and fro and dilapidated structures crumbling under the might of your Odama… it’s a fun game to watch. (I also liked glimpsing the various last words of the unfortunates getting flattened by the Odama. For some reason, “Tell my wife and kids I love them!” is hilarious when you think that the guy was just crushed under a big ball.)  The audio also scores points for perfectly suiting the action, particularly sound of the Odama careening around the field and the screaming infantry.


odama          odama


In short, controlled bursts Odama is fun but in stretches no longer than half an hour.  And for all the uniqueness and quirkiness of the title, it can’t offset the fact there’s more luck involved than actual skill.


- Omni

(April  20, 2006)

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