A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a pinball game in a war setting. Hundreds of soldiers are killed on each battlefield/pinball table by the rolling ball or in combat, but it is all bloodless and depicted at a distance. The violence is cartoonish rather than realistic. Parents should also be aware that the game uses the Gamecube microphone, allowing players to commands their troops; be prepared for a lot of shouting from players.
What's it about?
ODAMA, a bizarre title for the Gamecube, is a gotta-see-it-to-believe-it game that blends battlefield strategy with pinball action to produce a flawed but unique gaming experience. Fields, city streets, and towns serve as the pinball table. The odama is a giant metal ball that rolls around, wreaking destruction on men, buildings, animals, vehicles, and just about anything else that gets in the way.
Players guide the odama with flippers and by tilting the battlefield, all the while protecting a giant bell that is being carried across the battlefield to a goal. Most destruction comes from the rolling odama, which can gain power-ups that recruit squashed enemies to the player's side or put more time on the game clock. But players also command their troops by shouting "March Left!" or "Rally!" into the included microphone.
Is it any good?
If this sounds crazy, that's because Odama is a crazy game -- and fun. Battlefields are chaotic, with little men rushing everywhere, while the odama causes Godzilla-level destruction (on allies and enemies). The game is a delicious sensory overload: Players frantically command their troops to capture a strategic position, smash the ball with the flippers, tilt the table to direct the shot at a giant samurai warrior, and launch food to distract the hungry enemy army, all at the same time.
There are a few problems: Collisions with objects on the field can send the odama careening in unpredictable ways. Some battlefields restrict ball movement, confining it in some cases to predefined lanes. Additionally, players must repeat some commands to keep the armies on task. Even so, Odama's insane mix of story elements and frantic action keep it appealing despite the flaws.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why a pinball game was set in a war. Is the violence more acceptable because it is cartoonish and even absurd? They might also want to discuss creativity in game design. Is the appeal of this game it's quirky premise? Why do so many game repeat the same stories and styles of play? Do you think games are getting more or less creative over time?
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