Taking place in scores of locations spread across three wonder-filled planets, Twinsen's Odyssey is a tour de force worthy of its epic title. The sweeping scope of the game encompasses and embraces a host of stunningly imaginative environments, each more beautifully rendered and inventive than the last. While such a rich gameworld is laudable in its own right, Twinsen's Odyssey doesn't stint on the gameplay, providing hours upon hours of ceaselessly entertaining and challenging puzzles and action sequences in one of the best examples of action/adventure hybrids yet produced.
It's a Wonderful World
Twinsen's Odyssey is the sequel to 1994's Relentless (or Little Big Adventure, as it was known abroad), and action again focuses on the idyllic planet of Twinsun and its perky homonymic hero Twinsen. All's well in Twinsun, with Twinsen and his girlfriend Zoe expecting their first child any day. Suddenly, a violent thunderstorm rocks Twinsen's quirky village and a stray bolt of lightning strikes his trusty airborne steed, the Dino-fly. Twinsen sets out to heal his pal, and in the process uncovers a plot by the alien Esmers to rocket the nearby Emerald Moon into Twinsun, thus releasing its inherent magical power. The released energy will reincarnate their prophet Dark Monk and restore their homeworld to its original, Edenlike beauty. As Twinsen progresses in his quest to foil the Esmers and rescue the kidnapped children of Twinsun, he will develop his own magical powers, battle fearsome enemies, ally himself with fantastic alien races, solve several sub-quests, and explore more than 200 locations across all three planets. It's a big job, but somebody's got to do it.
The most striking aspect of Twinsen's Odyssey is its graphics. With everything rendered in polygons for full 3D, the rich SVGA-graphics gameworld is simply breathtaking, especially when Twinsen is scampering across the game's outdoor locations. Every landscape is teeming with life-and what wildly imagined life it is. Nasty Franco soldiers (giant hot dogs) patrolling Twinsun on inline skates, rabbibunny tourists snapping pictures at sacred volcanoes, and roly-poly scientific genius elephants are just some of the hundreds of fanciful characters, all of whom carry on independently when not interacting with Twinsen. The landscapes of Twinsen's Odyssey are similarly alive, with exaggerated swoops and peaks lending a vibrancy to every exterior location.
One of the great joys in playing this game is the constant surprise of finding something fresh and wholly original around every corner. Interior locations are no exception. During the course of his adventure Twinsen will gamble in a casino, ride a mining cart in an underground temple, storm a women's sauna, leap across lakes of fire in dank gem mines, and infiltrate a seedy waterfront bar with the requisite drunks and exotic Franco dancer. The game's generous cut scenes are always beautifully animated and entertaining.
If there's any knock against the visual design of Twinsen's Odyssey it's that some of the camera angles make some tasks more difficult than they should be. Tapping the Return and Backspace keys will change camera angles to provide a more advantageous look at the situation, but in a few rare instances even that won't help.
International Man of Mystery
Gameplay in Twinsen's Odyssey is pretty fairly divided between adventure fare and platform-style action. As the plot unfolds Twinsen will have to solve several sub-quests, such as having to find fuel for his rocket-pack. The sub-quests are tied in so well to the plot and are so much fun to pursue that you never feel as if you're simply running one errand after another-even though you might be. It helps that many of the items you collect come in handy more than once over the course of the game.
But Twinsen's Odyssey isn't just another scavenger hunt adventure game. To save Twinsun, our hero will have to crack a few skulls and indulge in more than a smattering of swashbuckling derring-do. Employing his magic ball, a blowgun, a laser pistol, a really nifty sabre, and, of course, his fists, Twinsen will square off against a host of adversaries, including multi-armed gorilla assassins, spiny demons, gun-toting cacti, and hostile aliens that look like James Woods. A generous supply of power-ups that replenish magical power, health, and extra lives keeps Twinsen going.
Puzzles are primarily presented in the form of obstacles blocking Twinsen's path, and many involve figuring out jumping sequences. Twinsen leaps onto moving platforms, jumps from one precipice to another, and scales ladders, frequently while dodging enemy attacks. There's even a spectacular Evel Knievel-style car jump for good measure. While movement can be handled with keyboard or joystick, I found a gamepad to be best.
With its unparalleled sense of marvel and imagination, engaging story, and deft mix of action and adventure, Twinsen's Odyssey is a true delight and simply the most charming game I've ever played. Gamers who pass it by are depriving themselves of one of the most rewarding games of this, or any other, year.
By Robert Coffey