Developer: Anix LLC
Price: FREE
Version: 1.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

On rare occasions I start playing a game, find myself totally unenthusiastic about it, then it grows on me to the point that I feel bad for doubting it in the first place. Odyssey: Alone Against the Whole Space is most certainly one such game. The title is a mouthful and having a SHUMP’s controls relegated to a virtual stick feels beyond awkward, but the wealth of RPG-like upgrades make intentionally shortening the name in conversation and taking a few minutes to adjust to the controls worth it.

The Odyssey has gotten trapped out in deep space and now has to find her way home. This by itself wouldn’t be so bad if most of the denizens of deep space didn’t have it out for the wayward ship and her unfortunate crew. After a brief learn-as-you-go tutorial wherein players are destined to eventually fail, the game proper begins. Odyssey is designed as an “endless” style game, with multiple levels featuring hordes of different enemies that serve two primary functions: to provide currency and experience for ship enhancements, and to try and prevent players from attaining high scores.

The entire draw of Odyssey is the progression system. Three different ships are available and each can be leveled-up RPG-style for increased combat proficiency. On top of that, they can also be manually upgraded by purchasing better parts in between missions. And then there are all the bonus items like weapons and ammo and such to give players even more of an edge. It’s a clever system of enhancements that can really keep players invested and desperate to attain that slightly better armor or new ship.

While it’s arguable that Odyssey’s full title could be a deterrent for curious App Store shoppers (personally I think it is), what’s not up for debate is the use of a fixed virtual stick. So many iOS SHMUPs use simple, intuitive, unobtrusive touch controls that suddenly being forced to adhere to such a rigid control method is jarring, to say the least. Likewise, being used to the more direct touch controls found in most other SHMUPs these days makes the stick feel rather unresponsive at the best of times. Granted things get a little better once the ship’s speed is upgraded but it still takes a lot of getting used to.

To be totally honest I was ready to write off Odyssey: Alone in the Whole Space after only a few moments of play, but I stuck with it and am happy I did. It’s got some fairly questionable controls and a name that’s kind of embarrassing to say out loud, but beyond that lies a robust RPG system of upgrades and leveling that practically carries the entire game by itself. Oddly enough it’s the sort of thing that should appeal greatly to fans of dungeon crawlers and the like.

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