Ordesa review
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Ordesa review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on October 16th, 2020
Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: SMOOTH SPOOKIN
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Ordesa is an eerie FMV game that casts an alluring and immersive spell over you as you play.

Developer: ARTE Experience

Price: $2.99
Version: 1.1
App Reviewed on: iPad Pro

Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarstarstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarhalfstarblankstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

Ordesa is not your typical FMV game. Instead of watching video clips stitched together in reaction to conspicuous player input, it plays out with an eerie smoothness, to the point that it's sometimes unclear whether you're an active participant in it or not. It's a sort of magic trick that works surprisingly well, so long as you can find some time to play it in one sitting.

Haunted house

An important thing to note upfront about Ordesa is that it's a tilt-based game. There are no buttons or other virtual controls aside from the ability to pause the game by tapping on the screen. I am usually opposed to games that force me to use the accelerometer, but there are a few key things that make this control scheme work for Ordesa specifically.

The game itself is essentially a series of wide-angle scenes that you can pan across by tilting your device. In just a short time with the game, you'll discover that it takes place in and around an old, decrepit house and revolves around an estranged father and daughter as they experience some otherworldly phenomena related to some past trauma on their homestead.

I want to believe

As the player controlling the camera, you have some input on what kind of strange happenings occur across the game. This is made obvious by the fact that Ordesa at times forces you to pan to a door to "open" it and progress to the next scene, but there are other moments where you might pan slowly past a chair and knock it over or a light switch to turn it on.

When these things happen, the characters in the game react to it appropriately, and all in a way that feels as natural and smooth as watching a movie. There's virtually no stutter or pausing while Ordesa serves up the right clip given your input, so you truly feel like you're manipulating a photorealistic scene, as opposed to simply determining what can or should happen next (though, to be fair, that is essentially what you're still doing).

Regrettable rewind

The subtlety and smoothness of Ordesa is enrapturing in a way that all other FMV games are not. You're never too sure how much influence you have over what is happening, what you can and can't do in a scene, and how your actions might change things. This adds to the mystique of a game that is tonally creepy and--at times--pretty intense. Due to the combination of these elements, I found myself reveling in the surprise of my abilities and how it affected the story, rather than experiencing frustration over any perceived lack of agency.

The only problem with Ordesa is that its magic only works if you stay in the moment while playing it. If you have to leave it and come back later, it's likely you'll get booted back to a checkpoint, and replaying scenes is far less compelling. For completionists, it's worth noting that Ordesa clearly maps out its chapters and the things you can interact with upon finishing your first playthrough, but I was more than satisfied with my first time through the game and fear a return visit will cheapen the experience.

The bottom line

Ordesa's gameplay blends so smoothly with its storytelling that you can't help but feel totally immersed in its world. It's not a long game, but be sure to carve out the hour or so it takes to complete it. Getting ripped out of Ordesa and having to replay sections of it is just as irritating as it would be to stop watching a movie and return to rewatch parts of it before finishing.

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