ODT: Escape Or Die Trying

15Unlike many action games, O.D.T. has a story line that, if properly developed and integrated into gameplay, could add much to the overall experience. Set in a fictional world ravaged by a deadly plague, O.D.T. casts you as one of four crew members aboard a prop-driven dirigible that’s crashed in uncharted territory while on a mission to stop the spread of the disease. When you return after scouting around for gas for the dirigible, you discover that the captain — along with the green pearl that was the only hope for halting the epidemic — is missing.

But from this point on the story becomes little more than an afterthought that’s passed along in animated video clips shown at the start of each level. As the captain becomes embroiled in a thrilling adventure complete with jailbreaks and the discovery of the mysteries behind the pearl and the enemies who want it destroyed, you embark on a scavenger hunt in search of bottles of gas, pieces of magic crystal, and of course keys and passcards required to explore new levels. So while you get to see the story unfold, you don’t really take part in it.

O.D.T. tries to liven up the standard third-person combat and exploration formula by letting you play as one of four characters, among them a Lara-look-a-like and an “archbishop” who has a bird constantly circling over him (I prayed the bird would answer nature’s call, but it never did). In addition, there are 16 spells the characters can learn, which cover everything from restoring health to freezing enemies in a block of ice.

But any extra fun provided by multiple characters and the addition of spells is nixed by a control system that suffers the same fate as so many third-person action games: it’s too damn hard to see what’s going on. As the perspective pans and zooms in a desperate attempt to keep your character in view, you’ll find yourself running into walls, wasting ammo by missing easy targets, and plunging to your death on a fairly regular basis. The lack of mouse support means the only way to look around is to draw your weapon, but that prevents you from moving. Want to crouch down and toss a grenade through an opening at floor level? Tough — you can’t throw anything while crouching. Fortunately, the enemies are so stupid that victory is pretty much assured as long as you’ve scraped up enough ammo to keep up a steady stream of fire.

4_1I’ve got to admit that after several frustrating hours I finally got the hang of movement and combat, but just as I was patting myself on the back, I encountered O.D.T.’s platform-game elements — and started pulling my hair out all over again. Just making some of these jumps is frustrating enough, and that feeling is exacerbated by the insane decision to use console-style “save points” rather than a standard in-level save feature. So if you do play O.D.T., expect to be covering the same ground over and over again — sometimes for something as insignificant as a power-up.

If O.D.T. developer FDI French Studio had opted to cast you as the captain and designed an action adventure along the lines of an Alone in the Dark, the game’s clumsy controls would probably be little more than an annoyance. But with the story shoved firmly to the background, we’re left with an average Tomb Raider clone.

System Requirements: Pentium II 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Win95

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