Yoot Saito's Odama E3 2005 Hands-On Report

Pinball? Check. Real-time strategy? Check. Voice recognition? Ch... wait, what?

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At E3 last year, Nintendo stashed away a couple of kiosks containing a little game called Yoot Saito's Odama. It was a charming, effective combination of real-time strategy and pinball that really stood out from the pack. E3 2005 marks Odama's second appearance at the show, and now it has a whole new twist in the form of support for the GameCube's microphone peripheral.

To recap the basic concept, you're playing pinball while tiny soldiers battle it out on the playfield. You're trying to clear a path for a pair of soldiers hauling a giant bell. The goal is to get the guys with the bell to march all the way up the screen and through a gate at the top. You only have seven minutes to accomplish this task, and enemy troops are constantly streaming out of areas near the top of the screen. Slamming your ball--the Odama--into enemy troops wipes them out, and your troops will also get into the action, fighting hand to hand against the enemy.

In the version on display last year, you could sort of move your troops around using the D pad. But now, all your troop control is handled with your voice. You can issue commands to the battlefield by holding X and speaking into the mic. You can move your bell carriers around with orders like left, right, and go. The rest of your troops can form up on the bell for protection with an order of "form up," and you can also order them to charge. The other thing you need to worry about is letting enemy troops get to your flippers. They'll seize up your flippers and, if the Odama comes crashing down, you'll lose it. But you can buy yourself a little time by firing a giant hamburger onto the playfield, which will distract the enemy and clump them together, making them easy to take out with one well-placed shot of the Odama. Yeah, a giant hamburger. We can't make this stuff up. Yoot Saito, however, can.

There are three stages on display in the E3 demo, and each one gets increasingly complex. In the first stage, you'll have to hit a dam switch to dry up a river and let your troops across. Later on, you'll be smashing the Odama into enemy catapults to keep your bell path clear. The varied stages mean that you'll have to use a slightly different strategy each time around if you want to successfully rush the gate.

Voice recognition is always a tricky proposition, but we're pleased to report that the game responds to your voice pretty well, even when you're in a noisy environment like, say, the show floor at E3. Yoot Saito's Odama is scheduled to ship later this year.

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