Growing up, we’ve all played games in school (and the younger of us have also played computer games) that were meant to teach us while being fun. And while those edutainment games often fell short of both goals, they sure were better than the alternative of lazing around in class. Odyssey claims to be the next generation of those games, and with a young genius’ journal as our textbook, elaborate puzzles as our scientific models, and vibrant islands as our classroom, it seems to be just that.
You are tasked with navigating through the islands to find 13-year old Kai and her trapped family. Due to the threat of pirates, Kai left a string of puzzles behind her, all of which revolve around physics, mechanics, and astronomy. Through the chapters of her journal, the player is guided through a history of astronomy (from the ancient Greeks to Galileo Galilei) and engaging explanations of those early concepts.
Kai’s journal is a major part of Odyssey, and functions as educational reading while also delivering hints on the puzzles. The gate to the island has the first part of her journal propped up on it, and is in itself the first puzzle. It is a picture of the Great Dipper surrounded by stars, with a slider underneath that says “North”. Being a huge nerd, I already knew how the Dipper pointed towards Polaris and solved the puzzle, but be assured knowing that the answer lay within Kai’s journal. I had to use the journal to solve the rest of the challenges, however, so even though I am far older than the game’s target audience, I still learned new things along the way in Odyssey.
“It is a rethinking of the puzzle adventure genre in a more educational context and might take a little getting used to at first.”
The journal sometimes felt more like an answer key to me, as most other puzzle games do not provide an aid such as this and task the player to solve challenges using less explicit tools within the game world. However, Odyssey requires this aid as it expects players to walk in without the scientific and historical knowledge needed to complete puzzles. It is a rethinking of the puzzle adventure genre in a more educational context and might take a little getting used to at first.
Due to this, the game is rather text heavy. The Young Socratics acknowledges this, stating that “players can expect a significant amount of reading”. While this may be off-putting to most gamers, Odyssey is designed for learning and hopefully, classroom use. I would not consider this a flaw, and players looking to skim can look towards the yellow highlighted sections of Kai’s journal for the hints needed to solve the islands’ puzzles (I will be the first to admit that I did this — patience is not my strong suit). This might be a challenge for teachers, however, as students may also use this and skip past much of the reading.
The puzzles of Odyssey are all visually interesting to look at, with its glowing constellations and planetary models on circular rails. Being in early access, the game did have some technical problems — I experienced some low framerates in parts, with things freezing on me completely and crashing at times. I also somehow got myself wedged in a spot and without a jump function or any way to get out, I had to restart from an auto-saved checkpoint. I also found that with the lower overall framerate of the game and the island’s vivid colors, looking around quickly or sprinting tended to be a little disorientating.
While there are some technical issues to work out, Odyssey is a promising puzzle adventure game to look forward to, whether you are a teacher, student, or just someone looking to learn more about science in a fresh and engaging way. I do hope that this gets into classrooms around the world, as this kind of interactive learning would be a huge boon for education.
*** PC code provided by the publisher ***