Friday, June 6, 2014

Odessa 3: Fade to Gray (ODESSA_3)

by Bob "Odessa" Evans

Bob Evans gained some fame as the author of the impossible-to-find ODESSA levels in addition to releasing the most cryptic maps to grace Eternal Doom. After a long hiatus, he came back to the community, and thankfully allowed himself to be talked into re-uploading his long-lost works. Odessa 3, aka "Fade to Gray", is the third single 1995 release in a series which started with the clearing of an arena complex followed by the hero wresting control of an oasis from a team of Hellspawn. Here, the teleport leaves you outside a building that's odd due to its mundane nature - a health club. When you look inside, though, you see one of your friends, which would be reassuring were it not for the fact that he's been dead for two years. Looks like you're still in the thick of it!

So, yes. ODESSA_3 has an opening that somewhat resembles a more urbane area, complete with flagpole, before plunging into a more abstract base-like map. I like the decorative use of water in the first areas you navigate, like the up / down foyer and the walkway leading to the soul sphere hub to the north. The opposition isn't that hardcore to start with, and some foibles - like the lost souls in the blood and marble room to the east - seem unnecessarily hamstrung. On the other hand, the soul sphere intersection has some nice crossfire and initially hidden monsters, so you'll probably take a few hits before you get your shit sorted out.

The western section is a cool piece of engineering. There are several stages of crushers you have to carefully move through, at the end of which is an ambush that feels somewhat tense, if only because your back is up against a hard place. Once you're there, though, you have to figure out how to get access to the area behind. The answer, of course, is very local, but whether it'll dawn on you as quickly as it did me, I can't vouch. Just be careful - that first crusher is a little tricky to get around. The rest of the map has some cool lighting moments and architecture that show Evans stepping away, I think, from the more orthogonal Odessa X and toward the mind which brought us Odessa 14.

Evans is striking a medium between the fairly straightforward gameplay of contemporary levels and the absolute obfuscation that is "Silures" / "Excalibur". It makes for, I dunno, popcorn puzzle gameplay, if that makes any sense. Less experienced secret sniffers might get stuck, but if you are anything like me, this indoor adventure will be over all too quick. I am looking forward to the next installment, and maybe the re-engineered Odessa rejects if Evans ever gets around to it.

This article is part of a series on
Bob Evans's ODESSA series


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