Hands-On Preview: Whoda thought?
If you know me then I've already told you about Odama, Nintendo's left-field announcement at E3. Just what about it is so out there you ask? Well, sit down, grab a beer and I'll tell you.
Nintendo is known for exploring new territory. Sometimes they meet with great success (the Game Boy). Other times they miss the mark (the Virtual Boy). Regardless of the outcome, Nintendo often sets out to break new ground and introduce new gaming ideas. This concept of innovation is the entire basis of Odama, a bizarre mix between pinball and real-time war strategy. Yes, you did read that right, "pinball and real-time war strategy."
With the time I spent handling the game's (presumably) first level at E3 in May, Odama felt most like a pinball videogame. In that aspect the controls were tight; utilizing the shoulder buttons to control the flippers and the Z button to enact a super shot that was capable of converting enemy soldiers. Battlefield emplacements, such as archers turrets, war gongs and dam controlling waterwheels, replace the traditional drop targets and bumpers with your overall goal shifting from scoring points to knocking out the opposing army's general.
However, unlike with a real pinball machine you will not be able to play the game infinitely just by keeping the ball in play. Enemy soldiers continually advance on your position and it is up to your pinball wizardry and troop control to keep them at bay. In the aforementioned level that I sank my teeth into, troop control was simple, yet intuitive. Using the C control stick, I was able to tell me soldiers to advance or withdraw, depending on whether the giant odama, or cannonball, was making any headway against the enemy. A very simple interface, yet a welcome addition to a genre that often gets stale. With a promise that the complete game will have your soldiers capturing additional flippers and additional troop types, Odama has the opportunity to turn the world of pinball upside-down.