theuselessgod's Odell Down Under (PC) review

I loved this "Edutainment" game as a kid!

The Short

Pros

- "Edutainment" game involving eating smaller fish while avoiding bigger fish...hey this sounds familiar

- Has like thirty fish to play as an many different locations and scenarios

- Every fish plays completely differently, based on its actual natural predators and prey

- Looks pretty good for an old PC game

- I love that fish go "ARRRGGGHHH" when they die

Cons

- Kind of boring

- Some fish are overpowered. Learn to balance your games, Mecc. Wait, actual marine biology? PFFFFFT.

- For being "Edutainment," in order to learn I'd actually have to read the fish facts before I picked them. Like that's gonna happen.

Good ol' 265 colors.

The LongThis is a weird game to review, because technically I never owned it. Growing up we played it at the computer lab at our local school department, though we mostly played it at the Children's Museum in L.A. of all places. And even though technically I probably haven't played it enough to give a fair review, it's a freaking ancient Edutainment game so I think you'll let it slide if the last time I played this game I was like...ten.

Since I've been reviewing the Feeding Frenzy games (read review for #1 and #2!) I figured I'd review the game it obviously was inspired by (though PopCap made a casual game that does not follow actual fish biology, despite me saying otherwise in my Feeding Frenzy review). Odell Down Under is the sequel to Odell Lake, which was more of a text-adventure fish eating game rather than one where you actually swim around. Let me tell you: having to pick from a menu to eat fish is super boring guys.

SNORE.

So in the "sequel," Odell Down Under, they book it from the lake and focus on fish that live by Australia and in the ocean. And it's a lot better for it.The concept is actually more of survival rather than "eat everything and get big." In order to stay alive you have to both eat other fish and avoid the dangerous ones. If you are a herbivore, you actually have to just eat the plants. If you are a carnivore, you have to learn to recognize which fish are poisonous and which are safe to eat, and which can kill you. Each fish's "stats" are based on their actual biological characteristics, so just because a fish is smaller doesn't mean you can chow-down. It's a clever way to trick kids into learning about actual fish facts, even if most kids would just play the practice mode where you play as a shark and just eat everything that moves.

Guess what. Sea Urchins are poisonous. Just because you can eat something means you should. Like McDonalds.

The game gives you a small grid to explore, and tons of fish to interact with. Seriously, there's like thirty or more fish in this game, and you'd better learn 'em all if you are going to not become food (or eat something and die). Different fish come out at different times of day/night, so that's something you have to be aware of as well. It's tricky, especially when you play as the tiny herbivores (which basically means you become a snack for the bigger fish while you are trying to eat plants), but it's weirdly fun. There are no real goals rather than the ultimate one: SURVIVAL. You don't magically grow or anything; you just want to live. Which is weirdly...fun? I think?

You can learn stuff about fish, or just zap stuff with the Ray's stinger.

The game looks pretty decent for an old Windows 95 game. They use the 256 colors well enough, and the fish all animate smoothly. I dare say the animate better than Feeding Frenzy 2, which is kind of sad considering the massive time gap between these games. Also, fish go AAAAAARRRGGGHHHH when you eat them or get eaten, which is hilarious. It sounds more frustrated than actually dying, which makes it even funnier, like I minorly inconvenienced them by eating them.

arrrrgh

There really isn't a goal in the game besides getting better and eventually unlocking the shark, which I suppose is a decent enough goal. Mostly it's just here so you'll learn more about fish, and to be honest I don't remember jack crap about fish from this game sixteen years later. I do remember to not eat urchins, though, which has probably saved my life more times than you'd think. So thanks, Odell Down Under. You're a real pal.I have no idea what sort of score to give this game. I was freaking obsessed with it as a kid for whatever reason (which is also probably why I secretly liked the Feeding Frenzy games) but...I dunno. It's to teach kids stuff. What, am I going to review The Oregon Trail on Apple II now? Actually, yeah, I should totally do that sometime. That would be awesome. Hunting in that game is great.

Anyway, if you have a kid who really likes fish and also somehow own a Windows 95 machine that supports floppy discs or whatever this game came out on (and you can find a copy) then why not. I liked it, but that was also a simpler time. But hey, pound-for-pound you won't find more Australian fish facts in any other game ever made, so it has that going for it.

Four out of five stars? Why does this even matter?

You think Demon Souls is hard? Try playing Odell Down Under with the Silver Sprat and surviving more than ten minutes. Seriously. You can't. You are prey.

More at http://nathanvsvideogames.blogspot.com

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