Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sky Odyssey: PlayStation 2 Tuesdays #4

PlayStation 2 Tuesdays are officially back!  The plan is come up with one of these every week (or almost every week) until we have twelve.  Then that will be the end of Season One.  I will then switch my attention back to Commodore Classics until we have twelve of those as well.  From there, I will then continue either with Random Retro Round Up, or Nintendo Night.  Other new "series" may be added as well.  We will then come around to PlayStation 2 Tuesdays Season Two! There's a long way to go before we get there though, so let's get started.

First of all, before I say anything else about Sky Odyssey, I must begin by saying that it is amongst my very favourite games for the PS2.  It was a fairly early release in the life time of the system, so there weren't many other games competing for my attention.  I don't remember exactly how I heard about the game - I vaguely recall that the official PS2 magazine put a demo of the first level on their cover disc, and I was hooked.  Sky Odyssey is like no other game I have ever played.  Pilotwings comes close, but as it shifts it's focus across various modes of air transportation, it's not the same.

So what do you do in Sky Odyssey?  Well, you play the role of an aviator and explorer, who sets off to an island chain to discover four parts of a lost map, which will in turn lead you to a hidden treasure.  These map pieces are always found in ancient ruins, one on each of the four major islands in the archipelago.  The only way to get to each one is by flying, so you set off either in your trusty biplane or jet plane, and traverse many varied environments including severe stormy weather, underground caves full of hazardous stalactites and stalagmites, a huge mountain range and much more.

The main aspect that Sky Odyssey absolutely nails is the handling of your aircraft.  It feels tricky at first, yet as you gradually become acclimated with the sensitivity of the controls and how fast you need to be going in order to avoid stalling, flying starts to feel like second nature.  As you grow more confident you can throw in acrobatic manoeuvres like barrel rolls or flying at low altitude, which will give you extra points at the end of a mission.

Another area the game excels in is atmosphere.  The graphics may look rather basic nowadays, but the wind, particle effects and lighting still do a great job of immersing you in the game and making you feel like you are really flying.  The music is exciting as well, helping the sense of adventure immensely. Finally, we have the sheer variety of situations that the game designers have come up for you to cope with - from having to refuel from a moving train because your tank has sprung a leak, to riding currents of air in order to greatly increase your top speed and make it to your destination on time, to dumping your fuel at the foot of a mountain range in order to make sure your craft is light enough to make it to the summit.  The developers really have crafted a great game here, one that I keep coming back to time and time again.

Sky Odyssey is a game that I rarely, if ever, hear anyone talk about. It is a genuine Hidden Gem on the PS2, and definitely deserves more attention.  Taking a look at Amazon Marketplace and eBay, you can pick the game up for between £5 and £10, so it hasn't really changed in value since I bought myself another copy about five years ago.  If you still own your PS2, or are thinking of picking one up with a bunch of old games, then a copy of this game should definitely be a part of your collection - especially if you want to play something a little different.

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