The Odyssey: Winds of Athena is a slick downloadable physics games by the aptly-named Liquid Dragon. The company’s technological bent is fluid dynamics, and they’ve used their fluid solver to power this casual action/puzzle title. The game’s official description is:
Step into the shoes of the Goddess Athena and help guide Ulysses’ fleet to safety. Fend-off Cyclopes, Harpies and more while creating currents and winds to lead the boats to their destination.
The goal of Odyssey is straightforward. Boats enter the single-screen world from a designated starting point, and it’s your job to make sure they reach the designated exit intact. To this end you can control the wind (with a neat gesture-based clockwise/counterclockwise mouse rotation) or click and drag to affect currents in the water.
The fluid dynamics in Odyssey are excellent. Interacting with the currents is intuitive, and the resulting motion is predictable. Of course, when you’re dealing with fluid dynamics it’s easy to generate eddies and whirlpools. This can sometimes be frustrating, since it can be difficult to keep your boats moving forward.
Liquid Dragon has added a number of obstacles to the game to make it more difficult. Some of them, like the whirlwinds, have an effect on the fluid system. Many of the obstacles, though, are primarily targets for user clicks. In later levels, birds will fly in to pick up your ships, cyclops will throw rocks, and so on. To stop them, you simply need to click on the birds or rocks. While these mechanisms are effective at making the game more difficult, I feel they distract you from the interesting physical aspects of the fluid dynamics (although it does make the requirement of holding the mouse down for a few seconds to change wind speed very significant). I would much rather have seen more designs that interact with and influence the fluid solver than arbitrary click-on-this challenges.
The levels also add a puzzle element through the use of gates, which introduce keyed locks. Touching a pillar of one color with a ship will open gates of the corresponding color. Primarily you need to open gates to let your ships pass through, although in later levels opening gates will also open and close streams that influence the current movement. Again, I would have preferred to see more puzzles based around modifying the currents.
Game Design Pacing Issues
The concept of The Odyssey: Winds of Athena is fantastic. There are other games that use fluid solvers, like Plasma Pong, but Odyssey is unique. I don’t think I’ve seen another game quite like it. The implementation has some rough spots, though. In particular the pacing is very lopsided. Typically, a handful of boats will end up as stragglers. This requires cleanup at the end of the level which dampens the feeling of success. It’s annoying when you’re forced to keep playing after you’re mentally finished the stage.
Give it a Whirl!
All things considered, though, Odyssey is a well-produced, unique title. For me, the game was more novel than addictive, but I’m sure it will be more appealing to others. There’s a free 60-minute trial version available, so there isn’t an excuse not to try it out.
The full version is $19.99 and available at Liquid Dragon’s website.