As a child growing up in the 80s, there was nothing more exciting than being allowed to go to the library at school, to use the only computer that was there. The joy and excitement that filled my body when the IBM personal computer was rolled out on that plastic grey desk is difficult to describe. It was only bettered when the librarian handed over the selection of games, where I would inevitably pick one of the many text adventure games that were available. I don’t know why I was hooked on these titles; they were slow and arduous to play, and I never really fully understood the finer points of each story, but still I loved every minute. Roll forward 30 years, and part of me still adores this genre of game, so when I heard the Ratalaika Games had published Ord. I was very excited.
Ord. is an award-winning text adventure game (tag) by developer Mujo Games, unlike the tag’s from my childhood, this one allows you to experience 5 unique stories. Each has its own random story to tell, and all of them follow a minimalist approach. Each plot develops with the choice of 2 options. Whichever one you choose, you will be given a 3 word outcome that will either progress the tale, or end it on the spot. If your story concludes prematurely, you will start at the beginning, where you must begin again. The aim is to remember how each separate choice impacted the direction of the narrative. Making several of the same choices isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you don’t deviate from the path, you are destined to either go in circles, or constantly fail. To get to a happy ending you must; have the memory of an elephant, and the luck of a four-leaf clover.
So, what is the point of this game? It’s a relaxing twist on a classic genre. With a basic approach, you focus all your energy on the words that form on the screen after any decision that you make. These words will make you; laugh, cry, and be outraged. The developers have taken the best parts of this genre and boiled it down to its core concepts. This is what you get to experience if you play this title. There is no indication as you make your selections to show you how far you have progressed, or if you have made the right decisions. The first time that you know that you have failed is when you see the 3 words appear, and the last one is “End”. A shake of the head, and a wry smile, and you begin your adventure again. Can you remember where you went wrong? Will you be presented with the same choices, or will the plot alter so much that you wander down a completely different path? Who knows, this is what’s great about this game. The different stories that you will experience are vast, and how they are constructed changes on each playthrough. Is the magical world you are travelling through real, or is it just a dream? Did you fight that monster and win, or are you reading a story out loud? You’ll never know unless you pick this up to play it.
The concept behind this game is beautifully simple. You don’t need all the bells and whistles when you have your own imagination to power you through. I’ve stated several times it takes a minimalistic approach, which it does. But that doesn’t mean that it’s boring to look at, or the developers have spent no time on aesthetics. The differences that you will witness are subtle, and support the text that’s on the screen. The game comprises a monochromatic palette, with touches of greys, and effects such as rain and blurring of the text. Both are used to emphasise the emotion in the words, and the latter is found during most of the high emotion fear sections. These subtleties brought the game to life and enabled you to understand how the author wanted that moment to play out. Like with Dungeons and Dragons, and the Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone adventure books, it’s your own imagination that makes the story work. Though the game decides the path that you will take, you have the freedom to picture the world that it takes place in, and this is what makes Ord. so fantastic.
A simple approach doesn’t have to mean repetitive and therefore annoying. Unfortunately, with the audio, it falls into both categories. No matter which story you choose, you will be cursed with hearing the same sound throughout. A relaxing, haunting pipe sound plays along to the unveiling of the words. As you make your decision, you are treated to more echoed pipe noise, and this is as in depth as the audio goes. It’s torturous, and should have had some variety. After a few hours of playing, I’d rather listen to somebody dragging their nails down a chalkboard, than hear another god awful note from that echoey pipe.
You guessed it, the controls are impossible to learn, only kidding! Up and down on the analogue stick, and the A button are all that concern you. Its effectively a visual novel, so this simplicity isn’t really a shock.
I’ve played through each of the 5 stories that are available, I believe I’ve got to the end of each one, and I’ve experienced some short and interesting endings on the way to the “correct” one. So will I play again? Yes! I haven’t seen all the possibilities yet, and I know this as I haven’t unlocked all the 60+ achievements that can only be gained by completing set tasks in each story. If getting the 100% status is your thing, then worry not as each individual tale states a completion percentage, so you know if you can move on to the next adventure or not.
Did I enjoy my time with Ord.? Absolutely! It was a nostalgia fuelled ride that was relaxing and challenging at the same time. Trying to remember all the outcomes was difficult, but enjoyable. Using my imagination alongside Mujo Games’ creative minds was a fun, old school trip down memory lane. Do I recommend that you play this? Yes, I do. However, I know this will not be for everyone. If you like full guidance, and no freedom while you play your game, then this may not be for you. The developers have given you a loose plot to follow, and it’s up to your imagination to see where it takes the information. Can you piece together the many options and come up with a coherent story? Probably not, but you will have fun trying.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 4/10
Replay Value - 8/10
User Review( votes)
A unique take on the text adventure genre. Take on 5 unique stories in this minimalist game.
- A unique modern day twist on a classic genre.
- Subtle graphical changes help to deliver emotions.
- A good test of your memory recall.
- Lots of alternative endings and replay value.
- The audio was repetitive.
- This won’t be a game for everyone.