Eternal return on the PlayStation 2
Platform: Playstation 2
The philosopher Isaac Brock once observed that the universe is shaped exactly like the Earth—if you go straight long enough, you’ll end up back where you were. The same is true of Odin Sphere, a game that takes place on a series of circular levels. Although the game space is two-dimensional, no stage has a traditional beginning or endpoint. Send your character sprinting in one direction, and before long you’ll notice the background start to repeat. It’s a neat twist on the classic side-scrolling brawler—particularly as it presents unorthodox combat tactics—but the circular motif is far from a gimmick. Continuity is Odin Sphere’s central theme, and this theme suffuses the game’s every aspect. You don’t simply find health power-ups on the ground. Instead, you plant seeds before battle, which sprout with the nourishment of your fallen enemies’ life force. Death becomes life—another circle. Zoom out further and you’ll find a multi-layered story that loops back on itself over and over again. Controlling one of five protagonists, you’ll encounter the same plot points from different perspectives, as each character grapples with familial relations against a backdrop of epic war. It’s just too bad that Odin Sphere’s novelistic use of symbols and its unity of theme don’t translate into much fun. Repetitive, grinding gameplay and unresponsive controls ultimately make it a title to admire more than enjoy.