PS4 version tested
Review code provided
“A violent top-down rogue-lite space shoot ‘em up RPG brimming with colossal creatures and runic technologies” (per the game’s website), Blacksea Odyssey is a dizzying, hyperactive spectacle that is equal parts futuristic and primitive. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the game was released on Steam in 2016. Ports to the Big 3 consoles followed in late 2018.
Every ten years, the universe’s greatest hunters gather for a tournament called the Blacksea Odyssey. Whoever bags the biggest game will earn the right to go up against the most feared creature in existence — the legendary Titan of the Stars.
To begin, players can only choose one hunter — the old man Mega Larch — although three others are eventually unlockable. Likewise, there is only one spear available at the beginning, but more will be earned through progress. Occasionally enemies drop runes, which you can equip to your spear, and these are the main way to level up.
There is a lot to love about this game. With its neon colours and unique designs, the art style is endlessly appealing. It almost looks as if the creatures you used to doodle on the cover of your middle school science notebook have finally come to life. Their names are equally fun, such as the Chompzilla and Nom Nom Nom, two of my personal favourites.
But the most enjoyable aspect of the game is by far the music. Perhaps it’s because I had absolutely no expectations about the soundtrack going in, but I absolutely enjoyed the driving, retro-styled electronic beats (listen to a track here).
Unfortunately the flip side of the coin is that there are a lot of unenjoyable aspects to Blackside Odyssey, as well. By far, the worst is the controls. This is a twin-stick shooter, which I feel is important to point out since it is not mentioned anywhere on the game’s website, nor on the game’s Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft pages. If you were expecting an arena shooter or perhaps a bullet hell game, this ain’t it.
Maybe you play games with twin-stick controls all the time. Maybe you think this is no big deal. That’s fair, you can disregard my thoughts on the matter. Use the left stick to move your character, the right stick to aim. The left trigger throws your harpoon while the right trigger throws your spear. Left and right shoulder buttons cycle through weapons. Press down on the right stick to boost.
Many of the enemies have only small areas where they can be damaged, so precision is required, and I will freely admit that I struggled to accomplish this for a long time. Also, I was constantly boosting by accident while simply trying to aim. This was quite unfortunate because boosts are limited.
Beyond the controls, there are a few other frustrating aspects to the game. Once you’ve hooked an enemy with a harpoon, you can continue to damage it until the game gives you a cue (in orange text) to rip the harpoon out, thus tearing off the creature’s limb. However, the cue for when your shot is blocked is in yellow text, and often times I mixed up the two because I was responding to colour rather than reading the actual word.
As I mentioned earlier, runes are the primary way to level up, but they are dropped randomly by enemies, and this puts you at the mercy of chance as to whether you will have good ones or bad ones when you go up against a huge enemy. And even when you manage to get some good ones, Blacksea Odyssey employs permadeath, so if you die, you’ll lose them all when you start over at the very beginning.
If you are a twin-stick shooter pro, then by all means, play Blacksea Odyssey and go tag that Titan of the Stars. However, if you’re a beginner to the genre, proceed with caution. Expect a long learning curve and a lot of frustration, but at least the music will be good along the way.
TBG Score: 7/10
Platform: PC, Switch, Xbox One, PS4
Release Date: 11/07/2018
No. of Players: 1
Category: Action, Twin-stick shooter, Roguelike
Developer: Blacksea Odyssey
Download link: PSN