Parody galore in this unusual text game.
It’s difficult to get across how weird a game Welcome To Orochi Park – an upcoming text adventure / turn-based strategy hybrid from Anima Chambers – actually is. It’s about a war between the Templar and Illuminati, which is meant to work exactly as it sounds: some sort of outrageous plot that allows them to do pretty much anything, including having mechanised dinosaurs rampage through Norwich, before they get eaten by other, smaller dinosaurs.
Orochi Park’s demo released over the weekend – the full game won’t be out ’til next year – and it’s full of this sort of bizarre content. The demo begins with a booming voice telling you about everyone’s favourite actor’s newest flick: “Nikolas Cage Stars in Conan the Barbarian, the reboot. In cinemas now!” There’s some text informing you that your sound card works perfectly, and a conversation between what sounds like Tracer and Zarya from Overwatch. It’s only after a few moments that the main menu appears, and you can start the game.
As the game sets its tone with some unfathomably weird monologue, we learn that the Illuminati are starting to dominate the world. A picture of Kim Jong-Un stares out of the screen in an impressive manner; we learn that he’s teamed up with America, and an odd image of who I assume is Donald Trump flashes up on screen, except with Lovecraftian tentacles sprouting out of his neck. It certainly makes you want to play more, if only to figure out what on earth you’re actually playing.
The same voiceover from the start interrupts, and the game cuts deep with some harsh words: “Listening to your prattle is as boring as playing Ark: Survival Evolved.” Seeing as I’d just hopped off Ark, I felt oddly defensive, but the game continued. To make decisions in Orochi Park, you’re shown a panel with some information, and given three options to proceed. At the tutorial stage, you’re pushed towards one of the options and, assuming you click that, you’re shown a still image of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a chopper, with the obligatory “GET TO ZE CHOPPAH!” line in there. This is a game of many references. It feels a little as though the plot itself was an afterthought.
You amass resources from three categories – either Firepower, Tactical, or Occult – in order to ‘cast’ certain moves and gain the upper hand over the Illuminati, in a manner that, now I think about it, reminds me of Magic: The Gathering. You need X amount of Tactical to send in your scouts, for example, and Y firepower to send in shock troops. If you save up your mana (as it shall now be known), you can press the “red button”, which almost always “resolves” the situation, even if it involves taking out the surrounding civilian population. Sometimes I felt that the sequences I was shown might have been better were they animated, but budgets are a thing, and having to animate every single possible sequence would’ve been a bit of a nightmare, both in terms of the workload and financial side of it all.
However, you soon learn why there is no animation: the team behind Orochi Park spent the money for development on making a penis mod for Conan Exiles, using Conan writer Joel Bylos as a model for the mo-cap. Apparently it cost so much because he’s… well endowed.
The soundtrack’s also a bit weird. The menu music doesn’t seem quite right. At one point, I could swear I could hear the Noah’s Ark nursery rhyme and, at another, In The Hall of the Mountain King. To me, they seem like strange choices for music, but there may be stranger melodies: if I had decided to nuke Norwich (which is an option), I might not have run into the cross-dressing V [for Vendetta], and therefore the bees wouldn’t have been quoting The Matrix, and In The Hall of the Mountain King might not have played. That’s what I do like about Welcome To Orochi Park: the fact that each playthrough should be different, and when my friend plays it, AC/DC might come blaring through the speakers as opposed to a song I used to sing in religious studies.
But overall… honestly, I tried to ‘get’ this. I tried to have that lightbulb moment. But it never happened. At one point, I invited my friend over and got him to sit down and try it. He also picked the Val Kilmer option when it was available, because, while the rest of the world thought that Batman Begins was pretty bad, we both know it was actually really good. But he felt the same as I did: we selected the options with references we understood, possibly because we thought we might better understand the game at that point, and that only served to limit our experience.
Orochi Park is funny at times – like when you learn that your R&D department is actually a bunch of film buffs who research bank heist techniques by watching The Italian Job – but for every reference that tickled me, there was another I just didn’t get. Am I that out-of-touch when it comes to pop culture? Or is Orochi Park’s comedy too reliant on references? Maybe I’m just not the specific type of person who the game was made for, but I can’t help but feel the penis mod should have been a stretch goal.
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