—songs of experience—
EVERY NOW AND then, we find a game that speaks to us on a personal level. Almost as if through a secret combination, it somehow manages to draw us effortlessly into its surprising and vivacious world. One such game, which comes with exotic illustrations and a silently intriguing story, is Anika’s Odyssey: Land of the Taniwha. I encountered this charming point-and-click title on one of my many gaming escapades several years ago, and it’s stuck with me since. It mystified me from the get go until its humorous resolution, and even after many years of not playing it, I still felt the same inner delight and curiosity.
Created by Newgrounds user Trickysheep, Anika’s Odyssey is a 2007 fantasy point and click adventure inspired by Aotearoa, the North Island of New Zealand. The ‘taniwha‘ in the game’s full title comes from Māori mythology, and refers to a being or guardian that resides in deep pools around rivers, dark caves, and the sea, which gives players an inkling of the game’s contents. The game’s central character is Anika, a young girl who is notably carrying a stuffed toy rabbit as the game begins. The rabbit is more symbolic of innocence and inexperience than anything else, but without it, there would be no story.
Anika’s Odyssey is essentially a simplified point and click adventure where the player can manoeuvre Anika, the game’s protagonist, across a limited section of the landscape and interact with certain environmental objects. You begin the game outside a wooden hut, where a hand suddenly emerges from the door and offers you a bucket, pointing to the tap. Clearly, this person wants you to fill it with water, and this is some kind of household duty. That person is most likely Anika’s mother, but nothing is ever made overly explicit. Anika’s journey begins when she puts down her stuffed rabbit on a tree stump and goes to fill the bucket. The moment she does this, a fearsome eagle swoops down and-mistaking the stuffed toy for the real thing-clutches it in its talons, and takes it to a nest far far away. To save the poor dear from becoming dinner, Anika decides to embark on an adventure beyond the fence and right through the thick of the forest.
Along the way, she encounters environment based puzzles that often star strange, mythical forest creatures. Sometimes players are treated to the adorable yet mischievous kind. On other occasions, we meet a colossal water lizard who is somehow scared of Anika, and a tree frog who helps out and then disappears as mysteriously as the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland. The puzzles are relatively light, and ask players to figure out how to get past natural obstacles such as log bridges and bodies of water, as well as some more technical problems later on.
—graphics & sound—
Visually, Anika’s Odyssey conveys a unique illustrative style that is evidently crafted with a lot of love, and attention to detail. There are splashes of soft colours everywhere, which help to create the relaxed atmosphere of a forest. The carefully weighted use of black outline is never too harsh, like in many animations of today in my view, and gives the backgrounds and characters a delicate touch. Anyone playing this simply can’t ignore the extensive range of tones and lighting that create depth and bring this world to life.
The game’s graphics are well tailored to the soundtrack, which has a more minor focus, but comes to the forefront in the form of realistic sound effects – water splashing, leaves rustling, boulders rolling and machinery turning, and the gushing roar of the wind just prior to the game’s most climactic moment. During that moment and when you first load the game, there is a soothing, ambient melody that plays, and perhaps it is quite deliberate that this melody isn’t played again until the very end.
This is definitely the type of game that is more difficult the first couple of times you play it. Once you are familiarised with the ‘story’ so to speak, you unconsciously know what to do in order to make the tale play out, so it’s not very difficult. From the perspective of an initial playthrough, however, Anika’s Odyssey does have its moments that will leave you momentarily scratching your head, which is as it should be for any good point and click experience. Newcomers to the point-and-click genre should have no problem guessing how to progress in the game, and while experienced adventure gamers would most likely find this extremely easy, Anika’s Odyssey may still have a few surprises in store in terms of its story.
Anika’s Odyssey is a reflective and soothing audio-visual tale that will leave you smiling by the end. It’s occasional puzzle elements and in-game humour make it a pleasant casual experience that can be enjoyed by a broad audience. Short but sweet.
WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT:
- You enjoy story-driven games
- You appreciate picture book drawings and illustrations
- You are a puzzle gamer
- You like casual games
- Beautiful, hand-drawn illustrations
- Intriguing story with good message
- Subtle sense of humour throughout
- Can’t die/no death penalty
- Short playthrough
Weather: This game can be played whenever, but it might be more suitable on a warm day with lots of sunshine. Afternoon recommended.