Odyssey Jam


The Odyssey Jam was an itch.io jam running through March 26 for works based on The Odyssey, drawing ten games, predominantly interactive fiction and visual novel entries. Here are some thoughts on the entries:

islands & witches (Inform) has the player wander a maze of evocative locations from the Odyssey, occasionally collecting items, but mostly drifting from place to place. As the title islands & witches somewhat implies, there’s a focus also on the female characters of the story, many of whom have at least a few lines of dialogue when you encounter them in their various homes.

The air smells of lilies and blood. It is always just past sunset. There is a three-headed dog, spotted like a hyena, lying nearby. A iron double axe-head with dried blood on its blade is sticking out of the rocky ground.
Persephone is still here. All men must come to the realm of the dead one day, but you had hoped to find your way home first, even perhaps to know your name would live glorious beyond you. “How lovely to see you.” Persephone announces, as if to her court. You feel welcomed, perhaps excessively.


Although I did eventually reach Ithaka, I never figured out how to make Penelope pay attention to me, or work out what I should do with much of the game’s inventory, including a beehive and a rosemary branch. (I did make a makeshift torch, but it didn’t seem to matter that much?) So I wasn’t able to finish the game, and I’m not sure if there is a conclusion, or if I left some puzzles unfinished.

For writing and feel, though, this was one of my favorite submissions, and I could see it being expanded and polished if the authors are so inclined. It reminded me a little of Victor Ojuel’s Pilgrimage: large areas contained in a single room description, and vast sea-spanning voyages undertaken in a single move.

Taith (Ren’Py) is a fairly straight retelling of a lot of the adventures of Odysseus’ men starting from the moment when they leave Troy. You take the role of a soldier from the crew, deciding what to narrate next. As far as I can tell, the game randomizes at startup which of several listeners you’re actually telling the story to: at least, when I played I got, variously, a lady, a boy, and a “mysterious pal” in a cloak.

That randomization was the most interesting aspect of the story, to me; the actual narration is pretty straightforward, but changing up the listener encourages us to think about how we might change what we wanted to say based on context. Since a lot of the Odyssey is about characters (especially Odysseus, but other characters as well) telling their own stories, this feels thematically appropriate, even if it does not get very deep into the problem.

108 Suitors (hypertext) is largely dialogue with and about Telemachus as he tries to cope with the insults and murder attempts that come his way. It’s largely a comedy riff on how clueless and immature Telemachus is at the beginning of the story. In contrast with the original, it lets Telemachus kill off all the suitors in a bloody ax rampage before Odysseus gets home:

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 12.42.18 PM.png

Some timed text sequences repeat themselves if you come back to the screen where they first appeared.

The Perils of Penelope (Twine) tells the same irksome period of waiting and resentment, but from Penelope’s point of view. In this version of the story, Penelope gets bored of waiting at home with the suitors and sets out for Troy herself, only to discover (after various slapstick adventures and potential deaths) that the war is long over.

Aisles of Odyssey (Twine) describes the harrowing journey of exploring supermarket aisles looking for alphabetized items. Moreover, you are playing as Toni Basil. I hadn’t heard of Toni Basil before playing, which may slightly undercut that aspect of the humor.

The long ing blink (Twine) is a stream of consciousness piece, with references to longing and memory and the Clash. I’m not sure that I comprehended it enough to explain more than that.

No One (Ren’Py) puts the player in dialogue with a raspy-voiced Ulysses, about the philosophical question of whether he exists or not, and if so, whether he (as a character) is more or less real than the player. He argues that, of course, he will outlive us, and also that our decision to play the game actually serves his ends, bringing him to life. I think this is meant to be alarming.

Come Back Home (Ren’Py). Taking the concept of odyssey in a more metaphorical sense, this tells the story of a person who is being summoned home, but who keeps involuntarily hopping between lives and between bodies. A bit of exploration in different forms is enough to reveal what is really going on. The English is a bit rough and in a few places drops through into untranslated Italian.

A Flower from Hermes (RPG). This piece is Windows-only, so I didn’t try it. From the screenshots, it looks as though you’re doing battle with various animals, perhaps on Circe’s island.

Hyperion’s Wake. Currently incomplete, Hyperion’s Wake tells a version of Ulyssean wandering set in a distant science fiction future, in which Ulysses and his various companions are genetic engineers traveling in space. It could currently do with a bit of proofreading — probably to be expected given an unfinished jam game.

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 12.50.02 PM

Finally, some additional reading if you like this jam’s topic and just haven’t gotten enough of it:

  • Ulysses and the Golden Fleece is a historic mangling of standard stories, partly to avoid IP conflicts with other Jason-related stories at the same period.
  • ASCII and the Argonauts is a small, tight Scott-Adams-alike puzzler on mythological themes.
  • The Xylophoniad, from last year’s Spring Thing, also offers comedy puzzle riffs on some standard mythological situations.
  • Mentula Macanus: Apocolocynthosis is a comedy pseudo-pornographic puzzler with a lot of meta-commentary on the nature of classic IF. Plus some other things. Contains the grossest cure for a sexual disease I’ve seen depicted in IF.
  • Endure is my Texture piece on translating several lines of the Odyssey.
  • The Land of the Cyclops is a straight-up reimplementation of the escape from the Cyclops’ lair.

7 thoughts on “Odyssey Jam”

  1. In Islands & Witches, I tried nfx ynzcrgvn nobhg ubarl, which got me a riddle, which made the stars familiar again for a little bit. About one of your inventory items, in Btltvn I did k nccyr gerrf/ nfx pnylcfb nobhg jvar/nfx pnylcfb nobhg fbhe/tvir orruvir gb pnylcfb which had the same effect–though the direction I got from this prompt didn’t actually take me where I expected. Perhaps if one satisfies all the NPCs the map will be completely unrandomized?

    1. Ah, interesting! I got a similar result from crggvat gur fvtugubhaqf, I believe, but then it didn’t seem to have changed the world state much. But maybe you’re right and every NPC requires this treatment.

      1. Cross-posted with you, but yes–also, once you’ve helped two NPCs it becomes a lot clearer what’s happening. (Not that I’m entirely clear on all the mechanics.)

    2. Following on, you can help all the witches to nail the map down–HELP (or HINT or ABOUT) will tell you something about what to do in each location–and once they’ve all been helped (I think), something different happens in Ithaka (I think).

      Unfortunately, this also leads to a bug where Penelope’s responses become blank. Using the hint I was still able to get a winning ending, though. However, anything I can solve using just two hints (that and one other) is playing mostly fair! I would like to see a polished post-jam version, definitely.

      1. Okay, with that information clearly I need to have another go. And yeah, if there’s a complete game here, then I *definitely* hope it gets a post-jam polish release.

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