Oo-Topos
for PC (CGA)

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LostInSpace:
Company: Polarware
Year: 1986
Genre: Adventure
Theme: Science Fiction / Text-based
Language: English
Licence: Freeware
Views: 702
Review by LostInSpace (2024-04-20)
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At the same time as Sierra On-Line was sending the fully animated, but yet unknown Roger Wilco to the screens, Polarware was crafting a multi-platform engine for text adventures. The company was also known for superb computer graphics on the Apple II – the first home computer with a colour palette.

Why they chose Oo-Topos to be the first out of six games for the so-called Comprehend Games series, is not known. In any case, the text-only version of Oo-Topos had already been released five years earlier and was not particularly successful even then.

In its banality, the story could be straight out of a pulp magazine: the delivery of an antidote for curing a worldwide pandemic is overdue and panic is spreading on Earth. As feared, the delivery man and his valuable cargo were captured two days ago by an alien species on the far-off planet Oo-Topos.

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Danger!

Beyond that, the already minimal plot remains superficial: in the whole course of the game, nothing is said about their history, nor about the reason for the kidnapping.

While searching for the missing parts of the stranded spaceship and exploring the rather expansive environment, the sole purpose of every single room becomes clear: which is to collect items. This gave me the impression that the length of the game has been artificially inflated, although the 1981 text version is supposed to have had even more rooms.

The puzzles are, as usual in many text adventures of this era, somewhat logical, but often only solvable after some trial and error due to massive lack of clues. At least some of them stand out in a witty manner: for example, you find a coin in the slot of an (Alien-) arcade-machine or you can start an image projection in which Princess Leia shouts: “Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi!”.

As there are many parallels to human civilisation – lift, kitchen, closet – the actual science-fiction elements feel more like an overlay. Whether these are extra-terrestrial creatures such as the Grix and the Snarl, 4-dimensional mirror rooms or 3-dimensional labyrinths. Odd tech terms (cryon-purifier, power-cylinder) and Alien-language (chant TAKA ELE-LEVA) are used to convey the impression of strangeness.

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Confusion!

The vector graphics newly created for the Comprehend Games version capture this tech-feeling visually. Now you finally know what a Grix looks like though the missing description in the original text.

But the graphics alone did not make Oo-Topos a better game. Instead, it was at least able to counter the Sierra top-notcher with a similar visual impression. An approach that is still favoured by many representatives of today's Interactive Fiction – i.e. the spiritual successors of the pure text adventure. In contrast, the modern follow-ups to the Sierra games have tried hard to get rid of their text-heavy heritage by focussing on mouse control and voice output.

Comments (1) [Post comment]

LostInSpace:
Sentient Software, probably a typical American garage company – or a start-up, as we would call it today – was founded solely for the purpose of publishing the text adventures produced by owner Michael Berlyn himself. Reportedly already addicted to science fiction literature as a teenager, the game he first published, Oo-Topos, was naturally also from this genre.
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