Ode should be pitched as the game with the best butt. this game is mainly about the evolution of sound and music, but for the first few moments it’s really about a great derrière. you play as a chubby, humanoid blob nestled inside a clear ball. Gameplay merely asks you to roll around at first, exploring your neon environs. as you bounce from rock to rock, you’ll start collecting glowing fallen stars and begin to build a large, rotating mass around you as you roll around in the glorious, alien landscape. each paradisiacal level is a mad mixture of glittering auras, fluorescent waters, bright flora and strange, bulbous creatures that demand to be fed.
But the real appeal of Ode is in the listening. as you move you’ll notice that when you roll over a rock it’ll emit a light drum tap, while over there a stretch of sand ripples like the gentle stroking of an xylophone. the more you explore, the more fallen stars you collect, the more the music swells and builds around you. the world is full of humming, whistling, beats and boops that all weave together into an electronic masterpiece. But it’s you that’s conducting it all. as you start amassing the falling stars – which either trail behind you, helping to create your symphony, or can be thrown out to collect more from hard-to-reach places – the noise builds and gathers in more sounds from the landscape.
the fallen stars aren’t just members of your orchestra though, they’re there to feed the green lumps hungry for ethereal mass. you need to feed all the smaller green lumps with stars until the biggest green lump turns gold and fills the air with even more music. all those tinklings and trumpetings start to make sense as more green blobs turn gold. it’s just a shame that there are only four levels to explore – plus one particularly delightful christmas-themed time trial. Discovering the water-based system of skills is wonderful, giving your cluster of stars the ability to transform into a speeding wheel or give you extra bounce for example. But as soon as you start getting into the rhythms of Ode and mastering its liquid control scheme, it’s all over.
thankfully, exploring each level is more of a gentle meander than a race to the finish – in fact, you really won’t want each one to end. it’s another genius game from the ubisoft reflections team though, aka the brains behind Grow Home and Atomega. it’s becoming a studio known for creating games that feel like lucid dreams, in the very best ways. it’s not quite what this is an ode to aside from music, light and a really great arse, but it’s certainly an ode to joy to play.
The fallen stars cluster around you and are pretty much the key to your power. Push them away to collect more and trigger green monsters, or keep them around you to move slower and with more purpose.