There are few adventure games that are truly incomparable. Obsidian is just such a game. This game cannot have been marketed effectively, since it lost money for Rocket Science Games, and the company went out of business afterwards. It is a shame that such a phenomenal game wasn’t a best-seller. Word of mouth has kept this game in the must-have list of every serious adventure gamer, though it is very hard to come by at a reasonable price. It is considered to be a “puzzle game” as a sub-genre of the adventure type, because the story line is minimal. While I generally prefer a game with a good story, this game doesn’t need it, the format is so striking and encompassing, I was captured by the unique premise, and held in its thrall until I’d accomplished all its goals.
In Obsidian you take on the role of Lilah Kerlin. Together with her husband, Max, Lilah heads the Ceres Project, a huge orbital satellite that combines advanced AI (Artificial Intelligence) with nanotechnology to clean up the Earth’s pollution and manage the healing of the environment. (Interestingly, Lilah and Max may be adventure gaming’s first interracial couple. In a bit of progressive thinking, this fact is presented early in the game but never once commented upon.) In a mild twist on a classic science fiction theme, Ceres gains self-awareness and begins to wonder about some very basic questions concerning the nature and purpose of its existence, and whether or not Humanity might be Earth’s “ultimate pollutant.” In an effort to come to grips with its burgeoning awareness, Ceres abducts one of its Creators (Max) to instruct it on the natures of existence, art, life, beauty, the human race and morality. Lilah runs off to rescue her husband and is likewise drawn down the rabbit hole into the Wonderland that was created by the computer brain of this enfant terrible.
Imagine, if you can, a world shaped like a cube, but you are inside of it, not on the surface. Gravity doesn’t rule here as you must traverse all six inner sides of this strange domain. You must battle bureaucratic red tape and an office maze, decode odd filing systems and rearrange teetering rocks, stem the tides and search for oil, capture lightning and tame the whirlwind, program a computer chip and connect the stars in the sky. Imaginative puzzles are the norm, creative design at its ultimate. I won’t describe the puzzles any further here, other than to say that they are very difficult and fun, because they are best left to be personally experienced. And here and there you’ll find a bit of quirky humor thrown in for added enjoyment.
As Myst is a classic, Obsidian, too, is a classic in its own right, and must be experienced to understand what it means to be an adventure gamer. Obsidian’s eclectic environment is one you’ll never forget, and you are almost certain to savor the time spent devouring this treat. For all its creativity, it is a short game, but well worth the effort to complete.
Score – 9.9/10 – as close to perfection as you’re likely to see.
Released in 1996, Obsidian was designed to be played on Win95. It can be played on WinXP with some tweaking of your system.
Thanks go to Bacardi Jim and Mystic Rainbow for expert guidance and editorial skills.
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