Omikron: The Nomad Soul
A stylish, ominous, innovative, and thoroughly addictive body-hopping sci-fi mystery epic featuring David Bowie and friends.
If you've ever longed to enter supermodel Iman's silk-skinned body, here's an opportunity of sorts. Serving as the model for one of the characters in Omikron: The Nomad Soul, David Bowie's famously bodacious wife appears as Iman 1631, a bodyguard for hire whose outer shell you can inhabit using your conveniently transferable soul and a hefty dose of magic. Bowie also appears in the game to perform numerous songs off his new album hours… with guitarist Reeves Gabrels in the fictional band The Dreamers. He also appears as Boz, a virtual deity who guides the Awakened, an underground cult opposed to the oppressive governing forces of the world of Omikron. Bowie and Gabrels also provided the atmospheric musical score, which is by turns majestic, trippy, and subtle, adding emotional depth to what is already a sufficiently engrossing game.
When I first heard of Omikron, I was concerned that it might be just a bit too gimmicky for its own good. Generally speaking, when a celebrity appears in a game, his or her presence overshadows everything else, and there isn't much to it other than the draw of someone famous. I can think of less than a handful of exceptions to this rule. Thankfully, Omikron overwhelmingly sidesteps this generalization. Bowie's presence is actually pretty scarce, especially in the early stages of the game. It takes several hours to come upon the secret location of the first Dreamers concert, and subsequent concerts are harder to find. It just so happens that these are merely diversions from a much more sweeping narrative, set within the broad scope of a vast metropolis fraught with difficulties. You know…soul-hungry demons, an evil dictatorship, overpopulation, mind control, tawdry sex districts, the whole bit.
Considering the virtual reincarnation aspect that allows you to switch bodies, it is highly appropriate that David Bowie--who changes personae more often than most people change their underwear--appears in this particular game. The initial premise is that you, a flesh and bones computer user, have just installed the game Omikron, but that it's not so much a game as it is a portal into another dimension. You are asked to accept a soul transfer, which will place your soul in the body of special agent Kay'l, whose partner mysteriously vanished during an investigation. Your initial objective is to determine what happened to agent Den, and to see if it is in any way related to a string of unsolved murders. Of course, things get exponentially complicated, and this investigation turns out to be a very small piece in a much bigger picture.
The look of the game is outstanding. Enter Kay'l's apartment and you'll see what appears to be a binary fountain, spewing holographic ones and zeros. At another end of his living room, you'll find a tank with a small lizard creeping around inside. There's a mirror in his room, which gives it a nice effect when you enter--and did I mention that his wife is pretty hot? Within the first few minutes of the game, if you play your cards right, you'll get to procure a little sweet lovin' from this vivacious femme. You can also grab a cold brew from the fridge, or urinate in the bathroom--both firsts in gaming as far as I know. From futuristic peepshows to sex shops to restaurants, bars, individual apartments, art galleries, book shops, drug stores, gun shops, supermarkets and vast temples, the farther into the game you get, the more it will please you esthetically, and the more you will feel the need to explore. The buildings, particularly in later segments of the game, feature fantastic architecture, and the areas are vast. You can get lost running through the labyrinthine city streets. The camera swishes around dramatically when you enter or exit a new area, revealing your surroundings, and then zooming in to a more Tomb Raider-style perspective. At any point, you can adopt a first person perspective to scan your surroundings more thoroughly. When you're outside, shiny vehicles called "sliders" zoom through the city streets, slowing down when pedestrians walk by. What makes this considerably more pleasing is the fact that you can summon a slider whenever you are near the street, and use it to get around considerably faster. The character movement is also generally smooth, although I've always found it unforgivably annoying when programmers create characters who can't easily jump or climb onto objects that look simple enough to scale. There are points where you'll hop up and down, hoping against hope that your current character will somehow be able to overcome this sorrowful handicap.
Beyond that minor drawback, the gameplay is first-rate. Aside from the massive exploration you'll encounter, there are also Tekken-style battles, and Quake-style shootouts at various critical points. Die during one of these crucial battles, and your soul is damned for all of eternity. Win and you can be a hero for more than just one day.
Pay close attention to what other characters say, as well as to each item you find during your quest.
Try to limit the number of times you save the game, as saving requires the use of magic rings, which are limited in number.
Expect many surprises.
The Good Press:
Quantum leap your way through a lush, decadent metropolis where you'll visit futuristic peepshows, massive temples, and even catch Bowie's Dreamers in concert.
The Bad Press:
As gorgeous, varied, complex, and well designed as the game is, more complete control over the characters' movements would have been welcomed.
• Windows 95/98
• 200 MHz or faster Pentium II processor
• 32 MB RAM
• 350 MB uncompressed hard drive space
• 8x CD-ROM
• DirectX 6.1 or higher.
Reviewed by Avi Fryman