With Lynx Othello, which was released in 2000, Harry Dodgson has attempted to fill a very large hole in the Lynx gaming library with a homebrew port of the classic board game. While it probably won't tempt you to donate your old Othello set to the local Sally Ann, "Lynx Othello' packs plenty of fun onto its little green EPROM, and presents a decent gaming challenge to boot. It's certainly worth considering for anyone who has enjoyed Ishido, and Shanghai and is looking to add a little something different to their Lynx collection.
Most players of Othello will be familiar enough with the standard board game or one of its many variants to make instructions superfluous. Packaging does, however, include a brief synopsis of the game and control movements.
Othello primarily consists of a one-player challenge game with the computer through its cartoon proxy, a cute green dragon named Pounce. (Lynx enthusiasts may recall Pounce as the being title character of the eponymous never-released Lynx platformer, and it's nice to see him finally see him being given his due here.)
Players may also comLynx with other players, who must either own another copy of Lynx Othello or one of Dodgson's unique LGSS carts. The LGSS cart enables comLynxed players who do not have Lynx Othello to play with a Lynx owner that does, but all players who do not own the game must own an LGSS cart. LGSS carts are, if anything, even more rare than copies of Lynx Othello, and I was not able to test out this innovative system myself.
Gaming AI is generally good, although somewhat quixotic. It is, for instance, quite easy to beat Pounce every time at the game's highest "aggression" level. Level 3 (the second highest) is, conversely, very difficult, and I typically beat Pounce only once in every four games. I am generally not a spectacular Othello player.
Pounce plays a decent game, but will often attempt to lay traps in less-than-subtle positions. Pounce will also sometimes ignore the best possible move, making it easy for his human opponents to capitalize on these strategic mistakes. To be fair, Harry Dodgson cautioned me that difficulty settings were set at a relatively low level to enable players of all ages to challenge Pounce for the title of Othello champ.
Gamers who finish their games must reboot their Lynxes to return to the title screen. An in-game option to accomplish this, at any stage of progress, would have been welcome.
The Graphics layout of Lynx Othello is both simple and appealing. White and black gaming stones are small, but distinct, and the score card is clear and easy to read. While it doesn't challenge the Lynx's graphics OS very hard, it does get the job done, which is expected in a board game simulation.
Lynx Othello is a quiet game and, aside from a merry title-screen tune, boasts no in-game music. Sound effects are similarly absent, although this does not effect game play to any degree.
The game contains a digitized sound bonus program that may be accessed by pressing "pause" repeatedly during the title screen. It's a neat feature, but it does suggest that it might have been improved by including a few samples during gameplay.
Lynx Othello is a fun game on the Lynx and a nice alternative to the more simple 1K game included on the demo cart Lynx Reloaded. There is enough replay value here to recommend purchase, and this is especially true for younger gamers, who have few other options in the Lynx's largely teen-oriented gaming library. As much fun as Lynx Othello is, however, I found that it only whetted my appetite for more Lynx board game action. I hope that Harry Dodgson will continue to develop Lynx Othello, and include, perhaps, better gaming AI and in-game sound effects similar to those found in Ishido. Even better would be a bonus option of the ancient Japanese game of Go -- a fitting tribute to the pasttime that started it all.