1996 Rocket Science
Designed by Adam Wolff, Howard Cushnir, Scott Kim
Reviewed 1997 July 9

Rating +2 Linearity straight, segmented, branching
Reasonability deductive Connectivity disconnected
Difficulty challenging Relevance moderate
Interface 1st paned simple Real-time occasional

You are a scientist who has recently been in charge, with your husband, of creating a satellite, that will release nanobots into the atmosphere to clear up pollution. While on vacation in the mountains, you come across a mysterious, black, growing rock-like formation. Your husband disappears into it, and you follow to rescue him. It is a consequence of your project. Within you find a world created by the nanobots, based upon the dreams of you and your husband. You must win your way through the puzzles of these strange worlds to rescue your husband and, ultimately, to save the world.

Instead of a rich eccentric or a mad scientist throwing logic puzzles at you, Obsidian gives the honour to a mad AI. However, this twist on a well worn device leads to Obsidian's greatest strength: the fascinating worlds created within the rock. The backstory is sparse, there's very little developing story, and the characters (you and your husband) are ciphers, but you'll be too busy exploring and marvelling at the Obsidian universe to care. The world is laced with humour, but it also has a darker aspect. The two play off each other nicely.

The challenges are mostly logical set piece puzzles, with a few tedious arcade challenges thrown in. They are dressed up to fit the setting (not hard, given the artificiality of the world) but many are the common type of puzzle found in other games of this ilk. The puzzles tend to be easy to solve once you understand the goal, but that is often cleverly hidden. None are silly, and appropriate clues are given.

The challenges have little connectivity, serving solely as hurdles to hinder your progress. The game is broken into three main domains, and the latter two domains split into parallel, independent branches. Except for the choice of branches progress is linear.

Obsidian is a lush production. There are beautifully rendered backgrounds with full motion video transitions from location to location. The music is lovely. There are many ambient sound effects and animations. The acting, voice and full body, won't win any awards, but it wasn't distractingly bad. The interface is Myst-like: simple one click actions, first person view, minimal inventory.

The charm of Obsidian is discovering its world. It's more of a puzzle game than an adventure. The challenges are unexceptional fare, and the story is perfunctory. It's a tasty bit of eye candy. If you liked Myst or The 7th Guest, you'll like Obsidian.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.
David Tanguay's Game Reviews
Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.