|Posted on January 25, 2014 at 3:10 PM|
As you may have heard by now, Adventures in Odyssey has rolled out a new subscription-based website. In some regards, this website is similar to Faio in the sense that you can stream episodes online, except for the fact that this is an official website with tons more to offer than a simple fansite.
If you haven't signed up already, you're probably wondering what this new service has to offer, and whether or not it's worth $15 a month. Let's take a look at it together.
[Note: this review was made Janurary 23rd, 2014. The website is subject to change without updates being made to this post.]
Above you can see the home page. Right off the bat we see that it's a simple, clean, and professional design. We've got some recently heard episodes, this month's exclusive “adventure” episode, and if you were to scroll down you'd see today's daily devotion. At the top we have some simple navigation links.
Let's start with the feature on everyone's mind, the Odyssey Library.
The Odyssey Library is something that every Odyssey fan wants: a giant collection of unlimited streaming episodes. The Library appears to include every episode you can imagine including some special collections, such as Passages, The Truth Chronicles, and even The Lost Episodes.
This is probably the biggest incentive to subscribe to the Adventure Club. At the moment, the search function seems a little bit buggy in some browsers, and it takes a little while for search results to appear, but once you have an episode picked it plays quickly and doesn't appear to lag. I'm sure they'll have the little kinks worked out in no time.
I merely typed in "Search for Whit" and this backend syntax was presented. Only happened in Firefox; not in Chrome.
One interesting feature that caught my eye was the resume episode link on the home page, although when I tried it the episode simply played from the beginning rather than where I left off. Probably just a temporary bug, although the idea of resuming an episode is yet another feature that makes this service so enticing for fans.
Moving on, the episode player itself.
The episode player itself is very straightforward, as you can see in the image above. It appears as though once you click play, a temporary .ogg file is created on the server for you to stream which is later deleted, although all of this happens in the background so the user interface remains smooth and simple. It's ironic that the same type of file streaming that some individuals complain about being too easy to illegally download from on Faio is also present on the Club's website.
As mentioned above, the buffering was quick and snappy, at least on my 30mbps connection.
Speaking of episodes, the Adventure Club also provides an exclusive monthly episode.
The monthly exclusive, called an “Adventure,” is not only a brand new monthly episode just for subscribers, but it also includes bonus activities and content. This content appears to be missionary and charity related information pertaining to the episode, and even includes things such as a short documentary looking at some real-life issues. It also includes a special comment section dedicated to the discussion of the monthly episode.
Speaking of comments, let's take a look at the Club's social and profile features.
Is it just a coincidence that all these people are using Eugene for an avatar? It's a conspiracy I tell you!
The comments appear to only be under the monthly Adventure episode, at least as far as I can tell. It's similar to the comments on Whit's End in the sense that they are singular and not discussion-based, and they're also manually reviewed to filter out spam and inappropriate content. This comment review process can take up to a couple days, according the website's FAQs. The social side of things is probably the one place that this website severely falls short, however, it's completely understandable due to the strict laws governing childrens' privacy and other safety concerns.
In short, the Adventure Club probably is not the best place to socialize with other AIO fans. [Leave that to the fansites.] In the same vein of comments are profiles and accounts themselves; let's take a look at that now.
Okay, I use the word “profile” very loosely. It doesn't actually appear as though any users have a public profile for others to view, which is kind of odd considering the type of information the Club asks for. What else does my gender and middle name matter unless others could view my profile...unless of course my information is used for marketing and other corporate businessy type things.
Ironically enough, every field in the image above appears to be required to sign up, yet I somehow got through without entering my name; despite the error message displayed upon submitting. Also, now that you know my birthday, I expect presents from all of you next month. [Just kidding.]
Okay, so we've taken a quick look at the website, but what else does a subscription have to offer? How about an unlimited mobile streaming app?
Yes, that's right! You can now stream unlimited Odyssey episodes right to your phone or mobile device! ...or at least, you will be able to. As of this writing, the iOS app isn't quite released yet and there's no word on an Android version as far as I can tell. Either way, Odyssey fans owning Apple devices, rejoice! If you need me I'll be on my Android tablet viewing websites with Flash and doing other things those fancy Apple phones can't do. Like fall from a height of 5 inches.
Jokes aside, I think I just about covered all of the significant features of the Odyssey Adventure Club. There are a couple things I didn't go into too much detail on, such as the daily devotionals and the included subscription to Clubhouse magazine, but these things are pretty self-explanatory. Plus, I've got to give you guys some room to explore the Club on your own, don't I?
In conclusion, the Odyssey Adventure Club will set you back $15 a month, but I think the cost is worth it for any significant fan of Odyssey, especially for a family of fans. Not only do you get unlimited streaming of 725+ episodes, but you're also supporting a great Christian ministry in addition to a bunch of other perks. I only paid for one month's worth for the sake of this review, but I'm strongly considering convincing my family to subscribe.
Okay, so there's a bit of an elephant in the room. Faio's primary feature has been the archiving of streamable Odyssey episodes, and now Odyssey offers a service that provides all the episodes for a monthly fee. Will this cause some sort of problem for this fansite? Not at all! Faio will continue doing what it's been doing for the past 4+ years, even if many of you do take advantage of this club membership rather than come here. [Which I strongly encourage any AIO fan to do so!]
Thanks for reading everyone, and happy listening!