If you like a certain genre of games, they sometimes can run together. You like Mega Man style jump and shoot games? That mechanic can get tiresome after a while, unless it’s changed up sometimes. What about rail shooters? They can be fun, but after ten of them you start to chafe under the yolk.
Now, I love me some Metroidvania. Defined broadly as a story driven adventure game with a focus on exploration, getting new abilities through gameplay that allow you to find new areas of the game world. And seriously, any time I see that tag on steam I have to keep myself from clicking “buy now.” I’ve failed on multiple occasions, of course; this stuff is like crack to me. I always have to have one ready to go… but even your favorite game become tired after a while. If the story is dull, if the characters aren’t engaging, if the exploration is barely there… meh. Why even bother.
So with all that said.
BUY THIS GAME. DO IT NOW.
I just finished it and I can say this was, without a doubt, a straight 18 hours of fun. So let’s get into it.
The game’s story starts off simple. You play Otus, a young boy training to be an Owl. With a special cloak, you are able to fly and carry heavy loads, which is important because throughout the game your powers are based on which friend you are lifting into the sky. Now this is a really interesting take on gaining new abilities, which is a Metroidvania staple. You don’t just find a new item that lets you jump farther or destroy certain obstacles – you find a friend that helps you. I was struck particularly by this… Most of the time we are a hero on a journey through a strange world, and maybe someone comes along and helps at different times in the story. In Owlboy, the story is all about personal connections. Friendships, mentors, fellow students, enemies turned allies… Even your connection to your sense of self. Growing from a kid who is just trying to get through the day to a full blown savior of his village. The writing is impeccable, and it always returns to the main theme – friendship, cooperation, and loyalty to those you care about gives you the power to do anything.
Visually, D-Pad decided to go with a style the call Hi-Bit. Using the look of a 16-bit era came, but incorporating modern aesthetics. 16 bit art doesn’t have the fluidity of motion or the depth that can be attained with current technology. Think games like Shantae or Fez. It’s not just paying homage to the era of the Genesis and Super Nintendo – its applying that style to enhance the atmosphere and experience.
The game music is wonderful, and again enhances the overall atmosphere. It never seems repetitive, and the changes never seem jarring or out of place. When day turns into night (The game has a day/night cycle… and I don’t think it actually affects the gameplay, which is even cooler) the music shifts slightly until the sun rises again. The main theme has been running through my head all week.
According to steam, this game clocked in at 18 hours. That is my playing through the main storyline, without seriously trying to be a completionist. I got most of the additional items, but could beat the game without them. I think a really good length for any game is about 20 hours, so this hits the sweet spot.
Music, engaging story, loveable characters, and an interesting artistic style… this game hits all my buttons. If you like Metroidvania, if you like games that are challenging but not punishing, this is a wonderful choice.
Rating: 5 out of 5 hours past bedtime. I’m glad I played this mostly over the weekend and on days off, I would have been screwed at work.
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