Owlboy is the very definition of the dedication that can come from the Indie space. The game was in development for about 10 years from D-Pad Studio. While the gameplay doesn’t fly as high as I would have liked, the story and animation do help to pick it up to some extent.
Before we can talk about the gameplay, we have to talk about the story and aesthetics. Owlboy may not have the graphical wow-ness of something like Hyper Light Drifter, but the animation quality is one of the best I’ve seen. Character details and the backgrounds look amazing and right out of a late-gen SNES title.
The story follows Owl in training Otus who has spent his life as a mute. Considered a failure by his mentor, Otus is thrust into action when pirates invade. The story continues to get darker, especially for a 2D game, but I don’t want to spoil it.
While this is a 2D platformer, you won’t be doing as much jumping compared to other titles. Otus is free to fly around for the most part, and performs a spin attack. Otus has to rely on his friends as his spin attack won’t hurt enemies.
Early on, you’ll gain the ability to teleport his friends directly to Otus. Carrying them, each person has an attack that you can make use of for combat and puzzle solving. Because you are free to fly, this meant that the developers had to figure out other ways to add progression.
Special coins can be found and cashed in for various items. Coins are usually located in hidden chests or rings that you have to fly through. The dungeons themselves feel right out of home from a Zelda game.
Each one has the standard design of one unique quirk that you have to work around. Due to Otus not having a real attack, you need to rely on your best friend to do the bulk of the damage. While combat is not the focus of the game, there are plenty of arena fights and a few bosses to deal with.
As you play through, you’ll unlock a total of three friends that will allow you to find more hidden areas and coins.
All around, Owlboy is a good game, but the gameplay can’t match the high flying atmosphere.
Owlboy is unfortunately an example of how a unique mechanic doesn’t always lead to amazing gameplay. A lot of your time spent in the game will be air rolling across wide rooms. The different dungeons never try to build on their initial quirk. Once you’ve solved one puzzle, expect to do it repeatedly throughout the dungeon. Outside of your three companions, no new abilities or systems are introduced.
Due to the flying mechanics, there is very little platforming outside of the final area. The problem is that nothing was really added to replace platforming as a challenge.
The combat system is the weakest part of the game, but is used the most. I would have liked to have seen more bosses that require other tactics than just fighting.
Depending on how you play it, Owlboy can be beaten in a few hours if you skip the cutscenes. Outside of hunting coins and three mysterious items, there’s no reason to go back to the game or advanced challenges to find.
From a technical point of view, I had some issues with quickly performing commands using the grab button. There were cases where the camera transition between screens did screw me up in terms of dodging attacks.
Owlboy is an average game with a story and animation style that attempt to elevate it higher. If you’re looking for a great platformer, I can’t recommend Owlboy. This is one of those games that is greater than the sum of its parts, but how high it flies depends on what you’re looking for in a 2D game.
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