In recent years, indie games have undergone a sort of industrial revolution – where they have been transformed from lovingly crafted passion projects, and into a production line, machine assembled, products. And yes, some indies are still great – but unfortunately, they are lacking that X factor, which titles such as Hotline Miami, Spelunky, or The Binding of Isaac were known for.
The beauty of the abovementioned titles lied within their nature, and simplicity. And while they are all based visually on the simplest form of art, pixel-art, they were still unique and easily distinguishable – unlike the vast majority of modern indie games. And for that very reason, I was worried that the recently released (on PlayStation 4, and Xbox One) Owl Boy, just like the large portion of modern indies, will be nothing more than a cheap indie game, with a dull and static pixel-art centric façade.
If one were to go and look up Owl Boy within Google Images, he/she would be served with a plethora of screenshots showcasing a seemingly simple, and uninteresting game – but this is the case only when the title at hand is not in motion. Owl Boy features a reasonably detailed pixel-art façade, which while being incredibly charming, is nothing to write home about – on its own. However, unlike most games, Owl Boy is not completely static, meaning that large portions of the title’s world are fully animated, and give it a sense of existence. And the developer behind the title has event when as far as to give in-game characters idle animations, just so the title looks alive, even when one is away from controller/keyboard.
Owl Boy, has been clearly crafted with an overwhelming attention detail, as no matter where one goes, or what one does, he/she will always be greeted by a rich and meaningful world, full memorable environments, and most importantly characters. And the best thing about Owl Boy is that it always has something to offer to the player, whether it is a brand new and unique hostile, a previously undiscovered location, or a newly introduced NPC – there is always smoothing new to see, interact with, or explore. And best of all, all these additions are always meaningful and step above what came before them.
With every passing level, or even minute, Owl Boy grows exponentially. And with time, it becomes a rich ad complex game, which has much more to offer than a meteoroidvania’esque world, and a handful of gimmicky mechanics, which simply put a spin on titles such as Meteoroid. And while the title’s core mechanic which allows the player to fly freely across levels can quickly lose its charm, it is fortunately supported by a plethora of sub-mechanics and features, which allow it too keeps its freshness, and the feeling of ingenuity. And the fact that the developer behind the title was aware that flying alone isn’t enough to satisfy the player, shows us that D-Pad, knew exactly what it was doing right from the very beginning, all the way until the very end.
Throughout the seven or so hours, which you’ll spend with Owl Boy, you’ll solve puzzles with your AI partners, combat ever evolving hostiles, and uncover an array of new skills and abilities. But most importantly of all, you will also progress through a rich and detailed story which centres around the titular Owl Boy and his friends, who are on a quest to save his village from an onslaught of sky-pirates. And while many will surely be deeply satisfied with what Owl Boy has to offer narrative-wise, then unfortunately it has to be underlined that most will likely completely ignore the title’s plot.
The biggest issue with Owl Boy is not located within its gameplay, game design, or even artistic execution – it is stored within its underwhelming presentation of its narrative. As throughout the entirety of the title, the story of Owl Boy is conveyed through character interactions, which unfortunately are only in text form. And this means that those who play with a phone or a tablet by their side, are likely to skip through all the dialogue while browsing twitter, or any other social media platform. And yes, there is a plethora of simple cutscenes in-game, but unfortunately those just like the character interactions, are likely to be ignored by most. And even I, while trying to pay utmost amount of attention of the title, have found myself wondering what just happened, simply because whenever I turned my head away from the screen, a string of events would transpire, which would often leave me slightly lost and confused.
In order to get most out of Owl Boy, one would have to play it in a completely empty room with no distractions. But doing so is borderline impossible, as even if one removes oneself completely from the outside world, there will always be something to distract him/her. And if only there were some audio queues which would signify that a cutscene is taking place, in order to retrieve players attention, then this probably wouldn’t be a problem. But unfortunately, that is not the case, so if you have a short attention span, or receive a notification while playing, then you will most likely miss out on a sizeable chunk of Owl Boy’s story.
As you already had a chance to observe, Owl Boy as a title, has a lot to offer. From its visuals, through its gameplay, all they way down to its core, it is a title rich in detail, and a game of tremendous entertainment value. And whether you play it on PC, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One, you are guaranteed at least seven hours of pure and uninterrupted fun. But unfortunately, you are not in the clear when it comes to fulfilment. And that’s because Owl Boy, while being incredibly entertaining, is not always satisfying. And upon completion, the title at hand, may leave you feeling a little empty inside – like there is something missing. And only if it featured audio dialogue, or a set of better cutscenes, then maybe, just maybe, it would feel like a much more complete game. But that said, it is still a great title to experience, and most who seek ‘the next indie’ will feel right at home with Owl Boy.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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