What would happen if you crossed Mario Galaxy with WipeOut? Not a question many will have asked over the years, but one that has been duly answered nonetheless by Kenny Creanor, the extremely talented one-man team behind the largely fantastic, oOo: Ascension. This, well, I’m not sure what it is – arcade, racing puzzler? – whatever it is, it manages to deliver a hugely addictive, brilliantly playable and eventually, decidedly frustrating gaming experience.
Ok, I say frustrating, but that will depend largely on your skill level and your tolerance for difficulty spikes and constant death. Personally, I’d say that I’m ok at video games and have a decent tolerance for difficulty and I, hmmmm, I’d say I got about two thirds of the way through oOo: Ascension before the difficulty really started to irritate me. As a point of reference, I had a similar experience with Trials and Super Meat Boy. For a few hours, I have to get every award. A few hours later, it’s just a matter of getting to the end of a stage. Eventually, it’s swearing, controller throwing and deep despair.
While it definitely does edge towards outright frustration towards the final third of the game, for the most part, oOo: Ascension is an absolute joy. Tearing around Mario Galaxy-esque globes in your Wipeout inspired super car, the aim is as simple as getting from point a to point b in a collection of usually short and nearly always super intense stages. There is nothing especially new or clever about this – it’s just a well-designed, perfectly pitched gameplay experience.
The first few stages are easy enough to finish, but straight from the off, getting all 3 stars, or globes….or whatever they are, is an altogether different proposition. To have any chance of beating the 3 star time (I’m going with stars despite the fact that they’re clearly not stars), you’ll need to keep the booster held down for almost the duration of the stage – something much easier said than done. The simplistic but responsive controls ensure that any fault is your own, but at times, the accuracy required to hit that 3 star limit is so unforgiving and exact as to be utterly maddening.
If you can accept simply finishing stages though, the game immediately becomes a lot more palatable for the non-masochistic gamers out there. It’s still hard of course, but the instant respawns and restarts ensure that failure isn’t as annoying as it could have been. Whether it be the fiendishly created tracks (wrapped beautifully around the games’ gorgeously rendered futuristic globes), enemy ships or one of the many murderous obstacles put in your path, oOo: Ascension is a constant, intense challenge, one that belies its relatively simple design to deliver a relentlessly playable puzzle racer that will remain utterly compelling until the moment your patience runs out.
While visually basic, the clean lines, unique stage construction and futuristic colour scheme combine to create an aesthetically familiar, yet totally distinctive video game. The style never really changes as you progress, but honestly, given the intense nature of the gameplay, the visuals eventually become essentially obsolete. Like the best arcade games out there, it ultimately becomes all about the gameplay – a few stages in, you could have replaced the games’ perfectly inoffensive visuals with basic wireframe design, and I honestly don’t think it would have made any difference. This is a game in which the primary role of the visuals is to not get in the way of gameplay, and in that respect more than any, oOo: Ascension is an aesthetic success.
The same is largely true of the pleasant but mostly unobtrusive audio. It perhaps lacks the killer tracks of some comparable video games (there is nothing here to match the hypnotic excellence of Hexagon’s killer soundtrack), but it’s pretty good all the same and certainly ticks along with the fast-paced gameplay in a successful enough manner.
It might not be quite in the same league as the equally addictive likes of Super Meat Boy or Trials, but one-man developer, Kenny Creanor has certainly created an impressively addictive, beautifully designed and utterly intense gaming experience. Some will invariably be put off by the games’ punishing difficulty and unforgivingly brutal design, but for those looking for a challenge (and more importantly, a totally fair challenge), then oOo: Ascension is unlikely to disappoint.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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oOo: Ascension Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
One-man developer, Kenny Creanor has certainly created an impressively addictive, beautifully designed and utterly intense gaming experience.