Few games have gone so far to appeal to every demographic, while providing a through-and-through fantastic experience like Owlboy has. Owlboy might be one of the best video games I’ve played in my entire life.
Disclaimer: I played the game on a review copy provided by the developer.
Intuitive, fluid gameplay grouped with ingenious writing and a wonderful aesthetic provide for a nonstop fun experience more complete than most Triple-A titles released this year.
In Owlboy, you play Otus, a mute owl, as you adventure to stop robot pirates from destroying the world. The story is a cohesive, fully explained narrative that never takes priority over the gameplay but maintains a constant stream of info to the player—a feat very few games accomplish today.
The game just has so much love and care put into it, and it shows. There’s an indescribable amount of character to the game—so many reasons to become engrossed in the game as a whole.
I hope in this review I can convince you to buy this spectacularly executed piece of art.
Owlboy has the best pixel art I’ve ever seen, and a fantastic soundtrack that always elevates the scene playing out in the game.
There is a brilliant balance of lights and darks in the visuals that keeps each scene unique and beautiful. Even scenes that would easily appear drab, such as cave corridors, have a distinct, detailed look.
There’s a sort of impressionist influence, with the pronounced colors and sprawling detailed backgrounds mixed with equally detailed foregrounds. The game began development prior to the reveal of the Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword but the aesthetic is very similar.
The sound quality in Owlboy is phenomenal. A beautiful mixture of string and wind instruments provides for a brilliant amalgamation of sounds that complement the game’s environments very well. I’d be doing you a disservice to not share some of said soundtrack, available on the lead’s youtube channel below:
I thought there were some better songs in the game, but for the sake of not spoiling anything the developers didn’t want you to hear already, I’ll let you discover them yourself when you play.
Spectacular, intuitive and fun gameplay
Owlboy might be the most polished game I’ve ever played, and it shows. Not once in my 9 hours of gameplay did I feel like I was doing something I didn’t want to do.
The meat of gameplay is flying around as Otus, completing dungeons alongside your gunners, or friends you carry and shoot with. The dungeons provide for a fair and fun challenge in both the puzzles and combat because the dungeons are paced so well. Never did I feel like a dungeon was too short or too long, nor did I feel like a puzzle was too easy or difficult.
Combat, once you figure it out, is simple, intuitive, and has a high skill ceiling. The combat is forgiving, like Megaman, but doesn’t hold your hand in difficult sections. You get an unlimited amount of lives, and checkpoints are extremely frequent (which is good, because my review copy was a beta preview build and crashed a few times).
I don’t feel like the game is any less fun because of how forgiving it is. When you beat a boss or complete a puzzle, you get a sense of accomplishment regardless of how many tries it takes.
The gunners system is ingenious, with puzzles and combat that requires the dynamic switching of gunners. Its challenging, creative, and tons of fun.
Level design is fantastic, with metroidvania design influences that don’t distract the player from their end-goal, but adds to each dungeon’s complexity. Every level is well paced, and not too long.
At the end of each Dungeon is a boss. These bosses are all unbelievably unique, well designed, and challenging. They all provide a unique challenge which demand a proper understanding of the game’s combat and movement mechanics.
The game has a fantastic sense of flow from the gameplay to the story its so easy to gush about the gameplay and sidetrack into talking about the story. Its clear that all times during development, gameplay and story were considered at every moment.
Owlboy is not too short, nor is it too long. As a cumulative experience, Owlboy is perfect in that there’s never a dull moment. Not once did it feel like something in the game wasn’t there for a reason.
Each dungeon waits until key points to relay plot info, and there is always a well directed transition between dialogue and the gameplay.
I finished the game in two sittings and never felt like I needed to take a break unless I had to. When I played Mafia 3, I kept wanting to stop to take a break from the game only because lots of the game felt like a chore. Owlboy was the opposite, acting as an expert display of how to balance a game’s story and gameplay without wearing out the player.
Owlboy has an amazing story that complements its already fantastic gameplay. From start to finish, the game’s story invoked every emotion a human can feel— anger, sadness, happiness; the game knows how to make you invested in the story.
Owlboy also has a great sense of humor. Every joke is incredibly clever, and even when similar jokes are repeated a new spin is taken on it. There is a shopkeep named Buccanary with small creatures who help her. These creatures are terrified of Buccanary, and the interaction between the creatures and Buccanary are absolutely hilarious.
I think the story is unbelievably charming, and even if Owlboy’s gameplay was subpar, the story would be enough to warrant buying it.
Odd transitions are sometimes offputting
The game does scroll along the screen a lot, but in some instances the game switches between panels. In these panels, there might be an enemy on the edge and suddenly you can’t shoot the enemy because you’re too close, and when you try to move away you move to the previous panel and you can’t see the enemy.
This issue was extremely rare but even when there were no enemies it could be offputting, as the screen moves too fast. As I said however, the game does scroll the screen most of the time instead of move via panels.
This was actually the only issue I have with the game. Other than that, there isn’t any glaring flaws to make note of.
Owlboy is a spectacular game that should appeal to nearly everyone. Fantastic gameplay mixed with a memorable and well written story provide for a truly enthralling experience with little to no flaws.
Writing this review is difficult because like just about any critic, I’m used to being able to, well, criticize a game. What’s there to critique when there’s nothing to criticize?
Hopefully I properly relayed as much information about this game as I could without spoiling the experience of playing it yourself.
The game costs 25 dollars despite having the quality and polish of a 60 dollar triple-A title. Do yourself a favor and BUY THIS GAME.
Owlboy has had gamers waiting 9 years. I can confidently say it was worth the wait.
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