February 21, 2019 at 12:43 PM #1375
Rating: 2.0 – Poor
An over hyped title.
When I first heard about Owlboy, I was browsing my You Tube subscriptions and I kind of just brushed it off without giving it too much attention. From glancing at it, it didn’t seem all that special to me, just another pixel indie title that was generating a lot of hype. Months later during a Xbox Live sale, I saw the game in the line up and I decided to give it more of a look, and again it didn’t look all that special to me but it was getting some good reviews with some people calling it a metroidvania game. With the discount and my love of metroidvania style games, I decided to buy the game and boy do I regret it. For starters, the game is not a metroidvania game. No, for it to be that type of game the world of Owlboy would need to be large and expansive with multiple branching pathways that require you to come back with a new power to access. Instead the world is small and relatively linear with you never needing to remember that pathway you couldn’t go through because the game will point to towards there once the story tells you. Now that I got that misconception out of the way, let’s get to the brass tax.
Owlboy is the story of an Owl boy named Otis who seems to not be able to do anything right along with him being a mute. During the opening tutorial scenes we are taught how to do basic feats like flying and carrying/throwing objects, only for the game to have us mess up due to the script. This has our mentor get angry with Otis and set up his personality as not having any confidence. After a major screw up where he wasn’t able to alert his village of a pirate attack Otis is berated by his teacher and sent to on a task only to fail because of unforeseen circumstances, Otis is berated again and decides to take the pirate issue into his own hands. I would go into more detail on the story, but the game is short, like once you get to the first real dungeon you’re about a third of the way through the game short.What I can say is the story is the basic villain wants blank objects of power and hero has to stop them. Which once the game starts to build any interest in the history of the owl people and their past, the game realizes that the game is almost over and just drops an exposition bomb on the player that still doesn’t explain to much. Granted, there are special tokens that you can find through out the game that may explain a little more when taken to special alters through out the game, but when I took one to said place nothing happened. Either way, the story isn’t anything special with a similar plot done better in other games.
Now I talked about what the gameplay isn’t like, so what is the gameplay actually like and the answer is a little hard to say. For the most part, it is an adventure game with the player exploring different "dungeons" trying to get to the games current task. I have seen it being called a platformer and that is either a lie or Owlboy is a terrible platformer. You see, right after the tutorial you have the ability to fly for as long as possible. You have no stamina meter so the only way for you to be forced to the ground is to be hit by an enemy and let yourself fall to the ground. There is also the a few forced platforming sections where you are trapped under a waterfall, preventing you from flying, but it is the final level in the game that shows all of the blemishes in the game, like how the platforming is terrible when you need to make precision jumps, especially in a game that hasn’t trained you to do this. Then there is the combat. Otis really doesn’t have any damaging moves of his own. He has a spin attack that stuns enemies and knocks off items that can make enemies impervious to attacks, and he has a dodge roll that allows him to move out of the way a little faster, but offers no invincibility frames to make it useful. Instead Otis relies on his friends for most of the attacking. As the main mechanic, you pick up a companion and they use whatever gun they have to deal damage. The issue is that the gun you mainly use for attacking feels weak and ineffective against most monsters and the other companion takes way too long to cool down between attacks to be useful. Then there is the third companion who has the most useful ability, which if I go too far into detail it would be a spoiler, but he is barely used along with the infuriating lack of explanation on how to use his powers effectively. During one part of the game I was taking damage trying to knock a bomb into a wall when I could have used companion three’s ability to safely thrown the bomb into the wall. Then there is the game forgetting some mechanics that it taught during the start of the game. Otis gets a device that allows you to teleport your companions to you by pressing the Y button. This is shown to allow you to do some simple "leave companion on button and proceed through door" puzzles, but that is only done once and is forgotten. I completely forgot you could teleport selected companions to you until I saw the prompt at the bottom corner of my screen. The most offensive thing the game pulls is having enemies attack you during a screen transition. Instead of having the camera keep Otis in the center of the screen until you need to go through a door, the camera will stop at side of a room transitions to the next room once you go through the door. If an enemy is close to the entrance, then they will attack you as soon as you transition leading to a cheap shot. Along with health pick ups only being in certain locations this can get annoying. Then there is the game not keeping it’s rules straight. Normally enemies damage you if you touch them, but then you have some that you can pass right through. Some spin puzzles will move up if you are on the left side, others on the right, but most of the time they won’t budge when you initially land on them.
So all that being said, does the game have any replay value, and the answer to that is a no. The closest thing are the coin collectables which give you either health boosts, cosmetic items, or weapon power ups. The health boosts are towards the front of the rewards list and are very easy to obtain, so much so that regular gameplay will easily snag you them. The cosmetic items are hats that allow you to resemble your companions, but just getting knocked back knocks them off forcing you to go all the way back to the shop to reequip them. And the weapon upgrades require so many coins that by the time you collect enough of them they are worthless because you are at the end of the game and that boss fight where they would have been useful is long over.
With the games length, the intentional design choices and the lack of replay ability, I can’t justify anybody playing this game at the standard price of about $18. Even at the discounted price of $10, I felt cheated based on the little content the game offers. If you are truly interested on playing this game, go to a friends house and play their copy, because the game is only going to take you about six hours to beat if you just go through the story, maybe less if you don’t mess around. If you really want to play it and don’t know anyone who has it, wait for it to be around $5, because there isn’t that much game to be played.
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