Owlboy was a breakout indie hit back on PC in 2016 and now this lovable klutz is flying his way over to the Nintendo Switch. Owlboy is a heartwarming story about lovable group of misfits just trying to do their best. It’s a modern take on a retro metroidvania type of title and it has a lot of heart and charm.
Violence: You are attacked by pirates and have a variety of ways to attack them, whether it’s by having one of your companions shoot at them or throw rocks and other items to attack. There is no blood or gore and the violence is not graphic in any way.
Owlboy stars a humanoid owl named Otus who’s filled with many flaws and weaknesses. The story takes those drawbacks in his character and manages to weave them together in order to create a beautiful story. Otus is just trying his best to fit in, but sometimes his best isn’t enough, and that’s okay as he can always ask for help. He is an owl boy in training, but he is always messing something up with the tasks his elders keep asking him to do. In the end, he’s just trying to earn the respect of everyone around him.
The opportunity arises when sky pirates invade his village and now he’s left with the task of saving the day. This whole ordeal will not be an easy task though, as all he can do is fly and spin in the air. Owl boy is going to need some help in the form of certain villagers he can use to perform certain actions. The story ends up being a heartfelt tale about a group of friends bringing all their skills to the table in order to save the village and defeat the sky pirates. Despite Otus being a mute character, I never had trouble feeling what he is going through, both the good and the bad.
Owlboy follows the trend many indie titles are adapting by being a metroidvania, and it seems like indie games thrive on this structure. Regardless, Owlboy immediately establishes itself as one of the bests because it brings meaningful context for the genre. You start off knowing Otus is an owl boy who can only fly, dodge roll, and spin. Sure, he can complete a task or two, but ultimately he’s going to need some help, and that’s where his friends and the metroidvania aspects come into play.
As you progress through the story various partners will join you, adding unique abilities to your skill arsenal. Geddy for example can use a quick-fire pistol that can shoot a short distance around Otus. When the two work together, the pair can fly around freely shooting any enemy around them almost feeling like a twin-stick shooter.
Controls for the most part are easy to get the hang of. You move around Otus with the left analog stick, while the right controls the aiming reticule. The shoulder buttons teleport your allies to you while also acting as a switcher if you don’t have an ally with you. This is all done by a teleport you earn pretty early on in the game. The left trigger is used to pick up your ally, while the right activates their unique skill, such as Geddy’s pistol for example. The only issue I have with the controls is that in order to fly you have to press the A button twice or just press up while jumping. My issue with this is that it’s very easy to start flying when you only want to jump to a specific platform and you have to avoid flying for the first boss.
Much like any other metroidvania type of title, you will explore large dystopian worlds filled with enemies, places to explore, and secrets to be found. Collecting the currency found in treasure chests can be used to upgrade or buy cosmetic items for Otus to wear on his journey. Some of them will provide upgrade and some will not do anything, only just look cool.Enemies come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and have their own quirks for trying to defeat you. While some enemies can just be blasted with a pistol, other you will to spin in order to reflect their own attack against them. This will cause a mini-game of ping-pong before the enemy gets tired and gives in. I love little sequences like this that were unique to each enemy. Not only did it make the combat more interesting, but Owlboy more charming overall.
The big highlight enemies are, of course, the boss battles that come at the end of every exploration area. Each one puts you in a unique circumstances that are unlike the previous boss fights and they can definitely make the adrenaline pump. As for the exploration, you will come across different terrains each with their own visuals on display. As you add new friends to your group you will be able to new areas based on the new character’s skill. Much of the exploration will have you dealing with puzzles and the occasional groups of enemies.
The puzzles for the most part were fun to solve and didn’t feel too challenging, but rather just clever. For example, one puzzle has Otus flying to carry a cloud around to fill the caverns with rainwater. In another instance, you’ll have to use a friends musket in order to break through cave walls. The different aspects and characteristics of the characters in the story seamlessly weave together with the gameplay to match the genre effectively. These friends are basically your classic metroidvania ability unlocks, but they feel essential to the story, rather than just the gameplay.
Owlboy portrays exceedingly beautiful canvas artwork throughout the whole game. The pixel art is filled with an insane amount of details that is rare to see in games now. Clouds and pirate ships moving about the background, animations on TV screens, and water dripping down the cave caverns look stunning whether in handheld or TV mode on Switch. There’s even a day cycle that filters in rays of light, thus you get a retro looking pixel game with an actual day and night cycle that doesn’t just change the sky tone from blue to black. You get shades of purple, orange, etc. with actual sunsets that look amazing.
The animations for characters and fast motion attacks look smooth and fluid. It truly does look like living definition of a modern retro action game. Characters tend to speak in speech bubbles, however Otus is a mute so he can’t speak, meaning he is only able to convey his emotions, dismay, and enthusiasm on his face. It can be adorable or saddening depending on the situation.
Overall, Owlboy is a magical mode take classic Metroidvania games. It’s filled with a charming personality that pumps through every vein of its core. From its stunning looking pixel art, to the heavy emotion inducing orchestra pieces; Owlboy is without a doubt a work of art. It can be a little tough during sequences that appear to be near impossible when you first attempt them, but after some trial-and-error, I got through them and felt accomplished in the process. I’m very excited for a new group of players to finally experience this game and it was definitely worth the wait for consoles.
Review originally published by Josh Brant, and has been restored after a website outage.
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