O is for Owlboy

Owlboy is a labor of love from the developers and you can feel it from the very beginning of the game. Famous for a lengthy development cycle, there were high expectations upon release, which were largely met. The music and the pixel art are gorgeous. Despite critical praise and though I enjoyed it, I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone.

Inspired by classic games such as Kid Icarus and Super Mario Bros. 3, Owlboy centers on a young owl-human hybrid named Otus. After his village is attacked by pirates, he teams up with a friend to track them down. Otus has the ability of flight, and he can carry around objects to use as projectiles as well as friends that can help him in his adventure.

There are a few situations where your flight is restricted, most of which make narrative sense, but some felt too contrived and video-gamey. One example of the former was not being able to fly up a waterfall. This kind of restriction made sense. An example of the more contrived restrictions that I didn’t like was not being able to fly because the bad guys had super hearing and would attack you immediately if you flapped your wings.

The learning curve also resembles classic games. There are some unexpected spikes in the difficulty near the beginning, and there are several aspects of the game mechanics that aren’t well explained. Another aspect of the game that was initially off-putting was that pretty much every NPC is extremely mean to the main character Otus. Even his supposed teacher and mentor tells him he can’t fly and isn’t good enough. It was really sad and cast a depressing tone on the whole game from the beginning.

Overall, I’d recommend Owlboy if you’re a fan of retro games and don’t mind some throwback mechanical sensibilities. More than most games I’ve reviewed, this one will depend on personal taste. Despite its flaws, Owlboy is definitely worth playing if it seems like your jam.

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