Owlboy is a charming Metroidvania style game that encompasses fun gameplay, great graphics, a fantastic soundtrack, and a heartwarming story. The Nintendo Switch has a wealth of these types of games to choose from, so standing out from the crowd takes something a little special. Owlboy has that certain something.
Owlboy is a retro style side-scrolling platform game that stands out amongst the competition in the genre. It has a charming cast of characters and emotive moments in the game that makes it stand out from the crowd. There are many moments in the game that allow you to connect with the main protagonist Otus in ways rarely seen in other games. Development started for this game back in 2007 and was in development for some time. There’s a small team behind Owlboy in D-Pad Studio, but the craft and level of polish on the game is truly impressive.
Otus is an apprentice owl learning his craft and doing his best to learn from those around him. He’s the runt of the village and the butt of many jokes, but he’s determined. We start the game with Otus, our main hero in the game, learning from his tutors. He’s a bit down on his luck and doesn’t seem to be able to do anything right in the eyes of the Elder Owls. Otus is learning to fly and doesn’t seem to be doing a great job of that, something which he’s reminded of by his teacher. There’s a dream sequence where we see Otus suffering from voices torturing him and evil eyes sneering. It’s a powerful scene that really connects us players with Otus.
As Otus wakes up he’s sent to watch over the town as villagers have heard that pirates have been spotted, so we’re asked to keep watch by our master. This is the first opportunity for us to take to the skies in the impressive, detailed and charming levels. Otus flies around, talks to a few characters (including a close buddy called Geddy) and then a stranger is spotted in the village. We pick up Geddy, who defends us from some local bullies, and head on down to investigate the stranger. Here we’re introduced to the first dungeon style encounter making our way through caves, solving puzzles and using Geddy’s pistol attack to defeat enemies.
Gameplay in Owlboy is great fun. Otus himself can fly around free of any timer or stamina gauge, which is a refreshing feature in a game like this. More often than not when we can fly in games we’re limited to a timer, however having the freedom to fly where and when we want is great. The flying mechanic is central to the gameplay. Otus doesn’t have many attacks other than a simple spin, however that’s not going to do much more than stun certain enemies. By teaming up with other characters like Geddy, that extends the gameplay options in Owlboy to great effect. Geddy has a short range pistol allowing us to fly and shoot at will. There are other characters we can team up with later in the game which switch things up even further.
The graphics in Owlboy are very impressive indeed with a pixel art style that’s both retro in feel but also modern in style. The detail that goes into the impressive character design, the emotion the characters portrayed with such a limited number of pixels is impressive. The art style adds to the overall sense of the game’s charm. The graphics also have impressive parallax layers breathing life into the environments. The soundtrack for Owlboy is as impressive as the graphics. The soaring music in the triumphant moments is a joy to listen to and the perfect audio to accompany the action. There’s melancholy music also when the story takes a sad turn. The music is superb, some of the best seen on an indie title on Nintendo Switch.
Owlboy is enjoyable from start to end. The story is charming and the gameplay is fun. I played the game on the move on my Nintendo Switch and was perfect to dip in and out of. The main story isn’t too long coming in at about 10 hours in total, but the story from start to finish kept me wanting to come back for more. Charming is a word that heavily associated with this game, but once you start playing you immediately understand why. I sat on the fence for some time with Owlboy, but since I have finished the game I wonder what took me so long to play it. The only criticism of the game would be that sometimes Otus and friends feel a little limited and the lack of an overall world map would be a nice addition. Otherwise, this game is a great execution of the sidescrolling platform game and would fit nicely in anyone’s Nintendo Switch collection.
Developer: D-Pad Studio
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mac
Release date: November 1st 2016 (PC), February 13th 2018 (Nintendo Switch)