Traversing a lovely 2D world as an owl / human hybrid sounds like a lot of fun. However, does Owlboy offer an enjoyable indie adventure?
Owlboy stars a chum named Otus who's on a mission to save his home village from a gang of pirates. You control Otus by running and jumping around like in any other 2D platformer. To add a layer of freedom, Otus can actually fly by double-tapping the jump button. On his own, Otus can attack and dodge which helps him fend off weaker foes but in order to have a chance against tougher enemies, he'll need help from his friends. In order to use your friends, you carry them around while airborne and tap buttons to perform their distinct attacks and abilities. For example, Geddy has a blaster that you can aim and shoot enemies with while Alphonse has a shotgun that's required to damage certain foes as well as break down barriers. A couple other characters join your party at different points such as one that specializes in a melee attack and another that shoots webs and can grapple to certain spots. Overall, this ally system and flight-based gameplay are incredibly unique and enjoyable.
In addition to its distinct gameplay, Owlboy looks and sounds great. The 2D pixel-perfect visuals are detailed and appealing as they paint an impressively imaginative world. There are better-looking 2D indie games out there but Owlboy definitely ranks high among its peers. The audio is equally as impressive with music that always seems to fit the current situation be it dire, silly, or ambient. Lastly, the sound effects are very well done as they amplify the onscreen excitement perfectly. Whether you're destroying objects or exchanging gunfire with a boss, the effects are spot-on. In the end, Owlboy is one fantastic looking and sounding 2D experience.
Owlboy's campaign is divided into story segments, dungeons, and action sequences. Each dungeon is Metroidvania-like as there are hidden areas, backtracking, and occasional optional paths. However, they're not as intricate as most games in the genre so I'd call them Metroidvania-lite. Anyway, the entire campaign is surprisingly lengthy and will take most gamers about 8 hours to complete. Along the way, you'll fight memorable bosses and master intense action sequences that involve scenarios such as escaping a volcano filling with lava, stealthily sneaking past patrolling guards, and outrunning hulking creatures.
Although all of that sounds great, the core gameplay certainly doesn't evolve much throughout the campaign. Even gaining new allies doesn't mix things up enough because they all basically shoot different weapons. I wish the developer focused more on providing a varied and changing gameplay formula because I frankly got bored of doing similar things over and over again. The puzzles are incredibly easy, too, and I found them to be more of a nuisance than rewarding challenges. On the other hand, some portions are super-frustrating. One part has you flying through scattered rocks as a laser shoots at you and whenever I reached the end, I didn't know what to do. Couldn't there be a flashing arrow? Some of the bosses are similar in that battling them can be quite unintuitive.
Finally, even though Owlboy is an enjoyable and satisfying adventure, I came across far too many glitches in my playthrough. Once, I freed an ally from a cage then shot at the cage just for fun and it triggered the scene again but it got stuck and I had to quit in order to progress. A similar thing happened at another point where a character got stuck off-screen. Another time, Otus seemed like he was carrying an invisible object and I couldn't get him to stop so again, I had to quit and load my save. Last but not least, the game crashed and my save file got corrupted in the process. Thankfully, I had a cloud backup so I could easily continue without much hassle.
Owlboy is one of the most unique 2D indie games that I've ever played. Even though it can be frustrating and tedious at times, what's here is still a memorable and delightful adventure that genre fans should definitely check out.
- + Truly unique flight-based Metroidvania-lite gameplay with a cool ally system
- + Fantastic graphics and music
- + Lengthy and memorable campaign
- - Gameplay doesn't evolve enough to stay interesting throughout / basic puzzles
- - A few exceptionally frustrating moments
- - Currently has too many glitches