Need to know
What is that? An atmospheric action adventure with a bayonet with a hook
Expect to pay $ 15 / £ 13.49
Developer Thomas Olson / Skeleton Crew Studio
publisher Devolver Digital
Reviewed at Intel i5-6600K / Nvidia GeForce 1070/16 GB RAM
Link Official site
Dog hooks are a fun Rosetta stone. Let’s stop being shy about saying that every game should have one (although all games should have one), but it’s always worth appreciating how expressive they are as a mechanic. Are they related to everything or just enemies? Or just edges? Do they immediately start picking you up, or can you choose? Are you being physically transported, or are you being teleported there; Or is the thing you’re grappling with moving instead? Is it taut or is it flexing and wrapping around things? What is the exhilarating flavor of perfection that leaves you feeling?
Let’s also celebrate the fact that this wonderful species has a new entrance. Olija’s bayonet wrestles enemies and black claws with orange eyes, and you can move to it with a slash, a simple design that is in the center of this dark atmosphere adventure as a combat tool and a way to traverse its levels, which constantly provides a sense of choice and movement.
Not without issues. The Olija bayonet can be annoying because it requires two separate double entrances, first to throw it, then push it in its direction while pressing the throw button again to instantly jump to it. Press the directionless throw button and it will return, losing its position. In the heat of battle, it’s easy to spam on the button and find yourself fighting without the harpoon, which is your main weapon, or failing to teleport.
However, the harpoon made me feel powerful, and besides, Oliga’s fight is not precisely driven. It’s more about navigation: bypass a group of forage enemies to reach a more dangerous one and hit it to fill the combo counter, then get rid of harm’s way. There are some subtle details: You can switch between several secondary weapons, including a double edged sword, a crossbow, and a rifle, which can offer powerful finishing touches. The battle of Olija is direct, heavy, and often a little chaotic when you encounter rooms full of enemies sniping from afar, moving away, or facing your combos.
You play Faraday, the European whaler whose ship crashed. The remainder of his crew is now stranded on an island called Terraphage, which is located in the seas devastated by the demonically infected Clan Rottenwood. Here, temples and places of learning that were once glorious are now decaying. Its remaining heroes speak only in a slightly spoken, non-sequential language. People have fallen into the shadows of miserable and pathetic, now only fodder for exploitation and slaughter – often by your side as they stand between you and Clan Rottenwood’s soldiers. And as a magic spearmaker, what if You are Become the bad guy?
See, Olija is very spirits. But it’s also a pretty blazer too. Terraphage is the center where you will recover and create ammunition for your secondary weapons in between expeditions to locations scattered across the seas. It’s a setting that refers to the quietly legendary Soul Blazer trilogy from Quintet, a series of action games released on SNES between 1990 and 1995 where you, the hero, can delve into the dungeons and see your actions change the towns you set out from. And so in Olija, I freed captured outcasts and later found them in Terraphage, giving me the satisfying feeling that my actions lay the foundation for a thriving community.
You are out to find the three blue keys that will open the Shadow Gate so you can sail back home. But the blue switches lie behind barriers that require two or more Yellow Keys, you’ll find them as you wade through each location. The levels aren’t too sprawling in Metroidvania affairs, but you’ll find branching paths that lead to different goals, giving them a sense of depth and choice, and you can generally revisit them to collect materials and cash that you can use to craft power-grant hats and buy upgrades.
Olija only took me five hours to complete, despite not having an ounce of grease. Every moment is taken into consideration, whether it’s dedicated to uncovering the Torre Gate in a misty bamboo grove, a mystery, or a combat showdown. There are surprising combos, shaking and mixing up your expectations, and the action – between fighting Clan Rottenwood idiots, finding secrets, discovering platform and crane and door puzzles – flows so smoothly that I can easily find myself finishing them in one sitting.
However, in many respects, Olija is very lean, as he hasn’t given me a full opportunity to explore all the skills and tools that he provides. By the end of the game, I was only wearing two hats and barely using two secondary weapons. It introduces a powerful new element so late in the story that its potential is untapped.
It can be said that feeling hungry for more is better than feeling bored than you have. And it’s easy to understand Olija’s brevity, because it was made by just one person, Thomas Olsson, who also drew and animated beautiful, dark pixel art and modeled one of his true stars, his voice. Faraday’s shoes hit the wooden planks; Blade Shoings. Enemies are chatter and bodies are strewn. You can pick out a lot of detail in the midst of battles through sound alone, and its weight gives the world physical strength that pixel games often lack. Music too: dissonant smoky saxophones, mournful trumpets and sharp strings, with a mix favoring the gentle rumbling of the bass that transported me into this sad and wondrous world. What I’m saying is: Olija really rewards your subwoofer.
I was impressed by the quality level of everything this person has achieved. Oliga is clearly Olson’s personal work, and his story, about Europeans lost in mysterious and frightening eastern waters, and partly reflects his own experience of moving from his hometown of France to Japan to be with his wife. But I sometimes felt an unsettling atmosphere of Orientalism’s fantasy, as we encounter a mysterious culture led by the beautiful lady Oliga, whom we are chasing into submission. But I also loved the struggle of ruthless and ready-made sailors facing a strange and terrible world of rotten beauty. Hope their journey was a little longer.