A loving tribute to 8-bit sprites and retro platformers, Owlboy is an extremely well-made game in its own right.
There's nothing about Owlboy, D-Pad Studio's long-in-development title, that doesn't indicate extreme thought and care. As a retro 2D platformer that mixes Metroidvania mechanics and exploration with a cute aesthetic and endearing main character, Owlboy is a spellbinding journey for its handful of hours.
We'll say it again – the art style in Owlboy is lovely. D-Pad spent 10 years developing the game and it shows in the aesthetic, especially with how well the 2D sprites are rendered. The abject level of detail in every level and encounter is amazing but it's also apparent in the smallest things like Otus's animations. The story itself starts out pretty simple – you play Otus, a descendant of an owl/human hybrid race. Once his village is assaulted by pirates, it's up to Otus to save his friends. Eventually, the plot spirals into something deeper with plenty of twists and turns in store.
The twist in Owlboy is that Otus doesn't really attack his enemies directly. He can fly and spin but clearing obstacles or defeating some enemies means taking help from friends. Enter Geddy, Otus's best friend who will accompany him with his fast-firing little pistol. The world of Owlboy is pretty massive and open-ended, allowing you to explore dark ancient caves and villages in the clouds. You'll often find unique ways to defeat enemies, making use of Otus's mobility and flying, while changing companions on the fly in key circumstances. In some instances, Owlboy reverts to a standard platformer as Otus must run on foot. In other cases, you'll have do some light puzzling to advance ahead.
Owlboy isn't a long game – despite its open world, it's not especially difficult. However, what it does provide is fun gameplay with several dashes of variety throughout. One moment you'll be fighting a boss while carrying Geddy around. Another moment sees you deflecting projectiles in an epic back and forth volley with enemies. Bosses have you switching companions, making use of your environment and just outwitting them in order to succeed. Combined with the art-style and music, Owlboy's overall pacing and narrative make for some high-stakes and great fun.
While price and length may be the deciding factor for most consumers, D-Pad Studio's Owlboy deserves recognition. It's one of the best platformers in a long time and most certainly one of the best indie games of the past few years. Give it a shot and just take to the skies. You won't regret it.
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