“Owlboy,” released in late 2016, is a two-dimensional platforming adventure game. This game’s genre is not new by any stretch of the imagination, being similar to classics like the original “Super Mario Brothers” and “Sonic The Hedgehog” that released in the mid to late 1980’s or early 1990’s. So, what makes this game different?
Most usually with the platformer genre, mastering the character’s mobility to navigate levels and puzzles is a key feature of gameplay, if not the entirety of the game. “Owlboy,” on the other hand, is a platformer where the mobility of your character is entirely a non-issue.
The character plays as the young owl-boy named Otus. As would seem natural for an owl, Otus can fly. Flying makes moving through levels simple and a unique experience. However, the developers added difficulty to actually surviving through levels.
The next noteworthy feature of gameplay is the combat system in the game. Otus is a simple character who relies on his friends to help him survive the hostile lands traversed in the game. There are three different friends that Otus can carry into battle and call upon to help him in the world. Each of them brings different combat abilities and strategies to fend off a variety of enemies and bosses.
The combat is made interesting by the noticeable lack of platforming mentioned earlier. Otus can fly high into the air in a boss room to avoid damage, seemingly, a quite useful skill. However, if he fails to dodge the opponents attacks then he will be dazed and begin to plummet from the sky. When this failure happens, the friend being carried is dropped and the additional combat abilities are lost. Otus also takes damage from hitting the walls or from falling all the way to the ground, also extending the daze. Therefore, positioning and moving are very significant in combat.
A brief comment on the artistic aspects of the game: the style is in a voxel art with simplified character models and environments. This art style lends itself well to fantasy environments, allowing for vibrant colors and unique designs. The environment is paired with a retro style music fitting the graphical theme, which only improved the quality of gameplay.
Overall the game-play aspects of “Owlboy” are very well done. The controls are comfortable, and the abilities feel unique from other games within the genre. The combat is enjoyably difficult without being overly punishing, a difficult combination to achieve. The game is, all-in-all, a pleasure to play.