Owlboy in the test - Owl my god!

Author: Ann-Kathrin Kuhls
Date: 2016-10-11 17:00:00
Owlboy makes both owls and pixel graphics worth seeing again in the test with one wing beat. How does a game manage to stand out from the uniform indie pixel graphics trend mash? With charm, cleverness and of course air pirates.

If only someone could tell him for consolation that the game starring him is one of the Steam hits of the fall season.

After all, it happens often enough that a game looks retro, but the look is only supposed to hide the terribly lame game mechanics. However, Owlboy stands out from the retro-indie monotony in many ways. And not just because of the wings of the main character Otus.

A heart for pixels

A look into the world of clouds is actually enough. In the 80s, pixel graphics were the only option, today they are a stylistic device. Owlboy combines the style of that time with the current technical possibilities and creates a beautiful, detailed world. This is partly due to the character design.

The characters in Owlboy are all a bit weird. Some because they really are owls. Others because they have a very likeable blow. I even enjoyed the enemies. Even if they want to kill me, I can't help but stand and take a closer look at them first.

The owl with a thousand faces

And then there is Otus himself. If you think that pixel graphics cannot depict emotions, you should take a closer look at Otus' face. Huge eyebrows, lively facial expressions and strong gestures ensure a whole series of emotional outbursts with the flutter cookie . Anger, concern, happiness, pride, fear or the universal expression for "I have absolutely no idea" can all be found in the little face.

If we don't move him, he'll even unpack a couple of hands from under his wings and twiddle his thumbs. Otus is more expressive than most of his Jump & Run colleagues. Even though he doesn't even have a voice. Since none of the English dialogues is set to music anyway, Otus' peculiarity is hardly noticeable.

Besides the characters, the world itself is also worth mentioning. The areas in Owlboy are not generated randomly, but rather deliberately designed. Each area differs from the previous one in terms of lighting, music and optics, plus countless small details. Gentleman fish with top hat and monocle , for example, are absolutely irrelevant for the main plot, but they give the world their very own charm. And not the kind of charm that has to keep my eye on how extraordinary and beyond the mainstream the game is, but the one that makes me pause and smile.

Platformer with Shoohooter insoles

The game mechanics have been completely adapted to the owl theme. Owlboy is classified as a Jump & Run, but is more of a Shoot & Fly. Otus flies through the world, discovers new locations and dark dungeons and fights a whole range of different enemies. But he's not alone in this.

Little Federmann has enough to do with staying in-the-air. That's why he gets fire support by carrying his (armed) friends through the air. His best friend Geddy, for example, helps him with fast, light bullets. Another blows my way with his heavy pump gun.

Death by dandelion

In order to advance, I have to fight my way through a multitude of enemies, each of which requires me to use my own attack tactics. Often it is not the enemy himself who is particularly challenging, but the combination with other villains. For example, a cloud of dandelion seeds that explode on contact is very slow and therefore easy to circumnavigate - unless you are being driven into this very cloud by another flying monster.

At the end of every dungeon, a classic boss lurks for me, who requires a combination of all tactics learned up to that point. Just throwing it on it doesn't help here. Anyone who does not first research the attack patterns and weak points here quickly sticks to the wall as an owl-shaped stain. It's animated very nicely, but the boss is still alive.

No chance for paralysis

In the heat of the moment, there is a slight weakness in the controls of the owl boy: The distribution of keys puts both the shot and the throw away command for my friends on the mouse. In theory this is logical: movements are on the keyboard, attacks are on the mouse. Especially when I want to coordinate my attacks in a fight in a confined space, I often throw my comrade away instead of attacking with him. I can call the boys back to me at any time via teleport, but then I often missed the one moment when the villain was unprotected.

Speed and quick reactions are the most important things in battles. If I don't evade fast enough or adapt to the changing attacks, Otus sails theatrically to the ground one after the other. With a little patience and brain, none of the opponents can be created, but I'm still incredibly relieved when I emerge victorious in the end.

By the way, only to be chased afterwards in a wild chase through corridors that are collapsing around me. At the end of it, the next battle awaits me, still completely stressed by the boss fight. For the fact that Owlboy looks so cute, it's pretty merciless at times.

Of screws and teacups

But Owlboy isn't just shooting. The world in the clouds is full of puzzles and hidden passages. I can only find some corridors by flying against the walls and checking whether there is a hole somewhere, and many other little things also come about by pure chance. For example, it wasn't until the second round of the game that I noticed that a bath in a hot spring permanently increased the life bar.

Some of the puzzles are obvious, others turn out to be pretty tricky. Usually it is not enough to simply press a switch. First of all, you have to find the switch. To do this, screws have to be turned, kettles confused and clouds squeezed.

That might sound strange, but it shows how much creativity has gone into the puzzles. Like the enemies, the mechanisms change with each area and sometimes even in the area itself. When I come into a room with a locked door, I don't see what to do at first glance. As a result, the puzzles form a varied and challenging counterweight to the tough fights.

Play me the song from the "hoot"

If you can find time between the fights, the puzzles and the peeking around, listen to the stellar soundtrack . It underlines each area with its own melody, boss fights, key scenes and dialogues have their own musical themes. The idyllic cloud islands are accompanied by a friendly song, while in the boss fights the music alone causes stress.

Except for the coordination problems in the language, Owlboy is a round jump & run for me, where you can see the long development time and the attention to detail on every corner of the game world. Not only does it look good, but it is also really clever and challenging than you might think at first glance in Otus' friendly face. And while that might describe the perfect partner elsewhere, here it describes one of the best jump & runs of the year