Owlboy - Review

Author: Mattia "Zave" Ravanelli
Date: 2020-07-30 22:13:25
In the world there is always room for a fairy tale with a happy ending, let alone if we talk about video games. Despite this curious era in which cynicism is thrown into shovels without anyone getting too much upset, a story full of sweats, labors and good intentions always finds its place, especially if on the horizon an epilogue seems to loom for kisses and hugs . It is the dear old affair of the American dream, one against all. Or, to stay at home, of that single out of a million who makes it, so dear to Morandi and his big-big palms. This, in short, should be the nature of Owlboy, finally available in PC version after something like ten years in development.

Owlboy isn't Final Fantasy XV, it's not the new Zelda, it's not the next Metal Gear Solid. Owlboy is a small and willing game, one of those flag bearers of the indie world to whom it is impossible to want badly and after all you can't see why you should want it. But Owlboy is not even that champion of ideas, style, refinement and inspiration that would have given the perfect final brush stroke to this picture full of commitment and many hopes. No, Owlboy is certainly a good game and a more than recommended purchase, especially if you belong to a certain category of lovers of an almost beautiful "beauty", but it wastes many opportunities in its handful of hours of duration.

Let's start from the basics: Owlboy is a game entirely made in 2D, with the display of a pixel art at times really irresistible. The idea of the game combines rather bland exploratory elements, with long sequences in which the stages of the shooter are most enraged, with a splash of assorted jumps and hops. The D-pad experiment sounds more exotic on paper than with the controller in your hands. The two-dimensional shooter dynamics take advantage of a rather peculiar approach, with the weapon to be used represented by a second character close to the legs of the protagonist (a real anthropomorphic owl) ... but in the end it is simply a matter of aiming with the stick right to a certain amount of enemies and to fire.

There is nothing wrong with that, strictly speaking. What is missing in Owlboy, rather, is a level design capable of making all these phases in which it floats around and hammers on the back buttons to make fire really fun and interesting. The speed of movement of the protagonist + friend / weapon pairing, also due to the size of the "chain", is rather reduced and the challenge proposed by the enemies rarely pushes to show off a real skill or the ability to rely on who knows what movement choreographic. However, the system works enough to push until the end of the adventure and during the hours of the game you have the opportunity to make friends with three different secondary characters, who in turn represent three different weapons to be used. The basic blow, the powerful explosion with its reload times and, finally, a hook that allows you to reach points otherwise inaccessible.

When it comes to jumping and exploring, on the other hand, we limit ourselves to a few switches here and there, with a single, true sequence that requires precision that at times is frustrating, also due to a cleaning of the control system and of reaction times not exactly faultless. It happens in the last minutes of the game and represents one of the peaks of difficulty of an adventure, otherwise, rather simple. The bosses that you find yourself having to face are conceptually all very well thought out and put on the pitch, but in the end only in one case are they able to give a hard time, especially if you have a little experience in the field of old school shooter.

Owlboy also suffers from shortness of breath: his story, his characters, his breath would suggest that he is facing an epic journey. The truth is that the sense of progression is very limited, considering that the protagonist, Otus, has no access to real improvements, if not a simple increase in the capacity of the energy bar and an enhancement of each of the three "hits" , however totally negligible (you can complete the game without any problem even without getting them). That's all.

So is Owlboy a half disaster? Absolutely not. First of all, there is an elegant and vaguely melancholic atmosphere, transmitted by every single stylistic choice (or almost): from the sinuous and delicate graphic design, to the soundtrack that in some passages becomes really powerful and evocative (especially in the the final). Then there are some characters who all seem perfectly thorough, even on the few occasions when the game has the opportunity to do it. The idea is that there are really stories behind it, however simple and a bit stereotyped maybe, but they are really intriguing figures: both to see and to move. Then there is the game world and the story, both with enough character to push up to the (very short) sequence of final awards.

Even the physicality of the shots and some puzzles reveal a certain care on the part of D-pad Studio in all these small but essential elements, if we talk about an action game like Owlboy. In short, there is no doubt that the story of Otus is the result of months of sleepless nights and years of dreams, finally crowned. The final feeling, however, is that in addition to a lot of good taste, there are really interesting game ideas and a certain depth.

I played Owlboy thanks to a code obtained directly from the developer. I completed the game in just under ten hours, facing the whole adventure with a controller.