Home > Action, Adventure, PC, Platformer, Xbox Indie > Owlboy [PREVIEW]

Owlboy [PREVIEW]

Owlboy: release date TBA 2012
Developer: D-Pad Studio
Platforms: Windows, Xbox Live (Indie or Arcade not yet determined)


Owlboy is going to be one of the best indie games of 2012. Sometimes you play a game and it’s great, you have a lot of fun with it. Sometimes you play a game and it’s amazing, and you know you’ll always remember it pleasantly. Then other times you play a game, and you just can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the sheer outstanding quality of it. From top to bottom, Owlboy is truly a first-class experience. The visuals are beyond outstanding, the sound design is absolutely killer, and the gameplay is a perfect mixture of action, adventure, platforming, and puzzle solving. There are some truly stellar titles on the way this year, and if you didn’t already have Owlboy on your list of names to watch out for, do so now.

Right off the bat I have to give kudos to D-Pad Studios for the visuals. The artwork in this game is truly striking and despite the overall quality of the game, I feel like this is what will get buzzed about the most. That’s not to imply that the visuals are the only buzzworthy aspect of the game, just that damn do they look nice! The attention to detail, the vibrant colors, the stylish designs, it’s just phenomenal. Nothing I say is really going to do the visuals justice, so just let the media speak for itself. There’s a trailer at the end of this preview and I’ll also put a link to D-Pad’s site so you can download the demo and see for yourself. It’s probably better that way as these things are always best experienced first hand.

Sound design is also a high point of the experience. The flapping of your wings, the firing of your gun, the explosions of downed bosses, and of course the excellent musical score are all very satisfying to the ears. The orchestral soundtrack is particularly impressive, and sounds like something you’d find in a Legend of Zelda title. The music ranges from beautiful, to exciting, to mysterious, and just as I can’t properly detail the quality of the visuals, the same goes for the music. All I can say is that it’s fantastic.

The raving doesn’t stop there though! Visual and sound design is important, but this is a videogame, not a movie. In order to be a successful game, you need to have the gameplay to back up the aesthetics. Owlboy is, in the truest sense, a platforming adventure game. You’ll navigate large interesting habitats and duke it out with the local hostiles as you solve puzzles and navigate a path to your goal, jumping, flying, and shooting all the way. It’s worth noting that the gameplay felt comparatively slower than something like Mario or Super Meat Boy, but I believe that was more due to the way your character moves. In those games you control a character by running and jumping, whereas in Owlboy your primary form of movement is flight, which I think gives the illusion that gameplay may be slower than what you might expect. Despite this, the pacing was spot on and controls felt fluid and responsive.

For a while I felt as though the term “platformer” didn’t really apply here since I spent most of my time flying and shooting, but soon enough you’re forced on to the ground for actual platforming sections. One area in particular that I really enjoyed was a sort of stealth segment where you had to avoid patrolling gnomes as you made your way out of a cave. Their habitat is pitch black, and as such they can’t see very well. Their hearing on the other hand is apparently pretty keen, so flapping your wings is a big no-no. After I had spent a while flying around, shooting down enemies, and solving puzzles, it was great to get a break and have a totally different scenario brought forth to mix things up. Seriously, a stealth section where you’re dodging hostile gnomes in a dark cave? I honestly did not see that coming.

In fact, the variety is another high point of the gameplay. There are boss fights with interesting foes, puzzle sections, that stealth gnome area, and an impressive boss “fight” where you’re chased through tunnels and have to run/fly like the wind, dodging obstacles and falling debris all the while. The changing scenery plus the variety in gameplay did a lot to keep me engaged while I was playing, and what’s best about this is that it was just a demo. I only played a small 20-30 minute snippet of the game, so I can’t wait to see what they do to spice up the rest of the adventure.

Also worth mentioning are the additional characters you encounter. There’s a shopkeeper whom you can purchase items off of (there’s an inventory for potions and buffs and such), a regal, mustachioed fish (who also wears a top hat) that saves your progress, and there’s a variety of partners that you’ll acquire throughout the game who serve as your gunners. As you’re flying about the levels, you’ll lug one of these guys around with you, and they’ll actually be the ones firing the gun. Different partners have different attributes, for instance the two I had access to in the demo were unique in that one had a fast firing rate, while the other had a spread shot. I don’t think it’d be totally out of the question to assume that you can find or buy buffs for these guys later on as well, increasing rate of fire or total damage. Of course it’s just an educated guess, but it seems like a pretty likely feature. Either way, the characters in the game are delightful, and I genuinely enjoyed their presence.

Also, your progress is saved by a mustachioed fish, who wears a top hat. Did I say that already? I don’t care, it needed to be said again. That fish has a mustache, and he wears a top hat. If that’s not character design of the highest caliber, I don’t know what is.

Being as this is an incomplete version of the game, I can only see the experience getting better from here. As I understand it they’re actually planning on adding in a bunch of new enemies with significantly more interesting behaviors for the final release as well, so that should be pretty fantastic. It may sound like I’m wearing rose-tinted glasses with how noticeably positive I’m being about Owlboy, but I promise you that my positivity is well founded. Owlboy looks to be one of the most impressive and enjoyable experiences to come out this year, and I have absolute confidence that even the mildest of platforming adventure fans will find something to love here. If this game had been released on the SNES, it would be fondly remembered today as a classic. High adventuring awaits when Owlboy drops later this year, so keep your eyes peeled for the release!

Until then, make sure you head on over to the Owlboy Website and give the demo a try!

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