Owl boy is a fresh take on the platform dungeon crawling genre; by taking tried and tested gameplay mechanics and putting a literal new spin on them. This makes for some engaging gameplay. Although one is not the kind of writer to spoil any plot points, Owl Boy is a coming of age tale which sees a mute teenager going against the grain for the greater good of his people. Even his mentor gives him a bad rap, but luckily for him he has his best friend to keep him motivated.
A Court of Owls
Owl Boy is a member of a humanoid Owl Race which protects humans on floating islands from pirates and other elements of trouble. Our protagonist is normally on patrols protecting the village and the skies, but this is when everything starts to go south.
“To be honest, Batman is already on his way COURT OF OWLS!”
Owl Boy’s standard attacks include a horizontal spin and a roll attack; which can be performed on the ground and in-air. The main mechanic of the title is flight, which allows players to freely explore their surroundings in all directions. Hunting down hidden coins and treasure adds dimensions to this title due to the level of exploration Owlboy offers. As players progress through the game and meet new characters eager to join Owl Boy’s cause, new attacks are unlocked through exploring with accompanying team mates. These attacks vary in range, power and ability which all become useful when navigating the titles dungeons and environments. An amazing addition is being able to switch teammates on the fly by pressing L or R.
Owl Be the Judge of That!
Boss battles are very well balanced and difficult enough to strike a perfect balance between a challenge and rage quitting. With our protagonists abilities and team mates powers available on the fly, said battles can sometimes turn into a mid air bullet hell kind of affair. Boss battles also use their environments around them to add another welcome addition to the fray, for example leading a boss’s attack to a wall or ceiling can end up causing massive damage.
The overall level design is efficient and well placed, not to mention the balance of enemy sprites on screen. Owl Boy always makes sure a challenge is involved without allowing players to bite off more than they can chew. Furthermore, this title takes another leaf out of Zelda’s book by having interactive environment mechanics in place to aid progression through secret areas. A good example would be using rain clouds to flood out door switches or catching falling explosives that would normally blow up our feathered protagonist.
“One hit the roof fighting this boss… Play the game and thank me for the laughs later!”
Farming for Coins…
Collecting coins grants you access to new unlocks such as health upgrades and more by visiting a certain shop early in the game. Collecting coins is actually given great worth in-game and provides a grinding culture that JRPG fans crave. This even unlocks a mini game, but this writer won’t spoil the fun.
Owl Boy is painstakingly presented with a clear and crisp 16-bit graphics style that pops at every opportunity. One can only imagine the hours put into creating environment textures, effects and every sprite in game. Owl Boy manages to stand out due to its own take on high altitude dungeon crawling and platforming, which is quite an achievement considering other indie titles out right now.
The soundtrack is another throwback to the 16-bit era; with every bit chip having been designed in accordance with its role. For example, Owl Boy’s landings sound different to his rolls and stops. Not many indie titles have bit chip sounds for their soundtrack and sound effects these days, which is a shame as Owl Boy could have easily had a Nintendo ‘Seal of Approval’ back in the 90s. Whilst crisp and clear, D-Pad Studios have taken great care in ensuring the authenticity of the sounds in this game. It almost sounds organic.
“Where’s that bit-chip music coming from Owl Boy?”
Presentation and Graphics: 4.5
Overall Score: 4.7/5
Owl Boy is a crown jewel in Nintendo’s Indie offering on the Switch. Whilst the title borrows from such big franchises as the Legend of Zelda and Kid Icarus, Owl Boy polishes those ideas and brings platforming and dungeon crawling together in a beautifully realised bit chip title. Readers and players who do not own Owl Boy on their Nintendo Switch will be brought in for questioning momentarily.
Formats: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Steam
Price: £18.99 (eShop)
Developer: D-Pad Studio
Release Date: 13/02/2018
Age Rating: PEGI 3+