OIO PC Review

An indie treat of cerebral platform fun

by Mark Botwright
Gaming Review

OIO PC Review
SRP: £5.99

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Indie games have finally found a foothold in the modern market once again. With the days of bedroom coders long forgotten, they never really disappeared from the PC scene, but making an impact in the collective consciousness of the ADD generation used to big-buck console thrills has been a hard slog. Thanks to some inventive downloadable titles on both Sony and Microsoft’s online marketplace, and the smaller scale productions released at cut-down prices put out on Apple devices, the lo-fi hits and hidden gems are once again surfacing. Uncanny Games hope OIO proves to be one of the growing pack.

A platform puzzler with some visual flair, OIO sets out its stall early as a title that relies on not only its core gameplay but also its ability to draw the gamer in. Whilst it can’t quite compare to the slick visual spectacle of games such as Limbo, it follows the same path in terms of creating an atmospheric world and an empathetic central character – namely OIO. The little wooden chap, whose name represents the simplistic line drawing of his face, is brought to us by way of the opening cut-scene; the subterranean world in which he and his people dwell is not as it once was, with his fellow beings now frozen in a state of stasis. A rumble from above and our protagonist awakes – it is not explained, and there are no other indications as to what is happening. 

OIO


 
It’s a nice, understated manner in which to start a game, the visuals don’t change greatly even if you switch graphics modes to maximum. The diffused lighting from above and transparency effects from water are nothing to write home about, but the basic visuals of any indie game aren’t the point of their creation. That isn’t to say there is no inventiveness to be found – the Henry Moore-esque architecture of the drooping shapes that inhabit the early environments are nicely rendered, complete with watercolour-like stripes that hide any simplistic textures, and the manner in which they are integrated into foreground, middle and background, helping to switch the perspective and sense of scale, is commendable. If anything I’d say the implementation was handled more moderately and with greater finesse than many big budget platformers that use the effect too often, sometimes at the expense of the user’s visibility of the levels (I’m looking at you Sackboy). 

Controls are input by way of the keyboard, with the WASD scheme the core; A and D give you left and right whilst W or the space bar instruct OIO to jump. The reaction to your commands is not that of instantaneous, pin-sharp hop-to-it accuracy that some may crave, but instead falls towards the spongier side. Early levels (basically one and two, as there are only twelve in the entire game) help ease the gamer into the idiosyncrasies of basic movement and the world’s staple pitfalls – falling and dangerous obstacles being the two we’d expect of any platformer. The slight increase in acceleration (it is nuanced but effective) of OIO should be gotten to grips with, even when traversing tight double jumps, by the end of the second level by all but the newest to the genre. 

With the occasional on-screen instruction we know what we are doing, but not why we are doing it. This is crucial. In what appears a developing trend, it is an ace up the sleeve of those creating small, distinctive titles, that the audience must be impelled to play through for more than the fluidity of the gameplay and the joys they may bring. The narrative is one of mystery and intends to keep the gamer in suspense, forcing acclimatisation to a system of mechanics that might seem too familiar to stick with (one downside of marketing titles in the budget category, much like the potential pitfall of putting out demos, is gamers’ short attention spans – a good story has proven to be the perfect antidote). The central character you can attach yourself to, combined with the puzzle element, shows more than a hint of Oddworld about it.

OIO


 
Your aims are simple: collect orbs (hardly original, but a concept we can all instantly recognise) as well as secondary - harder to find but fewer in number – objects, this time called “Fresks”. There are one hundred orbs and three Fresks in each level, the finding of which obviously becomes increasingly difficult. The standard jumping of the platform genre is subsidised by an added puzzle element, whereby the mouse is used to aim objects that can be thrown which, when they come into contact with the correct surfaces, can grow new platforms. The simple graphics don’t attempt to hide where the surfaces are, and the early levels hint at a straightforward exploration that is somewhat formulaic; look for a light source above or an area that may not have a ceiling to it, and thus be accessible (we all remember flying up into the clouds in Mario 3 right?) and you’ll likely hit paydirt. 

Don’t be fooled though, as strategy soon becomes key to finding all the Fresks, as the growing of platforms is limited to three “beams” for want of a better term. The initial trunk may go straight up, and the offshoots create an easy path, but when you must switch from one structure to another that you intend to create mid-jump, the mix of cerebral forward planning and split second reactions are woven into a nice all round platform puzzler. Take the first stages with contempt at your peril as the difficulty increases and there’ll be more than the odd head-scratching moment during your playthrough. 

There are flaws, which is to be expected with such a budget title; bugs can be annoying in their ability to trap you just when you think you’ve got an area sussed, but the sensibly placed checkpoints and the fact that there seems an infinite number of continues softens this blow somewhat. The latter decision, not to tie the player into a real life-or-death scenario, is either an indication of a lack of belief in the polish of the title or a stroke of genius intended to nurture the player’s intent to get to the finish and thereby allowing the developers to place more ingenious puzzles within the levels. With these rewarding gamers with a healthy sense of satisfaction due to the “why didn’t I think of that” simplicity of many solutions, the latter is more than hinted at. 

OIO

 
For what is a small production, OIO has more than enough draw to at least get gamers trying the demo. The subtlety of certain presentational choices, like the inventive score (drips being orchestrated into music on the first level, followed by an array of excellent synth and electro beats that give off an atmosphere of mystique that belies the game’s more basic elements) that fades off into gentle distortion upon demise and the cartoonish animation of your character, are neat touches that help wrap a fundamentally playable experience. There are few platform puzzlers about, and fewer still with an organic sense of charm and charisma, which makes OIO an engaging diamond in the rough.

Verdict

6
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Uncanny

  • Solid platform mechanics
  • Fair puzzles
  • Atmospheric
  • Excellent score

Uncanny valley

  • Occasional bugs
  • Only twelve levels

OIO PC Review

Uncanny Games’ platform puzzler doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it offers gamers a simple yet atmospheric world that rests in all the right places on traditional mechanics, and throws in just enough originality in terms of presentation and gameplay to be a rewarding but short, occasionally bewitching experience.

Scores

Graphics

.
.
.
.
.
.
4

Audio

.
.
.
.
6

Overall

.
.
.
.
6

Story

.
.
.
.
6

Gameplay

.
.
.
.
6

Single Player

.
.
.
.
6

Longevity

.
.
.
.
6
6
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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