During Pax West 2016, developers from D-Pad Studio finally announced the release date for their long-awaited project, Owlboy. After 9 years in development, the game will release on November 1st, 2016.
What is Owlboy?According to the developers, Owlboy is defined as a "Flying Platform Adventure" game. I hadn't heard of this long awaited game until seeing videogamedunkey's tweet about it whilst at PAX West this last week. I made it a point to track down its booth and give the game a try. They only had two machines running their demo, which meant I was to expect at least a 20-minute wait to play. During that time, though, I got to speak to an intern about the history of Owlboy and its 9-year development span. I asked her how the developers could even tell of the game was still good after all that time, to which she replied: "that's why they asked me to help them - a new perspective." Once I got into the game proper, it was immediately clear why this game has taken so long: it is a work of passion.
The game opens with a silent protagonist, Owlboy. He is woken up from bed in a fashion that mirrors A Link to the Past and is told to patrol the sky world. Once leaving his cozy house, a large vista of this world is shown, and the player gets to dive into the game proper. All Owlboy can actually do is fly around - shortly into the demo, though, Owlboy picks up another character with a gun, and the two pursue a troublemaker into a cave where the game truly gets interesting and mechanical.
The cave gameplay is reminiscent of Kid Icarus and feels extremely polished. Each room has interesting puzzles expertly communicated through the game's unique language; it reminded me of old games that perfectly walked the balance between challenge and fun. Each room shows the troublemaker so the intended direction is always clear to the player, and the slow escalation of enemies feels just right.
The demo concluded with a surprisingly difficult boss fight and then pans out of the cave to reveal a bunch of space pirates invading the sky world. I didn't play any other games at PAX that felt anywhere remotely well-crafted as Owlboy. Every sprite feels like a painting, and the music fits the tone just right. D-Pad Studio clearly has a firm grip on what will make this game fun and interesting, and the passion behind it makes Owlboy my most anticipated game from PAX.