When the world is so busy, taking a step back and finding a moment of peace seems merely impossible. But with a game like OMNO, peace is the premise. From solo developer Jonas Manke (Studio InkyFox), this title is a gentle encouragement to keep going. Push yourself to the limits without overdoing it. But also take hints and tips from anyone who is there to help. Discovering lush forests and icy tundras have never felt so incredibly calming. Find friends along the way to make the entire thing feel less lonely, plus, you’ll never know who’s willing to lend a hand if you need it.
OMNO is a slice of wonder to say the very least, and it’s a journey that many will feel the benefits of. Learning to press forward, but accepting assistance from everything around you is a valuable lesson. But you don’t have to face it alone.
Story: Reveal your own truths
The story begins as you wake up in an entirely new location. There are few things to interact with, no one to speak to, and it takes a while before the reasons why you have ended up here are explained. Discover the history of your ancestors and retrace their footsteps through reading (extremely small) text on old runes. Whilst completing small challenges and puzzles things begin to open up. Words of wisdom come to light, and it’s quickly explained what the player’s purpose is. Though it really isn’t a plot to consume much time or energy.
The story isn’t deep, and won’t leave much of a trace upon completion. Unlike similar games, like RiME, it won’t leave players with any heartbreak and emotional trauma either. Due to the length of the title, it’s hard to see playtimes reaching double figures unless it’s revisited a few months down the line. As a one-off, meditative experience, OMNO would hit the nail on the head. A lot remains unexplained but it won’t leave anyone with any major questions. Mostly because you never really start to question it in the first place. In a way, the lack of story seems to be part of the charming nature behind the title. Keep pushing on
Never look back
The premise is to just continue forwards and upwards. Which is pretty reflective of the only movements you can do. From jumping between towering blocks to ascending mountains and traveling from island to island – players learn to keep going and never look back. In a world seeping with magical capability, the actual aim doesn’t have anything to do with it. You just have to keep going. There’s nothing to run from, and nowhere to return to. It’s just a linear journey from point A to B.
Gameplay: Just keep pushing onward
OMNO is nothing that hasn’t been visited before with a puzzle adventure game. It’s not challenging to say the least, since there aren’t any real challenges, and due to having no lives there aren’t any threats. Which is what the developer aimed to achieve. It’s a short game, and an easy one for sure. Rather than facing brain-churning puzzles, everything is already neatly laid out for players. It’s a walk in the park, but that isn’t to say it’s not enjoyable. With the addition of new areas, there’s at least a change in scenery after each puzzle. The almost open-world aspect of maps allows players to explore as they wish and there isn’t a designated task list to follow. Which definitely makes the lack of challenge more engaging.
Skills are the key to success
Additionally, as progress is made, skills are learned to encourage the player to continue the journey whilst making these puzzles a lot easier. For example, the dash skill is learned pretty early on which makes clearing a lot of the maps significantly simple. Unlocking these elements as maps are completely is by far a beneficial way to keep players involved with such a linear story. If every skill was already provided as soon as eyes are opened or the game is booted up, it would be a breeze. There would be a significant lack of exploration and rather a half-hour game with little to no thought.
As for controls, they are once more nothing that hasn’t been seen before. But if this is an instance where you find yourself a bit lost, a very gentle tutorial in the first ‘world’ explains everything that needs to be known. The player is equipped with a staff – which is pretty much the drive for most controls. It’s the way you interact with the world around you, and the way you apply all the skills you learn along the way. As for things like jumping, they’re learned very quickly. If this is a player’s first experience with a puzzle adventure title, it’s a perfect introduction to the genre and general controls which will be visited time and time again.
Everything is not as it seems
At first, the introduction to the title seems lackluster. There isn’t much to the grand world designs the game showcases and there is very little a player can do. It’s a tediously simple concept, which is reflected in the first hour or so of gameplay, but once again, it all begins to come together as you complete different areas and move on. The lack of narration makes it extremely challenging to initially understand what the point of the game is. There’s not any explanation of the storyline or purpose to the character and their backstory. But similarly to skills, as you progress you begin to learn the reasons you began by questioning.
Puzzles also felt slightly unfinished. Slide puzzles, which make up a large part of the gameplay, caused a number of bugs. Blocks would continuously get stuck on edges of platforms and the gap between them would be too small to correct. Meaning the world would have to be restarted in order to re-do one tiny element. Grating would probably be the best word to describe these instances. But aside from that, OMNO definitely succeeded in being a laid-back, peaceful game to pass the time.
AUDIO AND GRAPHICS: Stop and listen
OMNO is undoubtedly a good-looking game. However, upon first interaction and entering the world for the first time it seems dull. There is a lot lacking in terms of depth and colour, making it seem incredibly void. But as players dive further into worlds and open up a new realm of potential, these colours begin to shine through. It’s clear that the beginning area feels so bland to enhance the ‘wow’ factor the rest of the game holds. But as far as first impressions go, the mundane beginning was disappointing, to say the least. It fails to immediately transport the player into any world of wonder.
When a game has no dialogue or character interaction, the soundscapes are heavily relied on by players to create a sense of immersion. In this case, the audio and foley work featured in OMNO does just that. Although there is no direct speaking, communication between both the player and their surroundings is prominent. Similar to titles like Journey, this game relies on its silence to reinforce the charming serenity of the game. Characters seem to have a general understanding of each other’s expectations, and there doesn’t need to be any sort of grand exchange of dialogue to understand that.
Serenity through soundscape
Although it looks the part, it occasionally struggles to keep up with its extravagant landscapes. On multiple occasions lag shattered the immersion when facing a critter significantly bigger than the player. Their daunting sizes and inability to fit on the screen of the Nintendo Switch felt intentional yet out of place. Sure, they were ethereal to encounter at first but when they’re causing the whole experience to shudder and stop, they don’t feel very friendly. Entire worlds would also cause a similar issue. When looking over a new map to see where you needed to go, there would be unexpected pauses and lag which took away the amazement.
In terms of soundtrack, this is what the developers rest the first experience of the world on. The soundtrack is undeniably beautiful and is definitely one of the selling points of the game. When there is silence, the soundtrack will shine through and essentially help guide you. When entering the grand landscapes promised in the trailer, without the addition of music they wouldn’t feel as mesmerizing. The whole thing avoids repetition, so nothing gets stuck on a loop and becomes grinding, but feels rather relaxed. Alongside the smooth nature of every world, it all comes together to create a single package of peace.
OMNO was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a key from Future Friends Games.