Genre: 3D, Adventure, Puzzle, Platformer
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on PC, Xbox and PS4)
Developer|Publisher: Devilish Games | Badland Publishing
Age Rating: EU 7+ | US Everyone
Price: UK £13.49 | US $ 14.99 | EU € 14,99
Release Date: June 29th, 2021
Review code provided with many thanks to Badland Publishing
An Unusual Dream
Onirike is an unusual 3D puzzle platformer. The description I instantly settled on was weird. This has a fairly dark art style with a gameplay experience that I have to say is pretty unique. Is Onirike the right kind of weird you need in your gaming life? Well, let’s dig in and find out.
You play as Prieto, a strange being who is not sure of his own nature. As you play the game a full voice actor narrates what Pietro is up to and describes what is going on in the world around you as you explore. It partly feels like you’re playing a living fairy tale. But even with this good design, I’ll be honest I didn’t have a clue what was going on with the plot. It’s quite abstract and there are themes of dreams and weirdness. I guess depending on your mindset you might take some deep philosophical meaning from this experience.
But for me, I mostly just played through this game having utterly no idea what was going on. Maybe I was playing some interpretation of a nightmare since the world is filled with unbeatable monsters. Even when I reached the conclusion of the game I didn’t feel like I particularly understood the journey Prieto has gone on. Plots are not everything and I’m pleased to report if you do fall into the confused category as I did, Onirike still offers enjoyment through its gameplay.
Explore the World
The goal of the game is to collect seven pieces of a key in order to open up the well of truth. To obtain each key piece you need to explore a small open world, there you need to accomplish a variety of challenges given to you from the unusual inhabitants of the world. You can carry out these missions in any order you choose. The game doesn’t offer much direction as to where to find the quests but with a small open-world, some light exploration is all that’s required of the player to progress.
Once a quest is activated the game’s mini-map highlights where you need to head next. A good portion of these quests require you to do some 3D platforming which didn’t gel particularly well with me but I’ll cover this further in the controls. The more manageable quests involve collecting various items for NPCs, feeding some snails and there was a pretty cool chess puzzle at one moment which felt very underutilized.
The game is not overly challenging. You can plant these little gypsophila flowers in the ground that act as checkpoint areas if you get killed by one of the nasties in the world like giant insects, a rampaging minotaur and horrible spiders that spit at you. All of these enemies can take you down in a single hit.
Pietro can’t attack and your only form of defence is turning invisible. But you can’t rely on this ability forever, stay invisible too long and you disappear forever and you will be sent back to the last save point, not a checkpoint, so be very careful. When you do die the game does have some unfortunately long load times which do slow the experience down making some of the more challenging areas of the game just that little more frustrating.
Controls and Invisibility
Controls are simple to pick up but the platforming felt very awkward. The jumping in this game feels very stilted. You need to make sure you get a good run-up to make many of the more difficult jumps. Jumping from standing tends to lack the momentum needed. You can make use of a dash ability but you have little control over this when zipping around. Using this too much also turns you invisible and it’s here where my biggest niggle surfaces. Pietro will gradually turn invisible over time or by dashing. You can monitor this by observing an eyeball at the top of the screen. As the eye gradually closes it indicates when you will disappear.
Where invisibility becomes an issue is it’s very hard to do platforming when you have no idea where your character is. A small glow on the floor gives you a rough idea of where you are. But it’s not helpful when you’re trying to navigate difficult sections whilst also avoiding enemies. Pietro also has a habit of turning invisible at the worst times. For example, I spent a while climbing up a long platform segment concentrating on my footing only to suddenly turn invisible. Lost my flow and tumbled to the ground and had to do the tedious slog all over again. I also sometimes got stuck in platforms when turning invisible with no escape but to wait for death to come.
Planting a new flower on the ground will make you visible again. But if you fall down then tough. As one of the other flowers you laid before this, becomes your most recent checkpoint. Once you run out of plants you can return to one of the save maps highlighted on your map to enter a floating mini-game where you can collect some spores. This felt like a nice little Zen break but kinda also acted as a way to lengthen the game experience a little unnecessarily.
Characters and environments in the game feel like they are made out of clay or some sort of putty-like substance. If the aim for the art design was weird then the mission is certainly accomplished with this game. The overall tone is quite dark. Some of these odd characters feel like they would fit right in with the film The Nightmare Before Christmas, a film I loved as a kid.
The environments you explore are also quite random. One moment you are exploring the putrid zone, a gross looking environment filled with flies and rotting food. The next you’re running away from a Minotaur in a labyrinth, then you’re running around some nice foliage in a volcano. It’s a unique looking game that doesn’t make a lot of sense. However, I think it’s that sort of weird that might appeal to some gamers.
Conclusion – Embrace Your Weird
In a previous job I had when I was younger one of the managers used to say I was weird as a description of my character. For a long time, I interpreted being called weird as a negative. As I grew older I did realise that we have that choice to interpret this ourselves as a positive or a negative.
Onirike is a weird game and for some, it won’t gel. The platforming is a bit awkward. The story is confusing and the invisibility and dash features feel more of a chore than enjoyable features. But despite my niggles I choose to see Onrike as the positive weird and for those gamers that give it a chance, I hope you do too.
Final Verdict: I Like it