“Otus is presented as an agent, not as a victim or a puppet—”
December 15, 2016 9:11 PM   Subscribe

Owlboy Is A Masterful Tale of Transcending Disability [Kill Screen] “It is striking, to say the least, that a game which has the levity and freewheeling inventiveness of a Studio Ghibli film introduces its hero with a sequence of cold abuse. But this is the unlikely balance that Owlboy [YouTube] achieves. From its unforgettable opening sequence to its equally devastating conclusion, the game never lets us forget that its hero is an unusually vulnerable one. He can’t even defend himself when the local owl bullies—cheekily named Fib and Bonacci—tease him. Nor does Otus gain fabulous new powers as the story goes on to deal with all the strife; the most he can do is stun foes with a stylish twirl of his cloak and escape.”

- Owlboy: The Indie Platform That Took 10 Years To Build [The Guardian]
“Spore was Will Wright’s attempt to simulate the evolution of a life form from the microbiological stage to space-age civilisation. It took eight years to build and never quite lived up to the epic premise. The much anticipated Too Human was juggled for nine years from the original PlayStation to a Nintendo GameCube exclusive, finally surfacing as a mediocre Xbox 360 title. Then there’s the notorious Duke Nukem Forever with its lawsuits and financial troubles, taking 15 years from first public announcement to final release – and it was awful. Announced back in 2007, Owlboy flirts with those titles in terms of development longevity – released this month, the 2D platformer only narrowly avoided a decade from conception to release. It was also hotly anticipated. In 2010, it was named Game of the Year at the Norwegian Game Awards, and a year later its first public demo was widely praised. More recently, it was named “Best in Play” at the 2015 Game developer Conference, and was selected to be showcased at PAX West this past September. But this is where the comparison with those other much hyped titles ends. Because Owlboy turned out to be magnificent, garnering hugely positive reviews. The question is: how did D-Pad Studios, a five-person team based in Norway, buck the trend from bloat to broke?”
- Owlboy Review - Awesome, Accessible Platforming [The Escapist]
“Owlboy's story is as memorable as its visuals. As Otus, you are a young owl who was born a mute, making him a blank slate type of character. He's something of an outcast in the village of Vellie where he lives, and while the townspeople are accepting of Otus, his teacher, Asio, is much less patient. From the outset Asio is an overbearing figure who finds nothing but faults in everything Otus does, and it never came off as fair to me. Early tutorials were full of insults as I followed directions, but didn't have the perfect outcome that Asio expected. My first attempt at flight seemed to be going well, but Otus couldn't quite make it to the platform as instructed, so he's an abject failure? This felt like a great set-up by the writers and designers to play toward having empathy for Otus, and I felt that every time he cowered in fear, or agreed in earnest to fight against that which threatens his home. Otus' adventure ultimately leads to him saving the world, with the help of his friends and some unlikely allies that you'll pick up over the course of the journey. It all culminates into one of the most touching endings I've seen in gaming in a while, and after the roughly nine hour adventure was over, I wanted to jump right back in to find the Buccanary coins that I missed, and see some of the side-story elements that I happened to miss my first time through.”
- Owlboy: A High Flying India [Two Left Sticks]
“Owlboy would be best classified loosely as part of the Metroidvania sub-genre. The game brings new ideas to the table that distinguish it from other games in the genre, but it also leaves some important elements behind. One such case of a left behind element is the omission of a key component: a map. The game tells the player where they are via text on the bottom whenever they enter a new area. But remembering how to get from one place to another is often annoyingly challenging. The game’s progression takes place in a natural way, taking you from one area to the next. Traveling to previous locations has a plot-convenient fast travel option. So in those instances, navigation isn’t an issue. Backtracking does prove to be difficult since it’s hard to remember certain locations and how to travel to them. Otus can barely attack enemies on his own, but throughout the game, he recruits different characters to fight alongside him. Each character has a unique weapon that can be fired. Otus can carry one friend at a time, switching between them with the push of a button.”
- Checking The Score: Owlboy [Hardcore Gamer]
“Whether or not Jonathan Geer [Bandcamp], the man behind D-Pad Studio’s universally-acclaimed Owlboy released earlier this month, had a greater challenge to meet head-on given the game’s lengthy, near-decade development cycle, remains unclear. Would it have even affected the soundtrack’s eventual content and in-game progression? Regardless, if we’re to look at this from the “which decision did Geer pick” mind-set — as mentioned at the beginning — it’s clear that Owlboy’s sound though centres on a multitude of themes; mystery, discovery, curiosity, anxiety…most of the instrumentation on show here can be classified as traditional. Or at they very least, non-electronic. For most of the soundtrack’s ninety-plus minute run-time, Geer’s focus appears to be on a slower, ambient-esque, though far-from-undercut delivery of emotion. Though offering enough melodic phrases to be disregarded as merely drone, though not quite as rhythmic by contrast, Owlboy’s sound captures the game World’s naturally auspicious yet mysterious air with a near-avoidance of signature-focused rhythm or groove. Be it the stretched delivery of strings, the careful placement (and indeed varied use) of percussion or the emphasis on woodwind instruments providing lead arpeggios from time to time, the music — like the game World — is awash with an atmosphere and state of mind that is neither comforting nor discomforting. There’s a keen emphasis on music almost overwhelming the player with its surprising intensity and sheer scale, a reflection perhaps of the on-screen action itself — characters but mere specks in an otherwise grand World that far eclipses them.”
posted by Fizz (8 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

(Really this looks amazing and charmingly touching. Loving the theme during the video too.)
posted by Samizdata at 9:40 PM on December 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

I just bought the music. It's $10 for the soundtrack here.

By the way, there's a video game music channel in iTunes which is pretty cool.
posted by amtho at 9:56 PM on December 15, 2016

This along with Stardew Valley. It's been a great year for gaming.
posted by Fizz at 9:56 PM on December 15, 2016

Norway represent! Actually, I'm often surprised at how many game developers come from here. Maybe I'll pickup Owlboy for Christmas.

And Fizz, I bought Stardew Valley for my 12 yo, and I think that's the most bang for my entertainment buck I've ever gotten.
posted by Harald74 at 11:40 PM on December 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Maybe some day, it will even be available for Mac!
posted by GameDesignerBen at 6:05 AM on December 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

The end of that review made me cry. It's so chill, and such a good example of it not being that hard to keep other people in your thoughts. Anyway, guess I got a game to buy.
posted by lauranesson at 7:46 AM on December 16, 2016

PSA: Stardew Valley just came out on PS4.
posted by jiroczech at 8:03 AM on December 16, 2016

I haven't played the game, but I listened to a spoiler-filled discussion of the plot and it sounds like it has some pretty good surprises in there, so you might want to skip reading too much about the game if you plan to play it.
posted by straight at 10:05 AM on December 16, 2016

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