Olija PC Review – A Striking Adventure

 

 
Overview
 

Genre: Action-Adventure
 
Rating: MA15+
 
Release Date: 28/01/2021
 
Overall
 
 
 
 
 
3.5/5


 

Positives


- Striking visual style
- Combat is mechanically interesting

Negatives


- Boss battles are a tad too easy
- Game is quite short


Posted February 15, 2021 by

 
Full Article
 
 

Something that has filled me with hope, as the AAA landscape becomes more homogenous over time, is the rise of the Indie developer. Infinitely creative, both in their design and their work within budget constraints, indie games have become a consistent font of fresh ideas and experiences. The latest indie game I’ve jumped in with is Olija, a 2D action adventure game from Skeleton Crew Studio and Devolver Digital that marries narrative and action in a short, sharp adventure.

Olija opens as Faraday, a Lord of a failing region, leaves his homeland in search of a solution to be able to feed his people. Some time after leaving for his journey, Faraday is shipwrecked on a mysterious island with none of his companions in sight. After being chased by a giant black blob intent on devouring him, Faraday is rescued by a man with a small boat and introduced to the legend of the Harpoon, a mysterious weapon of legend. With a goal in mind, rescuing his crewmates and returning to his homeland, Faraday embarks on a journey throughout the world of Terraphage. Told through conversations and in-game cutscenes, which were sometimes painfully slow, there were points where I felt the game took control away from me for a little too long to present its narrative. It made the story sequences feel a little bit overbearing at points, which reduced the effectiveness of the narrative as a whole.

From your first moments in the game, Olija presents a striking picture. Olija’s moment to moment gameplay features a NES-inspired low-pixel artstyle that wouldn’t look entirely out of place on an 8-bit console. While it’s all low-pixel in density, enemies, characters and environments are still detailed and striking to look at. Environments are all relatively large, with plenty of space to explore and biodiversity between them. There’s also a surprising fluidity to the animation and motion of the game, which makes the game look all the better. Combine this with some beautiful 2D artwork during some of the game’s story moments, and Olija is a great game to look at. Coupled with some beautiful flamenco-inspired tracks, and the world of Olija is a delight to be in.

Where you’ll spend the majority of your time with Olija is exploring its various locations. One of these is Oaktide, an ‘island’ constructed of wooden platforms constructed from driftwood by destitute castaways. As Faraday, you’re able to build Oaktide up, constructing a small number of new buildings and stores that allow you to purchase equipment and upgrades to aid you on your journey. There’s not too much to Oaktide, but it’s still nice to have a small hub area that gradually grows as you progress and build it up.

Outside of Oaktide, you’ll visit a number of different locations in search of your crewmates and there are two main things you’ll find there: puzzles and combat. Puzzles in Olija are relatively light, so you’re never particularly stumped as you play. Combat is where you can really get into the weeds with the game. Faraday has two weapons at his disposal: his magic harpoon and a secondary weapon that can be picked from a growing selection as you progress. The harpoon can be used as a regular weapon, but also allows Faraday to teleport to its location when thrown. This can be used offensively and defensively, as you warp directly to an enemy and unleash on them or by leaving it in a safe location to warp back to when facing a boss. Directional inputs alter the attacks you’ll use, allowing you to chain together different combos that can fling enemies across the screen or keep them in tight. The only frustrations with the combat is what seems to be a lack of cancels, thus preventing you from dodging while in the process of attacking, and the heaviness of the dodge, which leaves Faraday unable to move for a short movement after completion.

The best combat experiences in Olija come in the form of its boss battles, which have you taking on a unique enemy at certain points in the story. These are akin to boss battles you’ve seen in other 2D action games, with pattern recognition being a large component to wiping out an enemy. These boss battles bring unique enemies and attacks with them, which provide a point of difference to the rest of the game and help keep it fresh as you proceed. The one issue I had with the bosses was that they were simply too easy. I’m far from the most skilled gamer out there when it comes to 2D action games, but I was able to wade through the earlier bosses with ease. A little more challenge here would have gone a long way.

Overall, Olija is a striking and mechanically interesting 2D action-adventure game. The visual style and combat are reminiscent of games like Castlevania, while being narratively unique and bringing a level of mechanical complexity that feels great in practice. The short length, relative lack of difficulty and couple of mechanical niggles stop it from being great, but if you’re looking for a new 2D action-adventure game, you won’t be disappointed.

Olija was reviewed on PC with a review copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. For more information, check the official website.


Andrew Cathie

 
Rocket Chainsaw's premier Fantasy-loving Editor. I basically play anything and everything that looks like it could be fun or interesting.