I fancy myself as an amateur astronomer. I like to take my telescope and gaze at the many celestial objects above me and wonder what it might be like if a visitor from one of the billions of other stars found their way to our infinitesimal little blue orb. It’s not often that I put myself in the shoes of the visitor who may end up crash landing on our planet. Oozi: Earth Adventure takes that point of view and runs with it in Awesome Games Studio’s hit XBLIG platformer now available to PC users everywhere.
I was gifted a review copy of the PC version of Oozi, and while personal life has my gaming rig in the state of flux I was pleased to see that it would install and run nicely on my very modest laptop. Oozi starts out as a clean little platformer and eventually morphs into quite the fun romp through various challenging levels where everything is trying to kill you. Armed with only your jumping skills and power-ups that you gain from finding pieces of your space suit along the way, Oozi leaps precariously from ledge to cliff and on top of enemies heads to find his way to the end of each level. All the basic platforming necessities are there for fans of the genre: Collectables in the form of stars, 5 hidden stars in each level, an arbitrary scoring system and a vivid and colorful backdrop for the cute protagonist to play on. The real goal of going through each level is the acquisition of Oozi’s lost space suit parts which gift him with certain abilities making the way in which you navigate levels easier, but at the same time dealing with the more challenging levels that are presented to you.
There isn’t much in the way of story, save a few interludes which play during the loading screens, but you don’t really need to know much to enjoy yourself in this game. It’s a platformer, so it is expected that you’re going to be doing a lot of jumping and navigating around enemies in the world. What Oozi does is brings gamers back to the golden era when platformers were side scrolling adventures on a 2D plane similar to the many plumber filled games Nintendo filled so many of our childhoods with. For a game genre that places so much emphasis on jumping, I do kind of wish that Oozi had slightly tighter controls when it came to the actual execution of the jump. I found that when using the Xbox controller connected to my PC, my natural response of using the thumbstick caused me to miss a lot of jumps due to the way the camera followed Oozi around with each movement. Subtle adjustments in the air when you feel you may overshoot a jump often caused me to correct too much and miss the landing entirely. I did find that switching to using the D-pad was a bit easier to control, but the camera still took some getting used to. I was able to compensate for it and have a good time with the game, but from the initial onset of the game, the controls didn’t feel completely intuitive as I would have liked them to be.
Visually the game is actually quite stunning. Vibrant cartoon-esque colors are used to flesh out the world and it works really well. All of the enemies are drawn very well and have a cuteness about them that ties the art style of the world together. The levels do become a bit repetitive visually however as the same color pallet is used quite often and begins to add a bit of monotony during the early stages of the game. I would have liked to have seen more diversity in the landscapes earlier on in the game, but it is hardly a fault that takes away from the enjoyment of it.
The level of difficulty, once you’re accustomed to the jump mechanism, is handled really well. The levels are challenging but not overly punishing. Every time you die or miss a jump, you realize it is your fault for not paying attention to where you’re going or not timing the crossing of two enemies perfectly. There were never times when I felt that I was being cheated out of an experience because the game design was bad or flawed.
My overall experience with the game was a good one. It’s a safe, family-oriented game that I felt completely comfortable playing right next to my 5 year old daughter who at times took the controls and had an equally enjoyable time with it. Fans of the platforming genre will have fun with this title, but there is little else to deliver to people who don’t harken back to the days when 2D platforming was king. In a time when a majority of the popular titles are regurgitated first person shooters, its refreshing to have a competent and fun platformer on the menu for a modest entry level price. The game is not perfect and at times didn’t hold my attention all together well, but there’s no denying that it is a fun and smart title that delivers well on its promises.