By Josh Speer / October 24th, 2017
|Release Date||October 4th, 2017|
In the vast wilderness of time when Konami had given up on SoTN inspired Castlevania games and Nintendo refused to create new Metroid games, I got quite good at finding quality Metroidvanias. I developed an instinct for ferreting out fantastic titles that ran under the radar. This review is one of those titles, a game called Omega Strike. Developed by the one person team Woblyware, with tunes provided by Scarlet Moon Records, it caught my attention with a lush, cartoony art style and pumping tunes. Though I have played many Metroidvanias, this looked to offer something new with the ability to swap between 3 distinct characters, all with unique skills. The question is, was this mechanic enough to set Omega Strike apart from it’s brethren as a fantastic new Metroidvania?
The premise of Omega Strike is short and sweet, and undoubtedly inspired by the origin story of Captain America. A brilliant scientist comes up with a serum to make better soldiers, and seeing no negative effects from early tests, the armed services agree to let all their soldiers get enhanced. This turns out to be a horrible mistake, as months after being injected the soldiers all start mutating into hideous, gray skinned mutants, with the added effect of making them completely loyal to the man who made the serum, Dr. Omega. He uses his new army to wage war on the world, and is on the brink of total control. Enter a small 3 man team, Sarge, Bear and Dex. Under the guidance of the remaining unmutated armed services, these heroes will strike out to find Dr. Omega’s citadel and defeat him once and for all.
At the start of the game, you’re introduced to a handy teleporter. This is the gimmick that explains how you can switch effortlessly between the three characters to make use of their unique skills and varied weaponry. For example, Sarge has a weak machine gun, but it has the best range and firing rate. By comparison, the ninja-like Dex is armed with a slow firing but powerful shotgun, which can reduce foes to smithereens. Lastly, Bear is armed with a launcher that, while powerful, fires shots in a bouncing, descending arc, which can let him snipe foes below him. As for their skills, at the start of the game only Bear and Dex have abilities, such as moving heavy blocks or double jumping respectively, but eventually each character will learn a handful of helpful skills. This always happens after you beat one of the colorful bosses, much like in any Metroidvania.
Though the ability to switch between three heroes with a shared health meter is a very cool premise, you won’t be able to rely on it for long, since the first time you encounter Dr. Omega he short circuits the teleporter and absconds with Bear and Dex. You’ll control Sarge for the first third of the game as he sets out to rescue his comrades before they can be mutated into monsters. I appreciated how open ended this was, as you could rescue either teammate in whatever order you wished. My issue came when I had all three together again, and realized that, save for their avatar and basic stats, each character was essentially interchangeable. By that, I mean that there’s no real backstory to any of the characters, nor do they get developed beyond the broad strokes of their skills. There’s no reason that Omega Strike couldn’t have had one character who could learn the combined skills of the three characters, and swapped out guns for any situation. I don’t mean to be harsh about this, as I did enjoy the swapping mechanic, I just realized late in the game that I only swapped them to explore required areas, not for combat. Battles are fast and furious, especially against bosses, so once I found out which of my team was best suited to the task, I stuck with them until I was victorious.
While exploring the game is fun, the overall experience was just a bit too short. I beat the game in just around 6 hours, which is short even for a Metroidvania. Furthermore, there’s no replay value other than achievements, and I got 22 out of 24 of them in my playthrough, and that was without trying too hard. While enemies are creative and diverse, they also have very predictable attack patterns. For example, the chainsaw wielding foe never does anything but run back and forth, he never swings it wildly at you. By far the hardest challenges are platforming sections with automated robots attacking you as you navigate monkey bars over spikes or corridors strewn with one hit kill lasers. I only lost once in battle against the second to last boss, my only other deaths were due to those damned lasers. I’m not trying to complain by mentioning these details, it’s just that combined they made the experience a bit on the easy side. Luckily, the bosses do get progressively better and more challenging towards the last 30% of the game, with the exception of the final boss (who felt like a rehash of 3 other bosses).
Speaking of bosses, there is a wide variety of them, and they all look and fight in a distinct manner. I loved how much personality they all had, from a mutant wrestler to a hillbilly garbage king and more. The best ones were the Drillmaster 5000, Colonel Gurtz, Garbage Disposal Unit X13 and aforementioned Garbage King. They all offered a good challenge and kept me on my toes, unlike many of the earlier bosses. I just wish that the difficulty of boss fights ramped up earlier in the experience.
Stylistically, Omega Strike reminds me of a vibrant mix of Metal Slug, Mega Man X and WayForward inspired graphics. It has great cartoony style, with crazy foes like chainsaw swinging mutants to robotic death frogs. Much as I love the art, the game has even better music. I don’t normally get excited by the music in games, but I couldn’t keep the tunes out of my head, even hours after playing. The soundtrack is full of songs that get your attention and deftly put you in the mood of whatever area you’re in, if it’s the western inspired desert or the sinister military base. Each song is distinct and my only complaint is that I couldn’t find a jukebox mode to listen to the songs in my free time.
I know it sounds like I’ve complained more than anything, and that’s only because I was enjoying the game so much, and wanted to find ways to extend my playtime. Sadly, with just one ending, it’s a pretty linear experience. If the game had a slightly larger world that would have alleviated many of my complaints. Furthermore, I wish there was more and crazier achievements to prolong the adventure, such as beating the game in under 3 hours or managing to beat it without any upgrades. Furthermore, I wish that the hidden items weren’t only life cubes to extend your health, medkits or golden skulls to increase your wallet. While these are fine, it would have been nice if there was some hidden abilities to spice things up, or even things like costume swaps or accessories.
Though reviews require I look at games with a critical eye, I truly did enjoy my time with Omega Strike. I could hardly put it down, and my biggest complaint was the lack of replay value. Considering that this was made by a one person team though, I have to cut it a little slack. For $12.99, you get a quality Metroidvania that is only really hampered by the lack of difficulty. While it would be nice if the game was a little cheaper, I can’t help but recommend Omega Strike. It’s fun, moderately challenging and full of character. If this is what one person can accomplish, I can’t wait to see the next game by Woblyware.
Review Copy Provided by Developer