|Title: Oozi Earth Adventure
Console: PC / XBOX 360
Release Date: September 16, 2012
Official Website (http://www NULL.awesomegamesstudio NULL.com/index NULL.php/oozi)
Thinking back to the very start of my gaming habits as a child, the first games I ever really played were 2D PC platformers – Jazz Jackrabbit, anyone? So the whole concept of an old-fashioned 2D platformer on a PC console has huge nostalgia appeal to me. When I first looked into Oozi Earth Adventure, it was that nostalgia that really piqued my interest in trying it out. It seemed to have the classic look and feel of the games I remembered playing when I was first getting into gaming. But would it match up to the sort of experience I remembered?
Oozi’s premise is pretty straightforward; you’re playing as a little yellow alien of the same name who ends up stranded on a strange new planet (Earth, actually) when his spaceship runs out of fuel. It’s up to you to brave the perils of this new planet to find everything Oozi has lost, including his spaceship and the various pieces of his spacesuit; because apparently, aliens feel just as weird running around outside in their boxers as any earthling might. There are 4 different worlds overall (with six levels each in Story Mode), plus Bonus and Challenge modes you can unlock as you go.
The game starts out as your standard platformer – your only ability initially is jumping. No extraneous frills here. More abilities like wall-grabbing or double jumping are picked up gradually as you find different parts of Oozi’s spacesuit. This eases players into preparing for the ever-growing challenges of each new world, including new terrain and enemies that grow more and more dangerous. Save points along the way keep you from having to start the level from the beginning once you’ve taken too many hits, and extra health can be gained by collecting stars that have been strewn about and hidden amongst each level. Find all 5 of the hidden stars in any level to unlock extra bonus levels.
Overall, Oozi’s gameplay is entertaining. It’s got all the staples of your standard 2D platformer, and players won’t miss out on any of the things they love about the genre while they play it through. It errs on the side of being safe though; that is to say, not too exciting. Oozi doesn’t take any big risks with its game mechanics that would make it memorable compared to many other 2D platformers out on the market. At its best, Oozi feels like a challenging but fun romp through a colorful world. At its very worst, it comes off as slow and unexciting.
Unfortunately, some of the worst examples of the latter are the boss battles at the end of each of the game’s worlds. They often feel too simple right up until they’re nearly over. At that point, the boss is finally moving quickly enough and has enough variety of movement to present a challenge; and it usually wasn’t until this point that I would end up losing all of my health. When I did take that final hit, I then found myself having to drudge back through the slow beginning of the battle all over again, often feeling bored as the time dragged by until I could get to the more exciting bit. Not only is the challenging part of the fight itself placed too far towards the end, but the battles themselves don’t always feel like an adequate payoff for the build-up of the levels that came before them; like an action movie where the main character spends the entire film hunting down the big bad only to finish them off with a couple of easy hits. This is a problem that pops up less occasionally in the levels, but often enough that certain parts feel less like a challenge to be overcome and more like a tedious exercise in taking it slow.
Boss battles aside though, gameplay difficulty within each world and each level is more or less stable. You know just how to tackle each task and just what to expect from the environment, making it easy to plan your next move. The game’s difficulty builds on a curve that allows the player plenty of time to adjust to new challenges as they go without having to slow down. The controls were adequately responsive much of the time, but could be frustratingly numb while performing time-sensitive jumps and maneuvers.
Where this game really shines is in the whimsical 2D graphics and the feel of the world you find yourself in. Subtle elements in the background move and shift independent of the player. Eyes in the bushes watch you go by, leaves in the trees rustle in the breeze – the world feels alive. It’s like being thrown into the middle of a well-produced cartoon. Colors are bright, enemies are fun and even a bit goofy looking, and everything has a great cartoon-y feel that matches up with the lighthearted plot premise. This isn’t a game that delves into any dark themes or that hides deeper meanings beneath its facade (some implications of the secret lab portion notwithstanding). It’s just plain fun, and the graphics reflect that. Then there’s the quirky art style that fully embodies itself in Oozi’s smile, stretching up higher than the top of his skull on either side. Think Rocko’s Modern Life, but less weird. If you aren’t familiar with the show, I just showed my age and you need to forget that I said anything.
It’s obvious that a lot of work went into the look and feel of this game, and it makes the entire experience that much more enjoyable. Even the music is good and fits the lighthearted, easygoing theme – I hesitate to say it’s quite as polished though, due to a little quirk the track has when it restarts itself. Instead of the tune trailing into itself and starting over, there’s an awkward pause in the sound that can be a little jarring.
Overall, I enjoyed playing Oozi Earth Adventure. It matches up to the sort of gameplay I remember from my very earliest 2D platforming days, and I would recommend it to someone looking for a solid platformer that brings uncomplicated fun to the table. But compared to the experiences I’ve gained growing up and seeing video games evolve, Oozi doesn’t quite embody the excitement and innovation I was hoping for. If you’re looking for a platformer, Oozi will be everything you could need – but it won’t necessarily be more.
Review copy was provided by the publisher. This review is based on the PC version of the game.