Oozi: Earth Adventure is a charming 2D platformer starring an alien that crash-landed on an unfamiliar planet and sets out on a quest to find his gear, his ship, and get the heck out. It’s developed by Awesome Games Studio and currently up for vote on Steam Greenlight. I’d like to note here that Oozi is a complete game and has already been released for Xbox Live, and you could download a free demo on their website to try it out for PC.
Enough about that, though. You came here for the review, right? My full thoughts are below.
Oozi’s story is told in a series of simple comic panels with narrative text. When he falls down to the planet, he starts encountering various monsters that seem to all be out to get him. Some of them can be hopped on to knock ‘em out while others are invulnerable until later in the game. The easy way to tell which monsters to stay away from without looking at the help signs for guidance is to keep away from the monsters that glow a little bit red.
You start off the game in just your underpants. Literally, you’ve got nothing. You can only hop so far, and you can’t do anything about armored snails or regenerate more than up to two hearts at a time. Once you pass a few stages, and you get your real pants back, you gain the ability to double jump and stomp down, opening up more possibilities and generally making your life easier. Oh, and yes, there are boss fights. Yes, you fight the first one in your underpants.
As you travel through each level, you aren’t expected to solve any puzzles or do anything elaborate. Just run it through. The checkpoints even tell you which direction you need to go next, in case you get KO’d somewhere and are reset to the previous sign. You bop monsters on the head and collect little stars as you go to grab that high score, and sometimes if you stray a bit away from the main path, you’ll catch some hidden stars for bonus points. The animation is minimal (Oozi just kinda bounces and blinks, but his expression never changes), the monsters simply patrol and won’t chase you, and everything follows a basic pattern. The game isn’t inherently “easy” because of this (it has its challenges), but you definitely won’t ever sit there clueless as to how you get from Point A to Point B.
The backgrounds are done up in these lush hand-drawn panels and look absolutely beautiful, in contrast with the perma-troll face that most of the monsters have going for them. It’s also pretty neat to play with a character that eventually gets all this high-tech gear and is basically in this seemingly unruly, green planet (or later: dark, mysterious caverns). The juxtapose is dynamic, and each level really makes you feel like you’re on a long sort of journey. Each stage should take a good chunk of your time to run through if you’re trying to explore all areas and collect all the stars.
For those who like more challenges, there’s a “challenge mode” and an “arcade mode.” The challenge mode is actually pretty difficult. It sets you in the middle of a chunk of a stage you’ve cleared, issues a challenge (collect all stars, or bop all monsters, etc.), then drops a timer on top of that. You don’t regain health, and if you wait until you’re a few stages in before you start with challenges, you’ll really be like a fish out of water because by then you’ll have been used to double-jump and not have it any more for the first one, for example. In arcade mode, you basically just speed through each level, trying to achieve a high score while on a timer. I found that mode to be more fun because it’s my personal style – when I play a game that is literally out to get me and my character is constantly being wiped out, I lose interest.
I was a little worried about how the controls would work since platformers on PCs are often hit-or-miss. Should I use W-A-S-D, or mouse? What about the arrow keys? Oh crap, I’m on a laptop. What do I do now? And before you say anything – no, I don’t have a controller for my PC and I don’t plan on getting one any time soon. If gaming on my PC requires an extra part that usually goes with a console, then the game isn’t really for PC, is it? Needless to say, I found the controls to be rather comfortable. I felt most at ease using W-A-S-D controls for movement and the mouse for jumping. You have several options, like using arrow keys or actually moving around with the mouse as well, but neither of these felt right. My configuration felt just right. Mileage may vary.
Once you have the controls down, the gameplay is intuitive. As you gain abilities along with Oozi’s gear, you’ll generally know what to do at various points of each level without having to consult the help signs. If you do need the signs, they are strategically placed before all new challenges that require some action you hadn’t had to do before. I’d also like to mention here that the checkpoints are also nicely placed throughout the level, and they heal Oozi up a bit as a bonus.
The final point I haven’t touched upon is the music. I found it to be adequately atmospheric. It’s nice and soft, and gives me this calm feeling like I have all the time in the world to explore this weird place with Oozi. It actually reminded me a little bit of the music in Braid, except with less feelings of hopelessness and more feelings of awe. Did anyone else feel that way with that soundtrack? Anyway, the music is nice. There seem to be three or four stock tracks that the levels kind of cycle through, and it doesn’t distract or detract from gameplay. It just does what I want it to: help me stay in the zone.
I recommend Oozi: Earth Adventure for all fans of traditional-style 2D platformers. It doesn’t try to accomplish anything totally Earth-shattering, nor does it contain anything unnecessary or frustrating. It’s just plain ol’ fun and good times – so refreshing. You need to play the story mode in order to unlock the same stages in challenge and arcade modes, which would then cover any ground for those who want some pain. At the very least, it is absolutely worth your free download to demo the game. Oozi is basically everything a 2D platformer needs and wants to be, without going overboard.
[Quick note: All screenshot images are from the Oozi dev blog because I couldn't figure out how to take them myself.]
[Quick note 2: I originally published this review with a 4/5 score, but realized that this game really deserves a 5/5 on our point scale - there is nothing actually wrong with Oozi, and any "flaws" it may possess are 100% negligible. I definitively recommend this game to all.]
[+Simple, Smooth Game Play][+Lush Backgrounds][+Tough Challenge Mode][+Pleasant Soundtrack][+Many Control Options for Keyboard and Mouse][-Doesn't Necessarily Bring Anything Truly Amazing to the Table]