I took some time out this weekend to play the alpha demo of Oirbo, a hand-drawn platformer that is part of Extra Credits’ Indie-Game Megaphone effort. I was initially drawn to this project because of the graphics. With all the eye-candy hype of CGI in the world, I am constantly on the lookout for artistic games with hand-drawn art. Oirbo, a 2-D platformer from Imagination Overflow presents a delightful mystery to those willing to explore a labyrinthine spaceship.
The alpha version of the game is playable through the developer’s Discord server and can be downloaded for Windows and Mac. Once the full version is available, it will be on Switch, XBox, and Steam. After downloading the alpha version, you can set up graphics quality and screen resolution along with mapping controls. The game is playable with keyboard as well as game controller. For my playthrough, I tested both and found the game controller better suited. However, that might also be because I’ve been off playing console games for most of the quarantine.
You control Oirbo, the game’s namesake, and are tasked with exploring a huge spacecraft, discovering your purpose, and the reason you are on this journey. Floaty double-jumps lend to the feel of low-gravity one would expect to find on a spaceship and your character is capable of wall-jumps as well as mid-air corrections. The controls feel smooth both on keyboard and with controller, which is a must for a platformer. The enemies follow a variety of patterns and are all robotic in nature, programmed to act as obstacles and deterrents as you make your way through the maze.
As a person who is terrible at platformers–can’t jump to save my life–I found this one forgiving enough to be enjoyable. The floaty double-jumps and multi-jumps worked well at keeping me safe and giving me “do overs” when I missed a platform or a tricky trajectory. The game also presents a person with the opportunity to refill their life containers! I admit I exploited the respawning enemies in order to fill my life tanks on more than one occasion. I’m not sure if this is intended or will be removed from the game. When you use up all your lives, you are returned to your most-recent checkpoint where a robot repair droid puts you back together again and sends you on your way once more.
Luckily, all progress you make regarding pressing buttons, opening doors, and finding new passages is retained each time you die and have to start over. No running down the same corridor every time to flip a switch and then having to backtrack only to die after the next jump. Using the map and shortcuts that are opened as you progress, it’s possible to make backtracking minimal despite the fact that the save points feel few and far between.
Nice graphical touches include hazy glows around neon lights, other lights that flicker, sparking wires and layers of near and far objects that sometimes occlude your character. However, one issue I had was with the gray on gray color scheme of the ship. There are places in the spacecraft where the walls and blocks you are meant to stand on blend into the background and are not obvious until you find yourself running into them or standing on top of them.
One enjoyable aspect of Oirbo is that there is no text. The gameplay is intuitive and what information that does need to be conveyed is done through pictograms. Everything is friendly and zen in the alpha version of the game. The repair droids are happy to see you, Oirbo has an irresistible blue grin. Even the patterns of enemies and obstacles are soothing. In the first area, blues and purples dominate the color-scheme making the environment a soft neon welcome sign.
I played through to the first boss fight and was delighted to find myself fighting a ramen-chef robot! He was steamed! As is typical of platformers, the boss fight required multiple jumps on the boss’ head while avoiding attacks…soup bombs in this case! Beyond him, the game continues with power-ups, more switches, and more passages to explore.
With only a fraction of the game completed, Oirbo was a finalist for the Best Juvenile Game award at the Portugese Playstation Awards 2019. Currently, in addition to joining the discord and helping with development and alpha testing, interested gamers can join Imagination Overflow’s Patreon and help support their efforts. Follow them on Twitter, and Facebook as well! I’m looking forward to being a part of this game’s development and I can’t wait to play the final version sometime in the future.