North American Release Date: 10/18/11
European Release Date: 10/19/11
Trophies: Yes, 1 | 4 | 8 | 30
Okabu is about 2 'Cloud Whales' on a mission to eliminate pollution from their world. This is done by using your ability as a 'Cloud Whale' to solve various puzzles throughout the game. It is the first PSN game from the indie studio Hand Circus and follows in the same art style as their previous games, although in a much more in-depth manner.
At its core Okabu is a puzzle game. The land is polluted and each type of pollution presents a unique puzzle element that must be addressed. Fire is put out by sucking up and releasing water. Enemies can be killed and plants can be grown in the same manner. Barriers can be knocked down by combining oil and fire, and throughout the game you encounter various villagers who have the capability of charming animals, moving objects, etc. This allows for more complex puzzles that may involve moving animals and people to interact with various objects throughout the land.
Enemy design is pretty original
None of the puzzles are particularly difficult to understand and, unlike more sophisticated puzzle games like Portal, there is only one solution. Instead Okabu pushes players to solve the puzzles quicker, as points at the end of the level are given for collecting berries (this games version of coins or rings), eggs, defeating robots, and getting through the puzzles in as little time as possible. Each element also has a medal associated with it that is earned for completing the specified objective. The points/medal-scheme at the end of the level is really the only thing the puzzle-aspect of the game has going for it, as the puzzles are really not rewarding to get through due to their simplicity. The sense of competition that comes at the end provides a decent substitute, but the sense of completion definitiely isn't there.
This game is what I would call 'Casual +' when it comes to gameplay. Its a step-up from something like Bejeweled or Peggle, but its still not deep enough to appeal to the hardcore gamer. Its a middle ground between the two, for most of you reading this it will be the type of game you play to kill an hour on a Sunday when you need a break from something like Deus Ex or Bulletstorm and want to play something colorful.
Okabu has a relatively simple story, which isn't surprising considering the history of the developer. It follows the story of 2 'Cloud Whales,' basically two sentient clouds, who are on a mission to rescue their home and the home of the villagers below them from the evil Doza who are polluting the air and land. The story is divided into a series of zones, each with a set of levels very reminicient of Super Mario. Each level has a series of puzzles that have to be solved, and these puzzles tie into removing pollution from the land and repairing the zones back to normal.
As mentioned in the previous section each level has 4 main medals, and that is really the only reason to play the levels as the story content is little more than an exposition-full childrens tale of the ilk Al Gore gets off on. Yes, the environmentalist under-tone is neither subtle nor intelligent. Its kind of like Ferngully, and on the bright side it has no Robin Williams... Unfortunately it doesn't have Tim Curry either.
Alot of puzzles will utilize both clouds to solve
The one thing the singleplayer campaign gets right is the difficulty curve, the curve has the right shape and it definitely can get challenging to get all 4 medals in the later levels. Definitely not Demons Souls or Killzone 2 challenging, particuarly since levels can be replayed just to gain one medal, but the later levels aren't a cakewalk either.
Still though the singleplayer campaign feels like little more than a series of unconnected puzzles to serve as a wrapper for the gameplay. Its alright, but definitely nothing that will keep you interested.
This is one of Okabu's stumbling blocks. Although I don't mind it as much as others will, Okabu's multiplayer is just the traditional campaign with the capability of solving the puzzles with a partner. Its feels tacked on though due to the fact that during the campaign you can already control both characters, and the co-op tends to make the levels more difficult to navigate, particularly if you have one player who knows what to do and one who doesn't.
Its difficult to hit the game too hard for this, because there isn't anything really wrong. Its just not a strong point of the game, and feels like an afterthought by Hand Circus. It works, just not as enjoyable as the singleplayer alone.
If mutliplayer was the major stumbling block for Okabu, this is the area where it really shines. Okabu has a wonderful atmosphere and some very clever art direction. The graphics aren't great from a numbers standpoint, but this is me we are talking about... Poly count is ancillary to me.
The world has a colorful and bright look to it... When its not polluted
Okabu has a very colorful atmosphere that is very easy to become immersed in. The colors are bright and the palette is very refreshing when compared to many modern games because it has very few earth tones... Even when the pollution comes into play. Thats really critical for a game like this, the colors were all chosen to convey certain emotions. The pollution is all dark blacks and greens and the clean environment is bright blues, greens, oranges, etc. It makes the manner in which the tasks are completed very visually rewarding.
The texture work isn't phenomenal, but that doesn't take away from the cartoonish beauty of the game.
The soundtrack was also a stroke of genius, while not as epic as a game like Mass Effect or as great at building story as a game like Dead Space... It compliments the environment flawlessly. It helps wrape the whole package well and is very easy to groove along to, which is the point with a game like this. Don't take it too serious, have a few laughs while saving the village from mean-old-pollution.
Okabu is a pretty quick plat. The biggest stumbling block will be getting all medals in each level, which will likely require multiple playthroughs of atleast a couple levels. Killing 5000 Dorzabots can also be time consuming. Still though, its an easy plat for the weekend plat hunter.
Okabu isn't a bad game, for a casual game it has alot to offer and can actually last longer and have more appeal than a game like Bejeweled. Still it suffers from many of the same problems a typical casual game does: It's shallow and isn't particularly interesting, outside of it's colorful presentation. For the price it can be worth it, particularly for the plat hunter or the gamer looking to kill an afternoon with a "palate cleansing" game. Thats really what makes this game so difficult to score, consider this game a very low 7/high 6.5.
- It lies in an area between the casual and hardcore. The gameplay is still shallow, but has alot more to it than the typical casual title.
- An environmentalist children's story, almost insultingly so. Its more fun than the typical casual title though.
- Feels very tacked on, but ultimately functional.
- A real strong suit for this game, the 'cartoon' atmosphere works very well and the soundtrack is icing on the cake.
Overall: 7/10 Good