Olija - Switch Review
"A beautiful piece of interactive art that will pull on your heart strings and test your mettle."
After Lord Faraday and his crew find themselves shipwrecked in a strangely unfamiliar nation, they must do what they can to survive and return home. On his initial steps into the unknown, Faraday stumbles across a legendary harpoon that contains mysterious powers. Throughout his adventures, he meets a captivating young woman named Olija who appears to be in danger from strange supernatural forces.
As an action-platformer, the feel and movement of the protagonist is vital and boy, Skeleton Crew Studios were aware of this. Faraday certainly has some weight to him but with the legendary harpoon, it makes him much more agile and when mastered, there are some wild manoeuvres that can be pulled off.
Combat options feel endless as you'll quickly learn that there is more to it than you'll first expect. It always felt as though if something could be done, then it can, leaving options to feel varied to spark creativity. When entering a room, you're usually presented with enemies that can be used to throw your harpoon at and then dash toward it, allowing you to reach places that would have otherwise been unreachable.
Throughout your adventures, Faraday will collect gems to upgrade the Castaways' cause, allowing you to construct buildings back at the hideaway where specialists can upgrade your stats, have adventurers sail for treasure, etc. You can also buy new hats at the hat store by paying with gems and materials; these hats will grant you new abilities and, well, who doesn't like a new hat?
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World / Level Design
Olija has both individual levels and a world map. Within the levels, you'll find maps that reveal and unlock other islands for you to explore and to carry on with the plot. You are ferried by a boatman who introduces himself to you from the beginning after you wash ashore. This all allows the world to feel interconnected, rather than simply moving between screens in a mundane fashion. It also allows for you to go back and find items and materials so that you can better upgrade your civilisation and, obviously, buy more hats.
Story / Personality
With Olija's initial cutscenes setting the tone, the game's plot feels almost dreamlike. As it progresses, Olija consistently maintains an air of mystery, with each island evoking feelings of both excitement and dread.
Much of the plot is either told through brief dialogue or subtle actions. There are beautiful moments where the titular Faraday must venture through the kingdom's capital in order to see Olija, resulting in their actions to say more than words ever could.
Graphics / Art Direction
It's amazing what developers can pull of with such a limited number of pixels! Despite each character model seeming like they're made up of less than 100 pixels, they all move with the fluidity and grace that you'd expect from a well polished 3D model. This then creates a wonderful retro illusion where on first glance, it looks like it could've been achieved on a console in the early 90s but in practice, it would have then been considered a technical marvel at the time.
Music / Sound Design
Olija doesn't go too heavy on the music department as it likes to focus more on atmospheric sounds and slight touches. What it does present in the music department is done so with grace and serenity, matching the mood by rising and falling with the intensity of the gameplay and story beats.
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Final Score: 96%
Olija is a beautiful piece of interactive art that will pull on your heart strings and test your mettle. Its plot unfolds with subtlety and grace, pulling the player in to the point where one can almost smell the waves of the ocean. The legendary harpoon provides depth to the gameplay in addition to the game's established setting, providing context to the mystery and tight combat mechanics. 2021 has started with a bang and here's hoping it keeps up the momentum.
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