In a darkened cavern lined by colorful, striped walls, a civilization lies dormant. These wooden creatures remain frozen in their last positions, while the reasons to what caused their lack of animation are unclear. It is then that, by chance, the earth above falls apart and a beam of sunlight breaks through, shining upon one such creature. And then it wakes, slowly but surely, from its slumber.
The title of OIO refers to the vague shape of the unnamed protagonist’s face, which in itself is odd, however, it’s this kind of visual storytelling that shapes the game. There is no prologue detailing what or where you are, nor is there any text that’s going to spell anything out for you (aside from how to jump). Told visually, the narrative unfolds as you venture through Uncanny Game’s world.
At heart OIO is a platform game, accented by puzzles through its own gimmick. You have the ability to toss seeds that grow lengths of wood (with a maximum of three at a time), and you have other seeds that nullify them. It is by the creation of these wooden beams that either provides platforms for you to jump to or open up paths to progress through the levels. It’s an interesting concept and the game spends its first half teaching it to you.
The puzzles that you deal with throughout the game, though not necessarily brain twisting, are clever in the use of the growth ability. Simple puzzles involve the use of a single beam to raise you up or extend over a long gap. As they grow more complex it requires you to be more agile about your movement between these temporary platforms.
It’s in the second half that the difficulty begins to curve upward, as well as the pacing. Up until then, it almost feels a little monotonous, as if the game is proceeding too slowly. The caverns, with its Dr. Seuss-esque striped columns are bright and colorful, but they go on for too long. The change comes in the form of an industrial section, which at first appears to be just a fresh coat of paint with more traps.
Then the fire works its way into the system, burning its way towards you across spilled patches of oil. Fire, as a mechanic within the game, not only acts as an obstacle but as a method of solving a puzzle. It makes things fast, hectic and fun, right up until its dramatic conclusion, where it tests the players ability, and patience, to land on thin slices of platform.
Along the way there are two kinds of collectibles. There are light orbs, which act as a guide through the level, and there are the fresk fragments. Collecting these unlocks drawings of the history of your people as well as how things came to pass. The emphasis here is on the art rather than the narrative. It does such a good job portraying the backstory that it’s hard to find a reason to pass by any fragment you see, regardless of how tricky it may be.
And sometimes it can be very tricky. The wood can only grow from fertile ground, so figuring out where to plant becomes half the battle. The other half is the platforming itself, which works most of the time. On occasion a ledge with a slight bump at the end likes to catch you mid-jump and stop your inertia, but don’t worry too much. There’s a lot of room for error in this game as checkpoints are very abundant.
OIO does not expect perfection from you, and you shouldn’t expect perfection from it, but that’s okay. It’s an innovative game in its own right, with a unique world to explore and a style of its own. Maybe a part two will smooth out the kinks.