Putting narrative under the telescope.
There’s something unique about the portable nature of the Nintendo Switch that makes it work well with certain styles of gameplay. OPUS: The Day We Found Earth is a game that demonstrates this flexibility well. The premise of OPUS is simple. You play Emeth, a robot that needs to find Earth, by pointing your spaceship’s telescope at different stars. That’s pretty much the whole game so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that OPUS was initially a mobile game released on iOS and Android.
Onboard OPUS, Emeth is being trained by the crew to use the ship’s telescope. Looking at a map of the galaxies, you pan around until you point at a star. Press the ‘A’ button and then you find out if there is a planet in that system that is similar to the mythological planet Earth. Once you find a planet that is close, the scene switches to the ship and a narrative unfolds.
The scanning is the core mechanic of the game. You are provided some clue as to how to find a planet and then you take to the telescope to discover it. The stars become a little more difficult to find as you continue, relying on your memory (or a pen and paper) more and more. In-between each discovery the story develops with narrative between Emeth and Lisa. It’s here where OPUS really does go out of its way to tug at your heartstrings. Emeth is essentially a child, talking in incomplete sentences. His limited understanding of the situation that he’s in starts off as an annoyance but gradually reveals a heartbreaking earnestness and naivety within the simple dialogue. It comes to a point where you want to move the star-finding sections on so you can see how the story unfolds.
More areas of the ship become available to you as you discover more ‘Earths’, which you can tap on to discover extra story elements and clues to find more points of galactic interest beyond the story. It’s not a huge amount more and doesn’t really offer a great deal of replayability once you’re done. This raises the main sticking point with OPUS. It’s short. Really short. The game is easily finished in less than 2 hours. It’s a shame as there could have been more story woven throughout. OPUS has a few audio clips from the developer that you can listen to once you’ve completed the main story. These bonuses are found via the main menu and provide an insight into the genesis of the game.
It’s worth noting the soundtrack which sits alongside the game. It’s well-crafted and pleasing to listen to. If you take the game’s advice and play with headphones on, you will be rewarded with an absorbing and atmospheric experience.
When you get over the brightly-coloured preschool character design at the beginning you get the sense of what OPUS is. Less of a game, more of an emotional experience with some puzzle and exploration aspects to it. You may not be swept away by the gameplay, but the short, charming, whimsical story will be hard to forget after you’re done.