Year after year, we’re spoilt by indie developers who push the envelope even further than seems possible. A game doesn’t have to be the biggest technical achievement in the world to impress and attract a huge fan base, but it does need to stand out. Just when you think everything that could possibly have been done with a genre has been, someone else will come along to shake it up and show you how wrong you are. That’s what Omno does with platformer puzzle games.
Omno doesn’t have much of a story to speak of. There are notes you’ll find along your way through each biome, but it’s up to you to make sense of it all and come to your own conclusions as to what’s going on and why the protagonist is traveling ever forward. However, the lack of story works for it in the same way that it works for Dark Souls. Sure, players can spend a while working out the mysteries of the world, but the gameplay is so engrossing and provides such a great sense of progression that you don’t need to have that lore if you don’t want it.
The game starts out with the protagonist waking up in a swampy area of an unknown world. From there, you’re taught to use your staff to interact with symbols in the world, along with an abundance of native wildlife. Each biome has a set of puzzles for you to complete. You need to finish three to collect three balls of energy and unlock the final puzzle in the biome. Once that’s complete, you can head to the gate and ride an increasingly exotic range of creatures to the next biome.
Omno has a set of small open sandboxes for you to explore. They get larger and fuller as the game progresses. You can open a mini-map at any time to see the direction of collectibles and balls of energy, as well as a percentage counter for the current area. This ensures that you always know how much more there is to discover, whether it’s new creatures to encounter, puzzles to solve, or balls of energy to collect. You don’t have to get to 100% in each area, but you’d be missing out on a large chunk of the game if you didn’t. The runtime makes hitting 100% in every area even more worthwhile because you can complete the game in its entirety within five hours or so. Unfortunately, there’s nothing to draw you back in once you’ve finished it, unless you love the amazing soundtrack enough to tackle another playthrough.
The game’s puzzles aren’t particularly difficult, but a few will have you scratching your head to start with. There are easy staples that you’ll find in each biome, such as collecting enough energy from the creatures there to activate a pillar. The game is at its best when you’re solving the more complex affairs though. These require you to move pieces of the terrain around, complete complex jumping puzzles, and move objects through a series of places before the puzzle can be finished. These are tough in the moment, and make you feel smart when you’ve finished them, which is what all puzzles should do.
Unfortunately, some of these puzzles, even those that are simple explorations of the world, are hindered by the game’s mechanics. Jumping and other abilities aren’t as smooth as they could be, making for a few frustrating minutes while you try to work out how to make the game work for you instead of how you feel it should work. Still, the frustration adds to the complexity of the puzzles in a way and doesn’t drag the game down long enough to bother you that much.
The biggest draw of Omno is its world. If you’re even slightly interested in exploring a strange landscape filled with stranger creatures, you should dive straight in. From the very first biome you’ll be meeting all manner of beasts that are as intriguing as they are obscure. My favourite was a flat-headed plant-like creature that flips you into the air when you interact with it. You can clearly see that a lot of thought was put into the creatures in this world and the biomes themselves. Everything has been created with a purpose in mind. For example, my favourite flat-headed creature is required to solve a puzzle early on by flipping you onto a pillar to grab a ball of energy. The soundtrack has been carefully curated to add to the feel of each of these biomes, making for a place you could just head to when you need to chill out for a while.
While I was playing Omno, I couldn’t help but compare it to Nintendo’s poster boy. The game resembles titles like Super Mario Odyssey but doesn’t go far enough to live up to them. There’s always something extra to be found in a biome, but the platforming mechanics are so simple that if you’re not bothered about 100%, there’s nothing to keep you playing. However, Omno is not without its charm and individuality. It’s a game built from the ground up for those interested in exploring the unknown and working things out along the way. There’s no need for the faff that big-budget titles have because Omno has enough atmosphere that anything extra would only get in the way.
Omno is a short experience that provides a lot of satisfaction to completionists and casual gamers alike. It has a wonderful soundtrack to accompany the astonishingly well realised world that you’ll explore and complete puzzles in over the course of a single afternoon.