Day 105: “Ophidian Wars: Opac’s Journey”

Posted: 2011/02/22 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and no longer appear in the top 50 downloads. Today is day #105, and today’s game is “Ophidian Wars: Opac’s Journey”.

Ophidian Wars: Opac’s Journey is a platform game where you have to explore an extensive cave system. The cave system is broken down into a large number of rooms, a welcome respite from games where everything takes place in a single long plane, with doors interspersed throughout the game to move between the rooms. And there are no enemies, at least none ever seen on screen. And yet, the game works and works well.

First, from the developer:

“As Opac, you will will climb, blast, glide, and dash through an ancient network of caves. Search for six hidden relics that unlock new abilities, and collect roots to upgrade them. Think you can platform? See if you can reach the surface to fulfill Opac’s Journey!”

What I loved about playing Opac’s Journey is that you start the game as a kind of Bruce Wayne, but end it as something more like Batman. As you progress through the game you collect 6 ancient relics, each that gives you a special ability. You don’t hang them off a utility belt, and none of them are a Batarang, but all the same you go from having normal abilities to superhuman ones thanks to objects you add to your collection, and your innate physical ability.

The relics offer you impressive abilities (the ability to glide a distance as you fall, the ability to move the camera to see your surroundings better, and many more), and many of your abilities can be leveled up through collecting objects in the caves and cashing them in for upgrades. The game does a good job of making your abilities not only work more impressively but look more impressive too as you level them up.

Of course, you’re already dead too. This means that when you “die” again, you are instantly reincarnated at the last point you communed with one of the spirits of your ancestors, creating in effect a save point system. Each of these ancestors also imparts knowledge to you that’s helpful at progressing through the story.

One of the game’s short-comings is these save points don’t carry over from one game to the next, forcing to complete it in one sitting. It’s not a deal-breaker, but is a blemish on an otherwise excellent experience.

As for the lack of enemies, that does put this in the realm of a pure platformer, not even a nefarious turtle to jump on ala Super Mario Bros. I was surprised when I happened to notice the lack of enemies, as (by that point) I was already well into the game and thoroughly enjoying it. The upbeat music (when it’s present, the music comes and goes with the context you find yourself in the game) does a good job of driving you forward, and before you know it you’re exploring, puzzle solving, relishing new abilities when you earn them, and backtracking to previously unattainable sections with the intent of using a new ability to get to them. Later in the game you go from feeling like Batman to feeling like Spiderman, when you attain the ability to climb walls.

The game has the look of a platformer from the 16-bit console era, and it suits it well. It’s the only game I can recall playing where there were no enemies present, and yet the smart game design pulled me in and I was playing it for some time before I even realised it was so. It’s nice to see something different, and at only 80 Microsoft Points the cost to experience it is very reasonable.

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  1. mrdeeke says:

    Your reference to Batman is wholly fitting in this title as it completely reminds me of the old Batman game for NES in terms of how the main character looks and how he’s controlled.

    This game is a must-have for platformer fans, and the new iteration “Legend of Kilflame” set in the Ophidian Wars universe is another exciting XBLIG project in the works.

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