Day 154: Olu

Posted: 2011/04/12 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game (XBLIG) every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and are not well represented in the top 50 lists on the Xbox Dashboard. Today is day #154, and today’s game is “Olu”.

I was a big Dreamcast fan, and always wanted to play DC classic Rez. It was criminally ripped away from me when, despite Japanese and European launches of the game, the North American released was shelved when the Dreamcast hardware went out of production. Many years later I made an attempt to purchase the upgraded Xbox 360 version, Rez HD, but a mysterious glitch had the Microsoft Points deducted without the game being added to my account. A long call to 1-800-4-MY-XBOX ended with the points being added back to my account, but the game still not being in my possession.

Now with Olu, I finally get to experience something similar to Rez. Though Olu has a personality that’s distinct in many ways, they both scratch the same itch, and that’s not a bad thing at all. There are also some elements in the game that harken towards games like Ikaruga and “Joint Strike Future” as well. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

First, from the developer:

“Dive into this rhythm-based rail shooter and track down an artificial being born in an isolated network. As the music drives you and you will drive it. Feel the pulse as every action is represented through rhythm, visuals, and rumble feedback. Straddle the analog and digital worlds to prevent the artificial life-form from gaining control.”

I’ve enjoyed many a rail shooter over the years such as Panzer Dragoon, Starblade, and more, but Rez popularised the thythm-based rail shooter sub-genre all by itself. Your every action is converted into vibration, visualisation, and sound. The story has you infiltrating a computer network, and that’s extended into the gameplay in a couple of ways. Firstly, you begin as a very basic programme, but over time you upgrade into a more sophisticated entity with a corresponding upgrade in the complexity of your character’s visual appearance. Additionally, you face two kinds of enemies: analogue information and digital information. You have analogue and digital weapons as well, and analogue shots do more damage against digital opponents and vice-versa (similar to the colour-matching mechanic used in Ikaruga and Joint Strike Future). Wireframe enemies are digital, solid enemies are analogue, and the game provides an audio cue when you’ve locked onto an enemy with the correct type of weapon for delivering maximum damage.

As you hit enemies with the opposite type of information, you fill up gauges that (when activated) either temporarily freeze enemies or hit multiple enemies at once (depending on whether you press the right or left shoulder button), necessary techniques for later in the game as the number of enemies attacking you keeps increasing as you progress through the game.

Olu has four large levels, and a more than adequate amount of gameplay for its 240 Microsoft Point price tag. The game is well polished with that “Lawnmower Man” look and feel, the 1992 film that helped define the cyberpunk and influenced later movies like Hackers, games like Rez, books (and TV shows) like TekWar, and many others.

The main mode of the game is the “Complex Mode”, which in most games would be called the “Normal” skill level. However, the game also has a “Simple Mode” where you can’t be hurt, but also can’t get points, that will let you explore the game without the stress of losing. The game succeeds by being inspired by a couple of great (but disparate) games, and doing so with extremely solid presentation.

Click here to download “Olu”, and then please come back after playing to rate the game.

Know someone else who would want to read the review, or rate the game? “Share This” and invite them to.


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