By Philip Orona
I’ve played quite a few walking puzzle games in my time such as Myst, Riven, Zork and Return to Zork that had a mysterious and lonely feel to them. It seems most mysterious puzzle games tend to have a gloomy color palette or ominous soundtrack that make you feel like a Jeearr is going to jump out of the bush at any minute and eat your head, spit out the eyeballs and use your corpse as a location marker. Then there was Journey, a light hearted exploration game that was powered by its ambient music and beautiful backdrop that was critically acclaimed and won many awards. That indie darling seemed to set the new standard for traveling puzzle adventure games last year.
Flash forward one COVID riddled year later and we are presented with Omno. A puzzle based adventure walking game that seems to be powered by its ambient music and beautiful backdrop. Yes, Omno is trying to hit the same notes that Journey did and by all accounts, they seemed to have done it. You play as Marshmallow headed fluff humanoid in a sage outfit complete with walking stick who is on a journey through a seemingly new plane of existence to find “The Gate” as chronicled by previous travelers in boxes of light scattered throughout the land. Developed by Jonas Manke, this game takes you through a trip of discovery and wonderment through several beautifully crafted locations.
As you begin, you are given a quick rundown of your controls which seem quite easy. Your main objective is to gather energy and orbs to activate pedestals that will eventually activate your exit from each area and this is done by basic jumping and climbing your way past obstacles. Acquiring some of these orbs involve solving a physical puzzle that requires interacting with parts of the environment, some are easy to get – just climb up to a plateau and grab it. Much like Journey, there are no monsters stalking you and while falling into a crevice does reset you back to the most recent marker, there is no concept of death. If you fall, get back up and try it again. Even falling from a large height will only cause you to spill some of your energy shards which are simple to recollect.This gives the game a very laid back and chill feel which makes it a very calming and pleasant experience for the most part. Some of the timed platform puzzles did make me swear a few times. There are more and more platform puzzles that require spatial awareness as you progress through, so this is not a mindless experience that simply has you going through the motions. The laser beam puzzles really require some strategy and some trial and error which makes completing them feel satisfying.
To help you on your travels, you pick up abilities like a dash move that helps you cover distances that simply jumping will not. You also acquire the ability to surf your staff like so much Harry Potter reaching for that golden snitch and the ability to float long distances for certain parts of the game. As you interact with the environment, you will find and catalogue new and strange creatures that inhabit the areas. Some of these creatures will drop energy shards to collect. Others can be used to reach higher platforms or shuffle you on to the next area. While it is only necessary to complete small parts of each area to move on, the completist in you may feel compelled to find everything in the environment which means popping into every nook and cranny and collecting more energy shards.
The music really sets the tone for the game and its open feeling atmosphere. The Epic travel music that accompanies the transition from one land to the next gives a sense of occasion. The soft and muted trippy sound effects aid the dreamlike experience. The graphics and art are all done well, feel cohesive and the lighting effects are fantastic. The character design is reminiscent of Human Fall Flat but without the ragdoll physics. The animals that go about their business in the background keeps the world feeling lush and full of life.
Being that I am typically an action junkie, I cannot really rave about this game but I cannot fault it either. Omno gives you a different experience even within the walking-puzzle genre. Its cleverness and beauty is rather short lived as the game can take almost 6 hours to complete if played leisurely. If you rush through it, it can be done in perhaps 3 but why would you want to rush through it and rob yourself of the ambiance and exploration? For fans of walking-puzzle games, Omno shines as an excellent entry and I highly recommend it.
What I Like:
Mostly easy going
What I don’t:
Not a ton of action (but that’s not what this game is about)
Journey (PC, PS3, PS4, IOS)