Daily Independent: OIO Rules. Period.
The Daily Independent is a recurring feature in which we shine a light into the darkened wilderness of indie gaming, illuminating both the good and the bad of what we find there.
Too often, cuteness in a given work is an indication we’re about to be treated to whimsy, nostalgia and cheese. This is likely due to our tendency to remember childhood as a time of perfect innocence and fun. However, childhood is also a time of vast confusion and, frankly, considerable danger (think about how you felt the first time you became separated from your parents in a scary public place and you get what I mean.) While I have nothing against nostalgic celebrations of childhood innocence, I’d rather that we see more works that get the contradiction between that innocence and vulnerability.
OIO’s puzzles are probably the best aspect of the game, but they have close competition from the astonishing environments and overall aesthetic. It reminded me of the early films of Tim Burton – when he was still arguably good, in other words. The titular character has an odd-shaped, inhuman-yet-emotive appearance reminiscent of some of the better moments in Beetlejuice, and the trunks of trees are striped like 1980s knee-high stockings. But it isn’t just a lengthy reference to other creations. The game alternates between a warm, earthy realism and an eye-popping, impressionistic quality. The fragments of light I mentioned glow with a dim incandescence, and fire appears as dabs of paint shaking brightly on the screen. Yet wooden constructs look well worn-in and water is deep, dark and ominous with beautiful reflections on the surface.
Best of all, though the game is a side-scroller, the world of OIO is convincingly enormous, with giant caverns stretching to the vanishing point, long dark shadows and the occasional petrified friend of OIO stuck in place, just to remind you that there is an entire society at stake.
Final judgement: OIO is a deceptively simple, beautiful little game with a rich variety of puzzles and some staggering environments, and is guaranteed to keep you transfixed far longer than you’d expect. And at a paltry 10 bucks, it’s absolutely worth every penny.