Oozi: Earth Adventure Review: Frustrating, But Familiar
While most of the ideas in Oozi are competent if borrowed, controlling the game itself can be a struggle. The first major issue with Oozi is its interface. The game felt nigh unplayable on a keyboard or with a mouse, both viable options for PC players, as it was impossible to get anything close to the precision required not to die constantly. After a few levels, I gave up and grabbed my PC Xbox gamepad, which resulted in a tightening of control that made Oozi bearable, at least for the most part.
Even with an Xbox pad for which it feels the game was designed (it released first on XBLIG, after all), Oozi’s controls are frustratingly rough. Jumping is variable based on how hard and how long you press the jump button, but elements like long jumps and double-jumps seemed to fail haphazardly. It gets worse as you unlock capabilities like wall-jumping, which requires a fast combination of pushing toward and away from the wall in the matter of microseconds, it seems. Combine that with variable jumping distances, loose mid-air controls and protagonist Oozi’s tendency to take an extra step and a half whenever you let go of the control stick, and the result is a series of tumbles off platforms into spikes and restarting at checkpoints, only to be forced to do large swathes of a level over again. And again. And again.
In later levels, Oozi introduced a mechanic that had me picking up and throwing bombs to solve various puzzles, but the mechanics for doing so similarly annoying. Triggering the pick-up prompt for bomb, getting the character to throw them quickly but stand still, and getting them to land in the right places was a chore that meant a string of failures and a lot of wasted time. I know how to throw bombs, game — forcing me to do it over and over again because of fast countdown timers and lackluster control accuracy does not increase fun.
These control issues are pretty much all that’s really wrong with Oozi, but botched controls are a cardinal sin for platformers. The worst of it was firing off a jump almost by instinct, drawing on years of platforming experience, only to be surprised when Oozi fell short for seemingly no reason; this was a jump I’ve made as Mario 10,000 times and a hundred with Oozi even in the last hour, but for some reason, that time, I died instead of lived. These instances seemed to pop up all too often, and it was only toward the end of the game when the “difficulty” ramped up that I started to feel at home with the title. As soon as I was able to move fast and react quickly to my surroundings, rather than stopping and waiting for things like projectiles to clear, did the game really hit a stride.
Apart from the 24-level campaign, Oozi also contains a number of challenge levels that can be unlocked by seeking out secrets scattered through the main game. Level design in general is one of the game’s real strengths and running down all the secrets can be amusing, but is never too difficult. The challenge levels, on the other hand, do offer a significant challenge by throwing a timer into the mix. These levels require Oozi to hit certain score goals within a certain amount of time, and they definitely feel pretty tough even at the start. A separate Arcade Mode has players burning through campaign levels on the clock, with more time added at each checkpoint. Both are solid content additions to the whole and offer quite a bit of challenge. They’re fun, if frustrating.
But with dodgy controls and a compendium of worn platforming conventions, Oozi: Earth Adventure just doesn’t pack a lot of punch. It’s by no means a terrible game or a terrible platformer, but my time with it ultimately amounted to more irritation than elation. Platforming fans eager to revisit days of yore, graphics of a generation past and classic gameplay elements and mechanics will likely find Oozi a fun title, but for the majority of us, this is a game we’ve played before, and played in stronger versions.
- Great art style
- Level design includes multiple hidden paths with secrets, all of which are challenging to reach discover
- Lengthy levels offer a variety of challenges throughout
- Offers challenging moments all the way through, both with a number of complex elements and while keeping things simple
- Challenge Mode and Arcade Mode add tough levels and replay value
- Really tough to play without a gamepad
- Even with a gamepad, controls should be tighter
- Nothing you haven’t seen before, years ago, in other 2-D platformers
- Art style, while pretty, sometimes makes dangers look like background, which is annoying
- Some frustrating areas made worse by checkpoint spacing
Final Score: 60/100