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Review:  Puzzle Platformer Omno Nears Perfection

Screenshot: Omno

Every once in a while a game can come along and with hardly a word of dialogue, and manage deep and meaningful poignancy. There are few games that affected me in as much, like Journey, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and now Omno.

Omno is a third person puzzle platforming game where you play as a staff wielding person on a journey through a wondrous land. You start off merely being able to walk and interact with items with your staff—but soon you’ll gain the ability to dash, float, and even teleport—among other abilities. Omno has no combat, instead, it’s all about peaceful exploration as you first learn how its world works. Then you start to discover puzzles—simple at first, but increasingly complex,  and clever. All developed by a single person, Jonas Manke, Omno is obviously a labor of love—and its accomplishment is no small feat for a solo developer. So much so that if an entire studio worked on this game, I would believe it.

Screenshot: Omno

There are a lot of puzzle platformers out there, and they each approach puzzles and how they communicate how those puzzles work to their players differently. Jonas Manke could teach a masterclass in puzzle signposting. The puzzles in Omno are simultaneously incorporated seamlessly into the surrounding environment, but upon inspection, despite how abstract the puzzle might seem at first, its mechanics become obvious quickly. Not only that, but most puzzles don’t have a single solution—instead, they have “rules” that allow for multiple solutions, so a guide couldn’t tell you what the right answer is, just how to figure out the puzzle for yourself. I’m floored by how impressive the puzzle designs are, and the game rhythm in general.

Not only does Omno have great puzzles, but Manke has discovered a great gameplay loop that feels extremely rewarding: you’re introduced to a new area while obtaining a new ability. You get to try out that new ability as you enter into that area—and usually have to use that ability prolifically to solve puzzles. Omno doesn’t throw away old mechanics, though, instead building upon them as you progress through the game. For instance, once you learn to teleport, you won’t just teleport—but you’ll also be required to throw a few dashes in. After you finish an area by solving its puzzles, you’ll often be given a catharsis—a chance to either sit back and look at the gorgeous world, or use a game mechanic that was introduced earlier in a fun way—like the extended skiing sequence after you gain the skiing ability, or the airborne sequences after you gain the float ability.

Screenshot: Omno

It’s not just puzzle solving. You can spend time exploring each of Omno’s detailed and beautiful locations. You can interact with the various animals in fun ways, too. Some will actually play or interact with you. To keep track of all of the creatures, and to make sure you are finding everything you want, Omno has a handy system for keeping track of all of them for you. You can use it to reference back, and even learn extra little tidbits about the creature and sometimes the world they occupy. After a bit of exploration and puzzle solving you can move onto the next area—or choose to 100 percent complete the area you’re in. You’re also warned before you leave an area with its completion percentage—letting you know to turn back around if you’re a completionist.

Omno is one of those special games that don’t come around very often. It’s beautiful , and is full of clever puzzles that never felt too frustrating. Of course, as with any puzzle game, your mileage may vary—puzzles I think are hard might be really easy for you, and vice versa. It’s not just the puzzles that are impressive in Omno, though, but their incorporation into the landscape as well as the way the developer communicates their function—it’s just done incredibly well. I definitely recommend Omno to anyone who appreciates a contemplative, peaceful, but sometimes fun, exciting, and emotional puzzle platformer.

Screenshot: Omno

Omno is available now on PC via Steam.

 

 

 

 

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