Olija looks and feels like a fever dream and something spawned out of the year 2020. This puzzle-platforming adventure from Devolver Digital and Skeleton Crew Studios puts a legendary harpoon in your hand, has you face the unknown in the most stressful of circumstances, and locks you in a mysterious world.
But is this sailor’s tale the stuff of legend? Is this an epic truly inspired by Asian fantasy? Or is this just another fish story? Let’s jump into Terraphage and find out!
You play as Lord Faraday, a good man that cannot stand the pain his people are suffering, and he sets sail with his men to look for something to help. Unfortunately, a massive storm comes their way after weeks of travel, and all hope looks lost for our hero and his people.
However unfortunate the event of the disaster, Lord Faraday comes out alive and begins to scour the discovered isles for the rest of his crew. He is bound and determined, but while out and about, he comes face-to-face with the cursed harpoon of legend which sets the stage for the game as Faraday continues to find his crew and pursue forbidden love after saving Lady Olija along the way.
This is an incredible story that is simply raw and intense. The setting, the pace of events, and the well-written dialog serve to tell a tale worthy of a telling. It is a deep story about loss, recovery, and love, and abstract themes of darkness, evil within, and trust sprinkled through the journey.
The love and tension between Lord Faraday and Lady Olija is one of the highlights of the whole game, and it will leave you scratching your head in wonder numerous times. The romance feels like something straight out of ancient texts, and it is genuinely captivating throughout.
You eventually arrive on Oaktide early in the game which serves as your hub. As you continue to discover new areas and save your crew mates, Oaktide becomes more and more lively with crucially important NPCs that provide services like health upgrades and special hats (We’ll talk more about hats later).
The game itself is rather linear, although you do get to choose your next destination and can revisit old locations. When selecting new destinations, you are still subject to clearing the area in a very linear fashion in order to move on. Faraday spends most of his time away from Oaktide doing one of three things: searching for lost crew mates, trying to spend some time with Olija, and work towards putting an end to the darkness on display.
Combat and puzzles are excellent, and as you pick up new weapons, these two areas continue to evolve as well. At first you collect a sword that serves as your initial primary weapon, but you quickly discover that the cursed harpoon is the real primary while the sword, crossbow, and shotgun, among others, serve as your secondary weapons.
The harpoon is so fun to play with. You are seamlessly able to use it as a means of traveling across the screen as well as attacking enemies. Faraday and the harpoon share a connection, and it basically allows our main character to throw the harpoon at particular markers or even enemies and teleport himself to the harpoon. This allows for some wild and chaotic combat with some blistering speed. It may feel overwhelming at first, but once you get the hang of it, it is some of the most fluid and good-feeling combat in a 2D action game that I have ever played.
There is a nice variety of enemies as well, but the combat shines most in the boss battles. Before encountering any boss, it is wise to prepare well and load up on certain essentials like bullets and arrows for your secondaries before venturing into deep, dark areas. This type of preparation is not a necessity, since the harpoon itself is so badass, but having a mixed arsenal can help mix things up and make boss fights more doable, especially as you progress.
Boss fights are a nice mix of puzzle and combat, and it does make the fights feel more intense as you need to think on your feet often. No enemy in the game, including all of the bosses, feels unfair, so any death that occurs is most likely the fault of the player.
There are special hats that you can purchase in Oaktide from a strange man, and these hats give you special enhancements to make your journey a bit easier. Each hat is fun and unique and offers quite the ability for Faraday, but I did find that unlocking all of the hats is no problem at all. Through simple, casual play, I was able to buy all of the hats about halfway through leaving me little left to purchase in Oaktide afterward.
The music is dark and feels a bit ancient. I particularly love the fusion of old Chinese folk music with more modern synth sprinkled in. On top of that, the graphics are in a bit-style very similar to games like The Way or Hyper Light Drifter. It is a beautiful art style that stays compelling throughout, and the dynamic camera, especially, sells certain scenes in the game really well.
The harpoon is an excellent mechanic that makes Olija feel unlike anything else in the genre. Although it can be difficult to aim at times and can be a bit annoying because of it, it does try to auto-aim and mostly does a great job. You can tell Skeleton Crew Studios had the harpoon mechanic in mind from the beginning, and the pay off shows.
Olija is simply another wonderful title published by Devolver Digital. It is not a very difficult game thanks to the strong arsenal Faraday equips himself with nor is it a very long experience, but it more than makes up for these things thanks to a brilliantly told story, excellent combat, and one of the more unique gameplay mechanics in the harpoon.
This is simply a tale worthy of your time and money, because Faraday and Olija tell one of the most powerfully bizarre love stories that can only be experienced by playing the game. If that alone is not worth the price of admission, then what is love worth to you?
Powerful story of loss, recovery, and love
Harpoon is an excellent mechanic
Puzzling boss battles
Music and graphics
Harpoon aiming can be annoying at times
Pretty short and easy experience
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.