Developer: Heavy Spectrum
Publisher: Heavy Spectrum
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), PC
I love it when a game is just dropped on us out of nowhere, especially when they get revealed at what is considered a big video game event. That’s what’s happened with Oure, the latest release from Shadow of the Beast-developers Heavy Spectrum – it was both announced and released during Sony’s Paris Games Week showcase.
At first glance, I actually thought it might’ve been a follow up to Journey; it had this beautiful and whimsical look to it that certainly reminded me of thatgamecompany’s delightful adventure. Whilst that wasn’t the case though, you can certainly see some similarities between the two and how it might’ve actually inspired some elements of Oure’s design.
It’s a shame then that Oure doesn’t quite match the quality or the grand sense of adventure that Journey offers, though that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad game by any means – just expect to suffer through some very frustrating controls if you play it.
Oure puts you into the shoes of a young child who is able to transform into a dragon. After being sent to a dream-like locale in the skies, you’ve been tasked with awakening a group of Titans that can help revive the stricken land that lies below you.
So the plot is a pretty weird one and is full of obscurities, but it does enough to get you intrigued initially. It never develops all that much though and you’ll never really feel a bond with the child or the Titans they’re saving – you’re just doing the stuff you do because… well… you’ve been asked to. It’s like the game is asking you to try and discover things yourself or make your own interpretation, but without actually giving you any guidance as to what’s actually happened to the world.
Don’t worry too much about the plot though, because Oure’s qualities are found in its relaxing gameplay and simple puzzling mechanics. This isn’t a game that’ll stay long in your mind after you’ve completed it, but one that’s designed to be enjoyed during its close to three hour running time.
The bulk of your time in Oure will be spent flying through the skies, all whilst trying to collect enough of the floating orbs to power up some mysterious pylons. Whilst it’d naturally be easy to assume you’d just be gliding through the likes of clouds (it is set in the skies, after all), Oure’s world is creative enough to feature some strange lands and structures for you to overlook too.
Once you activate the pylons, a mighty beast known as a Titan will awaken. Don’t worry though, Oure doesn’t go all ‘Shadow of the Colossus’ on you and force you to slay some beasts; instead, you’ve got to help them out. This means solving basic puzzles, all whilst keeping yourself safe from any of the Titan’s defence mechanisms. The puzzles are actually fun, albeit a little simple; they felt similar to the puzzles in The Witness in some ways, which means guiding special light crystal on each Titan’s back across a maze-like pattern. The only real complexity comes in the fact that you don’t know how each Titan will react – they might pull off erratic movements to throw you off or actually try to take you down by shooting balls of energy at you. It’s easy enough to figure out though, with no element of Oure ever feeling too challenging from a gameplay perspective – well, except maybe the controls.
Whilst the concept behind Oure is neat and calming the Titans an enjoyable task, the game is let down by a horrible control scheme. Everything about them feels clunky, with even the simplest of manoeuvres like flying ahead of you proving to be a daunting task at times. In a game that demands precision, it made for plenty of nightmare scenarios where I wasn’t able to reach the area I wanted to or wasn’t able to grab one of the many floating orbs.
All of your actions are assigned to an energy bar which is represented by a tattoo on the dragon’s back (which can actually be hard to make out with the game’s often awkward camera), though your energy will dwindle away quite quickly in the game. This can limit your movement, which when mixed with the awkward controls made for some very frustrating moments. I really liked the idea of Oure’s gameplay, but it was hard to really find myself absorbed by it when simply controlling the dragon turned out to be such a pain. Don’t get me wrong, there are moments where everything’ll work well and you’ll be able to really enjoy the experience, but as soon as some complex manoeuvres are required it starts to falter.
It’s a shame too, because there’s a lot on offer throughout Oure’s world. I really love the colourful visual style (even though it’s got an odd motion blur to it), whilst the calming vibe of the gameplay could easily see me coming back for more. There’s a huge amount of orbs to find throughout the world (750 in total) and with less than two hundred needed to actually finish the game, it shows that there’s plenty of meat to the experience post-completion. Typically, I might’ve found myself encouraged to come back to see more of the world and seek them out, but the thought of going through the awkward controls has just stopped me from wanting to. It’s a shame, especially since every other element of the game appealed to me.
Oure is by no means a bad game, but its clumsy controls and often awkward camera prevent it from being a particularly good one. I was a big fan of the visual style and the world on offer, whilst taming the Titans and getting them on my side was surprisingly relaxing. Unfortunately though, the fact that simply controlling the dragon felt so difficult was one of the main things that has stuck with me post-completion, no matter how enjoyable the gameplay itself could be at times.
The developers do deserve some credit for putting together such an intriguing experience, and believe me, there are times when Oure really shines. Until the control scheme and camera is fixed though, it’s a little difficult to really recommend gamers giving it a try.