I first heard about Owlboy back in 2008 – indie gaming had been buzzing loudly for a few years and was just about to hit the mainstream, as such a┬ánumber of hopeful developers – some who would go on to make it big, some who had already done so – hung out over at the tigforums which is where Snake posted the first pictures of the game-to-be. While this makes for an excellent excuse for parading my indie cred it also serves to highlight the kind of culture Owlboy came from – back then, Steam was a pipe dream for most developers and XNA seemed like the most promising development platform. There wasn’t a lot of games like Owlboy around, and the ones that were competed on production quality.

Owlboy feels like a game that came from that time in many ways. The audiovisual presentation of the game is sublime, and even though pixelart has had at least one original period and a couple of revivals at this point there are few games that utilize it with the mastery Snake brings to Owlboy. The music is great as well, the main theme tying together a large number of tracks that are excellent on their own.

Design-wise, Owlboy occasionally struggles with its legacy. In its effort to show off the large beautiful environments Owlboy can sometimes feel very empty of things to do, and some of the gameplay obstacles take a little longer to push through than what feels convenient. The higher-level systems work flawlessly and the controls are usually free from issues, but you will occasionally hit edge cases where the scope and origins of this project make themselves known. Difficulty curve varies wildly from room to room, and checkpoints are sometimes not as frequent as you might want them to be. Owlboy is a traditional platform game with some insightful design innovations and even more flaws – some which stem directly from the last decade.

It is worth playing for the art and music alone, but it is also an interesting case study of what happens when a development cycle spans eight years, from the middle of one console generation to the next one.

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Posted on Jan 22/17 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »