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Owlboy – Better Late

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This is just a piece I wrote when applying for a news reporter role on a geek culture website, archived here for posterity.

Indie Platformer Owlboy (due 01/11/16) has been a long time coming. Nine years coming, in fact. Developer D-Pad Studio began work on the game in 2007 [1] and the end result seems the definition of a labour of love. You play as Otus, a young member of a dwindling race called the Owls. Half owl, half person, the Owls are touted as having produced many of the world’s great wonders. This sets the bar pretty high for Otus, who is described as “struggling to live up to the expectations of owl-hood”. Early on in-game it’s shown that our silent protagonist is actually mute and is bullied by another pair of young Owls because of his speech disorder. [2] Otus is also not particularly gifted in combat, his moveset being limited to a rather ineffective spin attack. He is still an Owl however, and he flies tirelessly, unbound by stamina bars or set points on the map. And while he isn’t a fighter, he’ll befriend characters throughout the course of the game that are happy to lend a hand. Otus carries these allies with him as he flies, allowing him to take advantage of their weaponry or have them assist in puzzle solving. This inevitably comes in handy when his home is invaded by sky pirates and Otus is tasked with saving his village from destruction.
Nine years in development is a long time by anyone’s standards, and a lot has happened to gaming in the interim. Pixel art has seen a massive resurgence, with games like Fez, Hyper Light Drifter, Shovel Knight, Terraria and Stardew Valley garnering huge attention and acclaim. These are the cream of the crop in what is most definitely a saturated market. In spite of this, Owlboy remains undeniably unique. Lush and highly polished character sprites and scenery make for an instantly appealing visual style, [3] and the enchanting score fits this vibrant world perfectly. [4] The developers had intended release initially in 2011, and redesigned the game entirely in 2014, [5] which meant seeing a host of competitors in the same vein come and go. Resisting the urge to push for release must have taken an incredible belief in the strength of what they were creating, and it seems the game is all the better for it. It’s certainly preferable to day one patches [6] and releases which are broken altogether, [7] right?

References

[1] “Owlboy,” 20 09 2016. [Online]. Available: http://www.dpadstudio.com/presskitOwlboy.html.
[2] “Owlboy: full demo play through,” 19 08 2016. [Online]. Available: https://youtu.be/s0SoGVsVTkM?t=16m14s.
[3] “Owlboy Scenery Gallery,” 20 09 2016. [Online]. Available: http://dpadstudio.com/Footage/footage1.php.
[4] “Owlboy Soundtrack Sampler,” 01 09 2016. [Online]. Available: https://jonathangeer.bandcamp.com/album/owlboy-soundtrack-sampler.
[5] “Owlboy release date set after nine years in development,” 00 08 2016. [Online]. Available: http://www.pcgamer.com/owlboy-release-date-set-after-nine-years-in-development/.
[6] “The version of No Man’s Sky you’ll (hopefully) never play,” 09 08 2016. [Online]. Available: http://www.polygon.com/2016/8/9/12401702/no-mans-sky-day-one-patch-sony-playstation-4-impressions.
[7] “Batman: Arkham Knight for PC Pulled, Refunds Offered,” 00 00 2015. [Online]. Available: https://gamerant.com/batman-arkham-knight-pc-pulled-refunds-943/.

Author: James Harris

I write about games and junk in the hopes of one day being an actual games journalist.

2 thoughts on “Owlboy – Better Late

  1. Great post. I had no idea the devs retooled the entire game a few years ago. That definitely takes guts.

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  2. Looks like that Ovitzian crap is over. It may have worked once but now looks so 20th Century. Remember when everyone looked to Japanese business techniques as the way of the future? Well guess who’s economy is still at zero growth… WME is building their own way and so long as that translates into actual work for their clients vs. the image for their agency, we’ll all take their &#&820;arrogance2#8221; any day! CAA is starting to look like hubris.

    Like

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