At first glance, Olija looks as if it could have been made decades ago, but it’s apparent that it is very much a modern game after a few moments. Olija does a beautiful job of blending low-res models during gameplay and hyper-stylized cut scenes. The blend creates a unique new experience that both entices and rewards players. A certain feeling of grandeur and storytelling makes Olija feel like more of an epic tale and less of a video game.
Everything from boss fights to simple conversations is used for flushing out the game world. Olija may look like a retro game, but it controls incredibly smooth and does a tremendous job telling its story.
The main focus of Olija is the story. Gorgeous cutscenes help tell the epic sea-based tale, and every aspect of gameplay is designed with storytelling in mind. Many key plot points are experienced rather than just watched. Given the minimalist aesthetic, it is quite impressive what the developers accomplished. There is a level of immersion present that is rarely found in 2D games.
The only problem with the story is that it is rather hard to discuss without spoiling major plot points. For that reason, I will only give a brief overview of the story and try to remain as general as possible when discussing it further. Olija is a game about Lord Faraday, a man broken and struggling to support his people. With a faithful crew, he set sail looking for more prosperous lands but only found trouble. A great storm shipwrecks the Lord and separates him from his crew in the mysterious land of Terraphage. In searching for his people, Lord Faraday finds a legendary Harpoon and is swept up into another adventure that will determine the fate of his crew and the new land.
The Gameplay in Olija is that of a standard 2D platformer. Yet, it elevates itself far past that thanks to the brilliant enemy and level design. Each significant encounter feels as if it was from a different game. Boss fights change not only attack patterns but entire mechanics, and each is truly unique to the last. The thing that caught my eye was that events that could have been cutscenes were instead turned into puzzles or shorter levels. What I enjoyed most about Olija was that it felt like a great book or movie, but for that same reason, I do not want to spoil some of my favourite bits from the game discussing them.
The gameplay in Olija is top tier and absolutely worth experiencing first hand. Combat is precisely detailed, and the game’s combo point system helps keep it from ever feeling repetitive. Never for a moment did I feel lost while playing; conversely, I also never felt like my hand was being held. Olija is perfectly balanced in its direction. That balance creates an experience that flows effortlessly from scene to scene and is difficult to put down.
The cut scenes and animated interludes between levels in Olija are gorgeous. Brief shifts in perspective help to immerse players in the story and are a major part of making the game feel like more than just another platformer. During gameplay, the graphics take on a different, more minimalist design that, at times, could confuse players. When two low pixel count characters or objects interact, it can be difficult to determine what exactly is happening. While the low pixel count may cause hurdles in storytelling, it did not take away from the overall experience. The gameplay was mildly affected by the same issue but was easily remedied with added sound effects or mechanics that quickly identified correlating objects.
Besides some incredibly loud intro credits, I rarely noticed the audio in Olija. This doesn’t mean that I disliked it. The music did not stand out to me positively or negatively. While the audio clearly added to the experience, it felt more like a supporting cast member than a lead role, which was ok. Gameplay and visual representation feel prioritized in the game, and personally, I agree with the decision.
- GAMEPLAY - 100%100%
- GRAPHICS - 90%90%
- AUDIO - 70%70%
Every once in a while, I find myself leaving a movie theatre or closing a book and thinking, “Wow, what a wild ride that was. I feel like I just experienced it myself.” Olija gave me that same sensation as soon as I saw the credits. The game is like an epic tale that you are the heart of, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself deeply invested in Olija’s story. The graphics can take some minor getting used to but ultimately help to create the aesthetic. Olija is a masterclass in crafting player experience, and for the price, it would be a crime to skip this game.
For more on Olija check out our previous coverage.