Okabu is a platform puzzle title, aimed at kids but striving to be fun for all ages. While it’s got great design and inspired sound, the game lacks that crucial interesting hook that keeps you playing. Here are some quick impressions.
Another Playstation Network exclusive for October, Okabu obviously slots into the ‘family’ demographic category. Squat, colorful characters wander green grass under clear blue skies, where flying whales convey vaguely humanoid mammals around on grand adventures. While you might use whimsical exploding fruit to disable the evil, vaguely reptilian Doza enemies, they clearly don’t die when you defeat them as they flail around helplessly without their armor and vehicles.
The setting is the most interesting part of the game, a cel-shaded island paradise that wouldn’t have been out of place on the Nintendo 64 or the Dreamcast. The laid-back cartoon physics of the puzzles are certainly reminiscent of Banjo-Kazooie, and the faux-Caribbean structures and music pleasantly recall Samba de Amigo. These qualities aren’t good enough to distract from the fiddly gameplay, which on the first level is repetitive and more than a little tedious.
Since your flying whales can’t actually interact with the environment, you’re dependent on the other characters to do your dirty work. This generally involves picking them up, and then using their unique gadget to drag something, push something, or flip something over. This is fine when you just need to put weight on a floor switch or move a large obstacle. But when multiple puzzles are nailed together in separate rooms, the game becomes a frustrating marriage of fetch quests and unavoidable backtracking. I have to go over the stream to push the little guy onto the switch using the magic animal flute, then I have to come back over the stream and switch to the grappling plunger so I can rotate the lever that moves the ski lift so I can get the second guy over to the second switch. But wait, the second guy isn’t on the lift yet, so I have to switch back to the flute to push him into the seat and then switch back to the grappler… And now I’m ready to download Daytona. There’s intriguing potential for two simultaneous players to cooperate for puzzle solving, but imprecise control and an annoying crosshair reticule don’t make me anxious to try that feature out.
Will kids warm to this game with no licensed characters and no marketing outside of PSN? That’s for parents to decide. Ten years ago this game would have merited a budget release on a disk for $30. Is it worth $14.99 to download the full game? Let your child try the demo first and see if she asks for more.
© 2011 – 2013, The Indie Mine. All rights reserved.