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May 2021


Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Skeleton Crew
Release Date: Jan. 28, 2021


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Switch/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Olija'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Jan. 6, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Olija is a pixel art action/adventure game about Faraday's quest, a man shipwrecked then trapped in the mysterious country of Terraphage.

Olija tells the story of the destitute Lord Faraday, whose land and people are in terrible shape. He sets out on a ship with the finest sailors in the land, but unfortunately, the ship sinks, and Faraday finds himself in the mysterious land of Terraphage. A magic compass leads him to a legendary weapon: the harpoon, a mysterious seemingly sentient spear that is said to be cursed. Cursed or no, Faraday uses the harpoon to find a way home before the strange creatures that inhabit Terraphage devour him whole. There is also the mystery of the beautiful Olija, a woman who has mysterious powers.

At its heart, Olija is a rather old-school platformer. You have an attack, a jump, a dodge, and a health bar. It's one of the rare platformers that I can say isn't Souls-inspired in any meaningful way. Instead it feels very much like an old-school SNES-era platformer, with simple but engaging combat against a variety of foes through fairly straightforward levels. This may change later on, but it's nice to have a game that genuinely seems to be aiming for a more classic feel.

Faraday begins unarmed but quickly acquires his most significant weapon: the cursed harpoon. It might look like an average spear, but the harpoon is filled with unknown power. In addition to being surprisingly bloodthirsty, Faraday can throw the spear and dash to it in an instant, and he can even call it back, like the ax in God of War. This has obvious benefits when it comes to platforming, but it's also incredibly effective in combat. Not only does doing a teleport spear allow you to move around quickly, but if you work a teleport spear into your combo, then your combo finisher attacks will also gain a significant boost in power. In essence, you're rewarded for zooming all over the place rather than staying still.

In addition to the harpoon, Faraday also finds a selection of secondary weapons. In our preview build, we played with three of them. The first is the rapier, which is a melee weapon that is significantly faster than the harpoon and can be used even when the harpoon is embedded in an enemy. The second is a rapid-firing crossbow, which gives you a long-distance attack but runs on limited ammo that you have to resupply in the field. The third is a blunderbuss that launches a powerful short-range shotgun blast but also gives Faraday a huge burst of momentum in the opposite direction; it's useful for getting over platform gaps that don't have a reliable spear target.

The combat system is fun and basic, but the rapid pace of combat keeps it engaging. Zooming between enemies and launching into surprisingly lengthy combos makes you feel like you're kicking some butt, and there are enough surprises from the enemies that mindless button-mashing can get you killed fairly easily. The bosses we fought were large affairs that involved repeatedly dealing with fast-moving powerful attacks while trying to stay close enough to reliably land your own damage.

You also can find crafting items that are used to unlock magical hats. Each magical hat has its own distinct set of buffs. One renders you immune to acid; another causes magical feathers to be left behind when you dodge, and the feathers quickly return to you and damage anything in between; and a third lets you drain health from enemies you attack. Each one adds a nice little quirk to the play style of the game. You'll also be able to upgrade your home base by adding things like an alchemist, who increases your max HP, or a sailor, who ventures out between missions to bring you rare items.

In our preview build, Olija isn't quite a Metroidvania title, but it has some aspects of it. When you enter a stage, there are sometimes multiple paths that lead to hidden items or alternate levels. Based on what we've seen thus far, the paths ended up being mandatory, but some paths could only be traversed after you had a specific upgrade or weapon. The stages thus far are fairly linear, but they reward you for poking around. It's reminiscent of the old SNES game Demon's Crest, which featured linear levels but multiple paths.

All in all, Olija is shaping up to be a sharp little platformer. There's clearly more to the game than we saw in our preview build, but it gave us a pretty good idea of where the title intends to go. With fast-paced combat in an engaging world, it's easy to see how Olija could end up being something special. We'll see more when Olija arrives on PC, PlayStation 4, Switch and Xbox One on Jan. 28.

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