I want to make something clear: I’ve never done drugs. I’m not just saying that because there’s a decent chance I’ll end up working for the government at some point in my life, but because I have no idea what it feels like to use illicit substances to alter my state of mind. That said, after playing through Onde, I have to imagine that this is what doing the Devil’s Lettuce feels like, and I now understand why people smoke that drug (and if my future employer is reading this, I’m still never going to do drugs, because I’m a winner).
Onde is a difficult game to describe. At its core, it’s a platformer; you play as a being that needs to navigate a world by moving from object to object. To do that, you traverse each 2D environment by shifting around mostly circular entities with your cursor, and when the time is right, you do what equates to swimming or jumping to the next entity along your path. After about three hours of doing that, and occasionally dodging obstacles that are in your way, you run out of circles and the game is complete.
However, that description doesn’t do the game justice, because Onde is so much more than a platformer. To be clear, from a purely gameplay perspective, the title is great. The core platforming elements are polished, the title is the perfect length and there’s enough evolution and variation throughout its runtime to make it an engaging experience regardless of everything else that it offers. Anyone who’s looking for a good platformer will thoroughly enjoy the game, but it’s the title’s non-platforming elements that make it especially great.
See, in addition to being a great platformer, Onde is one of the rare games that actually fits the description of “art”. Like its gameplay, it’s hard to describe the audiovisual elements of the title because there simply isn’t anything to easily compare it too. The environments that you traverse are so unique, the acoustics are so otherworldly, and the colours so surreal that it’s impossible to put into words what it’s like to look at and listen to the title. Needless to say, then, Onde is, from a technical perspective, an experience to behold.
It certainly helps that these surreal technical aspects tie in well with the title’s gameplay. While Onde isn’t a rhythm game or anything of that sort, it often features audio or visual cues that help you navigate its levels. These cues aren’t necessary to complete the game, mind, but they do ensure that the experience is simply more than just another artsy title by making it one that also has fantastic gameplay that stays sufficiently engaging alongside its visuals.
The gameplay and audio also work together to tell Onde’s story. In case it wasn’t obvious, the title doesn’t have an exposition-heavy narrative. Instead, it has almost no clearcut story at all, and instead it’s up to you to figure out what you want to take away from the game plot-wise. If you’re willing to do a bit of digging around the game’s environments, though, and also have a working knowledge of the plot structure of classic literature, there is a narrative in the game that’s genuinely enjoyable to uncover because of how you do it.
And in an industry full of exposition-heavy games that have a tendency to be terrible or amazing with little room in between, that ensures that Onde is well worth a purchase. Even if the game was straightforward, it would still be worth buying; it has some great platforming sequences that don’t overstay their welcome and is generally an engaging experience from a gameplay perspective alone. However, because the game has surreal visuals and audio that work in tandem to tell its story, and are also enjoyable to experience for their own sake, Onde is a package to behold. Anyone looking for a more straightforward experience should look elsewhere, but those who want to play through something that’s truly unique in a gaming landscape that’s full of copy-paste titles will not find a better experience this side of Not for Broadcast.
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