CW: This game contains depictions of depression, anxiety, and suicide, and may not be suitable for all audiences.
Another great Earthbound-esque game is coming to the Switch, helping to fill the void of no Earthbound on the Switch.
Nintendo aired their Indie World Direct yesterday, which went for about 20 minutes. It focused on a lot of third-party games made by independent developers. I’d say the whole shebang is a highlight reel with a little something for everyone, especially the Switch release of the gorgeous Chicory: A Colourful Tale, but let’s talk about that “one last thing”: Omori.
Omori is a turn-based surreal horror RPG developed by OMOCAT. Originally released in December 2020 for PC/Mac, the game is based on a webcomic series of the same name created by the developer. You play as the protagonist Sunny/Omori as you traverse between reality and the dream world with your friends. The main story revolves around you and your friends trying to find your missing buddy, but in this journey, you must confront your murky past and your deepest fears.
The art design of Omori jumps between a shaky hand-drawn look that can be cute or creepy depending on the context of the scene, and a simple RPG Maker pixel design. Sometimes you’ll see a colourful reflection of you and your friends, with your colourless frame in the middle sticking out like a sore thumb. Sometimes it’s a set of polaroid pictures of you and your friends having fun together. But then you’ll be faced with incredibly creepy scenes like a dark figure standing behind you or this monstrosity.
The exploration gameplay is predominately pixel art, and is very creative in its design of the different areas. In a broader sense, the design draw a clear line between the stark differences of the real world known as Faraway Town, and the various dream world areas consisting of Headspace, Black Space, Black Space 2, and Further Black Space. The design of Faraway Town is obviously more entrenched in realism (despite being pixel graphics) while the spaces are more whimsical and colourful, and eventually more chaotic and unnerving.
The battle system goes back to the hand-drawn design and is interesting because it’s very much derivative of Earthbound and RPG Maker games in its turn-based nature. However, there’s a strength/weakness aspect based on the playable characters and enemy’s emotional state, very much harkening back to the emotional and mental health-focused nature of the game’s story. Different moves can be more effective when characters are feeling certain emotions, but can also put them at more risk. There’s also a strong push to make your playable characters work together for stronger attacks, which as well reflects how important friendship is in this game.
The story and themes of this game are sometimes hard to grapple with. It’s why hearing Omori was coming to a family-centric platform like the Switch surprised me. There’s a lot of visual embodiments of depression, anxiety, grief, loss, and guilt, putting you into the mindset of your protagonist and their struggles. Without spoiling anything, it does get quite dark towards the end and I wouldn’t recommend it for people that struggle with depictions and descriptions of mental health struggles and suicide.
That being said, there is a lot in this game. It’s incredibly deceiving to think that it’s just a 25-hour game, but it’s also totally playable that way. If you can manage it, there’s a lot more than meets the eye on the first play-through.
If you’re a fan of good story-telling and games that make you feel something, Omori is the way to go and will be an exciting release for the Switch in Autumn 2022.
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