Released back in January of 2021 to critical acclaim Olija has hit Xbox Game Pass one year later. At first glance and feel things seem rather basic and I wouldn’t be surprised if many bounced off after the first 10 minutes. I was immediately engaged by the game’s use of its low-count pixel art though and stuck with it, and boy am I glad that I did.
Goldberg With the Spear!
The basic premise for the game is that you are Lord Faraday and your crew are attacked while at sea and awaken trapped in a strange land which is ruled by the eponymous Olija. You must find 3 blue keys to open the Shadow Gate and go home. To do this you will wield by far the most satisfying part of the game, which is the Spear. Using its mystical accursed power you can dash to the spear at any time, and it is immensely satisfying in both the combat and traversal of the game. It takes a short amount of time to get and once you do what is an ok feeling side scroller becomes one that is truly fantastic to play.
A is for jump, X is your main attack, Y is your secondary (of which there are eventually 4), B is to throw and dash to your spear, Right Trigger is to dive left or right, and Left Bumper changes your secondary. It’s a tried and true control scheme that felt great once I had unlocked the first few upgrades. There is a small crafting and inventory system mostly for your magical hats. These give you special abilities used by a meter and tied to your spear attack. Some felt a lot more powerful than others, and the fact that I couldn’t change hats mid-run did lead to me back-tracking to my boat more than a few times to change things up.
The combat feels extremely satisfying using a light combo system where up to 4 pips will appear above your character which when full will empower your next attack in various ways depending on the weapon. There is a weight to your hits that makes you feel powerful. Foes are sent flying into walls, smashing to bits in the process. The ranged attacks work off of ammo but it was generally plentiful enough that I never hesitated to use it.
This is not a long game, as I beat it in roughly 4 hours or so, but it works well as it doesn’t overstay its welcome combat, exploration, or story-wise. The story itself was engaging and emotional despite there being little to no voice acting. The music added a lot to the atmosphere of it all, and while the location variety did not change up too much the short run time kept that from being a distraction. You are never given much direction, but the excellent level layout had me on the right track for the majority of my playthrough.
The game features numerous basic puzzles that help break up the flow of things nicely, eventually mixing in all of your abilities in a satisfying way though the difficulty did spike a few times out of nowhere. This was especially true on the end boss where I was stuck wearing a hat that wasn’t very useful against him and I had no way of changing it out.
As this game is available on Game Pass if you’re into 2D action platformers then I highly recommend it. It’s a solid 4 to 5 hours of engaging combat in a genre that rarely feels this heavy. That goes for the story as well which uses a minimalist style to tell a tale of lonely sadness. Olija doesn’t give the best first impression, but if you stick with it I think you’ll end up having one hell of a good time.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available On||PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch|
|Release Date||January 28th, 2021 on Xbox|
|Developer||Skeleton Crew Studio|
|Rated||T for Teen|