Owlboy is an open-world exploration game by Norway developer D-Pad Studio, that takes regular platformer and shooter aspects, and mixes in flight mechanics reminiscent of games like Nights Into Dreams.
The titular Owlboy, Otus, was born mute and he has a hard time living up to the expectations of his brethren. Once the menace of Sky Pirates arrive, he must set forth into a quest through monster-filled ruins, flying pirate ships, and even volcanic depths in order to drive the invaders away.
Otus isn’t the best at fighting though, and during his journey, he meets multiple pirates who aren’t into their companion’s plans. Owlboy can carry even the heaviest of rocks, and so he recruits these dissident friends to serve him as gunners (as well as helping them escape the clutches of the conqueror pirates).
That’s how Owlboy gives you two slightly different gameplay styles: by himself, Otus is a speed demon that must fly, traverse obstacles, and use his carrying prowess to solve puzzles, but once he grabs one of his friends, its shootout time, as you evade bullets and move around the screen to get a good shot at the enemies’ weak spots.
Owlboy can catch your heart with it’s charismatic characters and beautiful story, but by far the most stunning aspect of the game are its graphics. Owlboy started as an experiment to prove the benefits of using 2D over 3D in games, and after 9 full years in the making, its creators couldn’t have made a stronger point.
All caverns and ruins, the sky and earth moving, even the clothes flapping with the breeze and the motion in the enemies’ limbs, have been crafted with such care, depth and detail you barely notice it’s pixel art. The developers really liked their scenery, too, and you are often treated with open fields where you can’t help but to admire the vistas in the background.
Owlboy has received multiple awards for its visuals and gameplay during the years: ‘Excellence in Visual Arts’ at the 2010 Independent Game Festival, and ‘Nordic Indie Sensation’ at the Nordic Game Awards in 2011, ‘Best in Play’ at GDC 2015, and more.
After those nine years, we can happily say that every second was worth it!