Sometimes the imagination of a developer astounds me. The way they are able to create a new world and universe for us mere mortals to explore, is something of delight. The level of detail that is present in games, from the way a plant moves to the way the environment works independently of the main action, is mind-boggling. So when we see such an offering from a solo developer, complete respect and plaudits should be showered down. That’s what Jonas Manke has done in creating Omno; working as a solo developer yet still able to create a wonderful world. Let us get lost in the adventure.
Omno is a single-player adventure game that takes you on a magical journey across a beautiful landscape; one that is full of wonders and amazing creatures. What I particularly enjoyed about this game, as I do others, is that the story is told without any form of voice-over or words. Instead there are some special books that you discover on your journey, giving you some poetic text like “Follow the Light” or longer clues to the world around you. After spending time in this world, I still don’t really know who the hero you play is: they may be Omno, they may be Frank or even Lucy. It doesn’t matter though, because it’s the journey that counts.
Our hero has an adorable companion on their journey; a sort of flying dog-like creature that is easy to fall in love with. Your task is to move through different worlds and levels, opening up portals by solving puzzles and collecting energy orbs, before moving on to the next one. You have on your person a wand that collects energy, but it also has other purposes.
First up, you can collect energy in each separate world you visit. You need to collect three special balls of energy by solving puzzles, and these then unlock the gateway or portal to the next realm. There are additional special balls to collect but these are only needed to completely 100% any level. As you walk around the world you meet brilliantly designed creatures who are roaming the area. Some of these creatures give you little bits of energy if you interact with them; some will spring you into the air or give you an energy boost. There is a beast encyclopedia which shows you how many animals you have met and which ones you might have missed, yet there are none you should be worried about. You see, in Omno there isn’t any combat and none of these creatures will try to kill you no matter how large some of them are. Of course, you can die by other means, but that mostly comes about via the falling off of levels.
Your puzzle solving involves platforming and unlocking doorways and portals, and as you progress through the game you gather more skills. You receive a handy boost in midair when you jump that gives you some extra platforming power, yet you can also glide on your wand like a snowboard, which is great for venturing around the levels. It’s also needed for certain timed puzzles. There is a teleporting ability that comes in about halfway through Omno that zooms you to highlighted keystones and finally, there is the ability to glide in the air, utilising air currents to your advantage, helping you traverse certain areas.
None of these tricks are particularly original but Manke manages to ensure that everything in Omno feels completely fresh and unique. In fact, the gameplay is great, except maybe the gliding which can be frustrating at times, especially in the later levels.
A main walkthrough of Omno will take you around 4 to 5 hours to complete, but should you wish to spend time nabbing all the orbs and finding all the creatures, you should be able to add another couple of hours to that total.
The entire adventure of Omno is complemented by some visuals which are a delight from start to finish. The landscapes, colours and visual storytelling is wonderful and the creature design is a work of genius. I have loved meeting all these fantastical creatures and reading up about them. The main characters of our hero and his flying dog friend are superbly animated as well, and there’s most definitely room for these guys to break out from the virtual world and into a line of cuddly toys.
Further, the soundtrack is a perfect accompaniment to the gameplay. It’s epic and dreamy with the right kind of drama, pathos and wonder sprinkled throughout. It’s in the little details that Omno really works though – for example, when the main character teleports, the animation twists and turns like they are being sucked into a wormhole… all with added audio effect. It is, frankly, some brilliant work.
There’s a good chance that you will love Omno just by looking at the screenshots, but get hands on and you’ll very quickly learn why that love is real. Yes there are a couple of niggles, particularly in the accuracy of the gliding, but apart from that this is a gaming experience that is near damn perfect.
I want more from this developer and would love to see a sequel to Omno, whoever or whatever you may be.
Take in the adventure laid out in Omno, on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One