For a game that’s tagged with “psychological horror”, you’d be forgiven for having a hard time believing it. The sketchbook style visuals and cutesy character art makes Omori look like a lighthearted RPG.
In it you play as Omori, a young boy who suffers from severe social withdrawal and has spent the past few years of his life locked in his room shutting out the world, otherwise known in Japan as a hikikomori. The gameplay takes place between two worlds; the dream world where you play as Omori and the waking world where you play as Sonny.
For the sake of keeping this review as spoiler free as possible, I won’t dive into the story much more than that. What I can say is that Omori follows a group of friends that were driven apart due to events that happened four years ago. In it, you explore the dream and waking world in an effort to reconnect and process the emotions of what happened.
Which is the perfect segway to discuss Omori’s unique combat system. You play in a party of four; Omori, Kel, Hero, and Aubrey. Your standard RPG combat elements are present in full force, however, what sets Omori apart is its emotion system. During combat, enemies and allies alike will have various emotional states like ecstatic, enraged, neutral, and sad. These emotional states play off of each other like types do: happy beats angry, angry beats sad, and sad beats happy. Different abilities will change the emotional states of friend and foe, and using them to your advantage is essential in bringing out your team’s full strength.
Normally when I play an RPG, I follow the mindset that if it doesn’t do damage or heal, I’m not going to use it. However, the emotion system is so well intertwined with the combat that I found myself using it more and more as the game progressed.
What really brings it out is how the characters actually interact with each other during combat. Every character has follow up moves that they can use while fighting. These moves are unique to each character and depending on who follows up who, they interact in a unique way with different outcomes. This style of combat rewards curiosity and experimentation and does so in a way where you don’t need to drastically change how you like to play.
Character interaction doesn’t just shine in combat. Every character I met in the game was unique and flushed out; even many of the side characters. The best comparison I can think of is Undertale – another great indie game with a small development team.
Back to Omori, the personality of the game as a whole is something special. There are dark and serious moments that genuinely cause anxiety and fear as you’re playing. But there’s a lighthearted side too. Obnoxious bosses that you’ll love to hate, quirky characters that are ridiculously wonderful, and, one of my favorite details, the fact that every time someone faints their avatar becomes a piece of toast.
Something that will probably be a deterrent for some is the fact that Omori is classified as a psychological horror game. So you’re probably wondering, how scary is Omori? Personally, I don’t think Omori is a very scary game. There are a few jumpscares throughout, but they are more jarring than scary. Also, the majority of the scary moments take place within the first two hours of the game and then during the conclusion.
Omori’s horror comes more from the tense situations you find yourself in. Much of the fear I experienced while playing came from the expectation something worse was going to happen. Even though the majority of the time it never did.
It’s worth mentioning that there are multiple game endings. I initially unlocked the “good” ending and while I didn’t play through all of the other endings, I would assume the good ending would be the most tame out of all of them in terms of horror. Omori is a game that talks rather bluntly about suicide and depression, so some of the possible endings are very bleak. The good ending isn’t hard to unlock and while there are still unsettling moments, there was nothing that jumped out at me as a moment that would make it too scary to continue playing. If you can make it past the first few hours of gameplay, then you won’t have any issue finishing the game.
The only real negative I have to say about Omori is that there are a couple gameplay sequences that get drawn out a bit longer than they need to be. But there is a ton of content to play through. I finished the main story in just around twelve hours and that was with little extra exploring. You can throw in a host of side quests and more character dialogue and background story to explore.
But it’s the narrative that makes Omori something special. Subtlety is an important part of good storytelling because it makes you think and it makes you want to talk about it. Omori as a whole leaves a lot for you as the player to try and fill in and connect the dots. Especially when you consider that much of the game takes place in the mind of a severely depressed boy. Not everything you see will be the whole truth, and how you interpret it will affect how you feel.
I’ve been thinking about Omori a lot since I’ve finished it and that’s a sign that a game is capable of telling a story incredibly well. I recommend sitting down and at least trying Omori to see how you feel about it, especially if you like rich stories and fantastic world-building. Should you be on the fence about horror, just give it a try and see if you can power through. It’s worth it, I promise.
Omori is on the Xbox Store