A boy clambers to the top of a spire, to a beacon that sends a beam of light streaming to the heavens. It calls to something ancient and powerful. Off in the distance a behemoth soars through the clouds, ripping past the tower the boy stands upon. He notices the challenge and dives off the platform with confidence and grace as he transforms into a red dragon, ready to take the beast head on.
The imagery of Oure is really something to behold. In the turmoil of a rising Esports scene and controversial trailers at Paris Games Weekly, Oure brings us a much-needed breath of fresh air. This indie exploration game, out for PS4 now and releasing on Steam next week, bears striking resemblance to two of gaming’s most loved titles: Journey and Shadow of the Colossus. Oure mixes the adventure, mystery and visual style of Journey with the Titan hunting aesthetic of Shadow of the Colossus in a unique way that may impress some and leave others a bit perplexed.
Awaken, Little One
You’ll begin your quest as a boy simply referred to as Little One. His parents have brought him to a door that leads to the world of clouds Little One will inhabit for the remainder of the game. Not much exposition is given, other than that he has dreamt of this place before, and that his previous world was covered in darkness. After a brief tutorial teaching you how to fly, you’ll embark on your first task to find a Titan.
The art style caught my eye before I could really dive in. The vibrant colors, fluid flying animations and objects you encounter make this game a real treat to look at. Most of the environment is made up of clouds, but out of those pillowy puffs you’ll catch flying fish or strange constructions that dot the world. The patterns they’re arranged in, mixed with the geometric shapes, give you a sense of wonder and make the world feel foreign or even alien. I got lost in the magic of the world and explored a bit before I realized I needed to progress the game.
The real beast happens to be the audio. Oure rewards you with pleasing chimes when you collect the many orbs in the game, connecting the dragon imagery with East Asian inspired sound effects. The calming wind rustling passed your ears, blended with the light grunts of the dragon, make flying feel peaceful and natural. Even more important to the overall feel is the soundtrack, which is pure brilliance. If Oure wins you over for only one reason, it will be for its stunning use of music. The wonder of flying free is captured so perfectly by the score, as is the desperation and determination in the tracks for the Titan encounters. Heavy Spectrum understands how integral sound design is to an overall aesthetic and worked to ensure it was flawlessly merged with the overall game.
The controls are fairly responsive when piloting the dragon, and while flying may come as a challenge to some players, walking will surely make everyone feeling inadequate. The dragon has a handful of useful skills at his disposal, but the boy has none, save for running, auto-jumping (which is terrible), and whistling to trigger switches. For such a spry looking lad, Little One feels flat-footed and sluggish, which will play a huge part in at least one major encounter. Also, if for some reason a gap is a tad too large for him to cross, Little One automatically goes into dragon form and must go to a specific illuminated pad to return to boy form. It’s useful for diving off a tower, but not so much for making a seemingly easy hop across a short break in the floor.
As you play, you may notice that Oure is both a collector’s dream and nightmare, as you’ll be collecting up to 750 blue orbs used as a general currency and a few dozen other colored orbs for enhancing Little One’s stamina and hunting abilities. While you’ll only need about 125 blue orbs to complete the main storyline, most of which can be acquired as you go from point to point, there are so many that it’s hard not to come across a few dozen as you travel around.
For being an open world game Oure does well without the need for a map. Like Shadow of the Colossus, you can get your bearings by spreading light onto the world and seeing where your next objective is, as well as where all the orbs are. If getting 100% completion suits you there are also collectible notes and Titan figurines which help to flesh out the story, too.
My one tiny gripe with hunting for orb power ups were the locations. Some orbs required you to follow beacons to a spot inside the clouds. I don’t consider myself claustrophobic, but I could feel my gamer anxiety kicking in when I dipped under the surface for extended periods of time, requiring deep breaths to avoid panicking, and occasionally requiring me to retrace my steps through cloudy tunnels that can be quite confusing.
Atop A Monster
After he calls a Titan, Little One will immediately give chase. These encounters are perhaps the most symbolic parts of the game, and are the highlight of the experience. It is important to note that you do not fight the Titans in Oure, you heal them. I loved this aspect of the game, because in Shadow of the Colossus you are tasked with unapologetically killing creatures you have never seen before, who would have almost assuredly left you (and the rest of the world) alone. In Oure, Little One notices the first Titan looks hurt by shards stuck in its body. By grabbing the shards and completing a puzzle to unlock them, Little One frees the Titan of its pain and progresses to the next Titan until he finally reaches the tower.
The first two Titans are nearly identical in terms of difficulty and shard placement, but soon players will encounter a couple awesome tasks that they must complete before getting to the shards they protect. As he progresses, Little One will have to brave great gusts of wind, bucking Titans and even projectiles as he makes his way to progressively harder shards. A few of the Titan puzzles require genuine problem solving skills and may test the mettle of some players.
Oure is a magnificent experience overall. While the game may be a little sparse, with most of its highlights falling on Titan puzzles, it still has so much to offer. I enjoyed the dragon lore and the music so much that I felt compelled to get to the next Titan as quickly as possible. The game is very short if you go straight to the spires, but leaves a lot of unanswered questions if you don’t explore just a little, though the option for New Game + gives dedicated players plenty of reason to go back, with unlockable new characters and dialogue. While a majority of the puzzles are straightforward, a few definitely could have used some extra work; the game refuses to hold your hand through these trials, but perseverance and a moment of solid contemplation go a long way.
In the end, Oure won me over as an indie title with a lot of heart, and absolutely has me begging to know what other secrets I missed as I soared through the clouds.
11/10/2017 Pedro Rodriguez