Owlboy: A Blast From the Past

We all remember the days when we were using the SNES back in the day. And if you’re not that old, you probably had a GBA. Either way, once you start playing Owlboy, your mind will hop down memory lane to the time of 2D, pixelated characters and backgrounds. What also brings the nostalgia back, is that this game feels a lot like a hybrid between The Legend of ZeldaSuper Mario Bros. 3, and Super Metroid, bringing the best of all three worlds onto our favorite platform: Linux.

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As the title of the game implies, you’re in control of a young lad by the name of Otus, who’s shaped like an owl but still in the form of a human, under the training of his master, Asio. He is not the typical strong guy who is stronger than everyone else — on the contrary, he needs his friends to be able to progress, which is an unusual take on the platformer genre.

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Otus is very much the “anti-hero” actually, right from the start of the game. The poor fellow is mute (I don’t know what the deal is with most main protagonists not being able to talk — right Gordon?), but what makes him unique compared to, say, Mario or Link, is he can fly, for as long as he wants.

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Flying becomes a mainstream feature, as this will allow Otus to travel to new places, as well as carry his companions — Otus’ best buddy named Geddy, who was once apparently enrolled in the military and does most of the talking for the mute kid; a former pirate called Alphonse who’s equipped with a powerful shotgun; and Twig, a spider who can throw rocks and web his way through vast distances in a short amount of time — whom he will definitely need in order to progress throughout the game. You can also roll to move a bit faster, as well as spin his tail to stun enemies, reflect projectiles, and move up or down any platform that requires rotation in order to move.

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The continents have broken apart and lifted themselves from the earth. Not only this; pirates are invading the lands, and Otus and his pals are here to stop them, as well as prevent the lands from rising so high into the air that the atmosphere becomes unbreathable. How to do this? Collect three relics that are scattered across the continents and use their power, before the pirates do and use them for their own selfish purpose. You’ll come across dungeons, you’ll be able to upgrade your character’s health via collecting coins, and defeat bosses. This is where Zelda and Super Metroid come into play. Super Mario Bros. 3‘s connection is established by Otus’ ability to fly, as you might remind yourself of Mario’s Tanuki outfit. It all comes down to one thing, and it works out great in the end.

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Apparently development began since 2007, under the name of D-Pad Studio and made with the XNA engine. The Linux port was brought about thanks to Ethan Lee, creator of the FNA framework. The project was redone several times, and one of the developers had to fight through depression to get the job done, but I’m happy that it’s finally here and am very impressed with the product we have received. Honestly, I’m not much into 2D games like this. But the artwork is just so beautiful, with painstakingly, nicely drawn animated characters, delicately detailed landscapes, and environments that clearly make a distinction from each other; a unique cast of characters, fun gameplay mechanics, a stellar soundtrack, and the nostalgia of the GBA/Nintendo days, made me change my outlook and have a deeper appreciation for gems such as these.

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Gameplay is fairly short. Only took about seven hours to see the credits. Difficulty was just right; not too easy, not too hard. Linux version runs flawlessly at a constant sixty frames-per-second along with great Xbox controller support, which is crucial for a platformer like this. Some footage of the final boss (spoiler alert!):

The asking price of $25 for this game to me is a bit on the expensive side for what you’re getting, but it’s still a great game nonetheless that tells of a great story. It’s not too repetitive — I can’t say the same thing for many games like this. Grab this puppy and get ready to travel back in time.

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And with this, Owlboy makes it into our recommended games list for Linux. Please have a look to see what great games we advise you to consider for more hours of fun.

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2 Comments

  1. I bought this game a couple of days ago (from GoG) and I want to say that it runs perfectly on my piece of crap laptop and I have played it with a xbox360 controller with out any tweaks. Just plug and play.
    Most Linux supported games I buy from GoG, need some initial trial and error before they run (some personalized scripts or running some sh files from the terminal, the links don’t work etc. ).
    This worked flawlessly! It have to say it was refreshing, albeit without that “Yeah!!” moment that you have when you get it to run 😛

    • Yeah, Owlboy works very well on pretty weak hardware, and is an ideal game to play on one’s laptop on the go. Not that it looks like a very demanding game, but it’s very well made nonetheless.

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