Let me make something very clear. Olija is a blast to play. At first glance it’s a simple 2D action adventure title, but beneath that veil lies a surprisingly fun and gripping game. With exceptional music and some great depth to combat, this is one to look out for.
In a marriage of Asian and Sailor’s legends, Olija tells the tale of Lord Faraday’s journey across the isles of Terraphage. You and your crew, have been lost at sea. You awaken alone in this strange land and set out to restore your crew, and find a way back home.
Combat and exploration are at Olija’s core, both being a big draw for the title. Olija makes use of metroidvania style exploration. Maps have slightly interconnected pathways, requiring you to do some light backtracking to find collectables, ingredients, and items necessary to progress the story. However, none of the maps are sprawling labyrinths that hold secrets in every crevice. This makes it an accessible metroidvania style adventure, for those unaccustomed to or against that style of exploration and traversal. Though, it may leave those wishing for some deeper exploration, a little underwhelmed.
Harpoons Aren’t Just For Fishing
Olija’s Combat has some surprising depth to it. There is a relatively wide selection of weapons to use from a musket, to your magical harpoon. I will say, however that not every weapon at your disposal felt absolutely necessary; for instance I hardly used the crossbow or musket. In fact I only remember two instances, one of which was out of necessity. Ranged weapons just never trumped the satisfaction that came with close quarters fights.
The magical harpoon you wield is the bread and butter of both the title’s combat and exploration. It allows you to teleport when thrown at certain items. This makes for some interesting platforming that becomes flashier as the story progresses and you become comfortable with the mechanic. It’s always a heap of fun to zip around teleporting all over the place. You can also throw the harpoon at enemies teleporting to them while dealing damage at the same time. This allows you to cover distance and get straight into the fight.
The harpoon mechanic makes for some gorgeous fights, at the very least in terms of visual appeal. It lends itself well to the more frenetic encounters, especially the boss battles. These fights were definitely the highlights of gameplay, creating some memorable moments when going toe to toe with Olija’s big-bads. Each battle comes with some variety in how to handle them. You might find yourself losing the first couple rounds, but none of the bosses ever felt insurmountable. In my opinion they held just the right amount of challenge.
Skeleton Crew Studios, the developer of Olija, managed to fit some very light crafting into this game. Ingredients can be found throughout the world, which enable you to craft hats. The headgear here grants certain abilities to its user, such as an immunity to poison damage while dealing some yourself. This is part of what incentivises you to go out and explore in the first place. Combining basic moves with the harpoon’s teleportation, and hat abilities make for some deliciously flashy plays. This results in an extremely satisfying gameplay loop and keeps it fresh throughout the campaign.
Your Eyes & Ears Will Thank You
Olija is a title inspired by the artstyle of the 16-bit era, and makes great use of this for their world design. The game has a dark beauty one cannot help but appreciate. Alongside this macabre aesthetic, are also moments of serenity, supported immensely by its soundtrack.
The star of the show has to be the music. I was constantly grinning from ear to ear at the music of Olija. The sheer variety and fusion of genres were a pleasure for the ears. Certain songs contain elements of instruments like the Quena flute and Shamisen. Throughout the campaign there are notes of flamenco, traditional Japanese music, and the type of percussion and synthesizers one would hear in lo-fi beats. A few tracks even include the saxophone, which just goes to show the great selection of audio on display. Honestly the music is the best part of Olija to me. I look forward to the original soundtrack becoming available so I can enjoy it all over again.
Can I Have Some More?
The only bad thing I have to say about Olija is that it’s tragically short. The whole thing can be completed in around 4 hours. By that point, I know I wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet. What pains me even more is the lack of incentive to start a new campaign. This will lead to many players moving on after finishing Olija. I know I’ll be back to play it again in a couple of months, but I’m already hungry for more. That being said, I’m looking forward to the next project to come out of Skeleton Crew Studios.
I don’t think anyone will regret their admittedly limited time with Olija, it’s a joyride from start to finish. An all around great title with some excellent combat, exploration, and phenomenal music.