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Oozi: Earth Adventure Ep. 1 (Xbox 360) artwork

Oozi: Earth Adventure Ep. 1 (Xbox 360) review

"Any beauty seen here is only skin deep."

It's difficult to adequately sum up Oozi: Earth Adventure Ep. 1, a retro-themed platformer I downloaded from the Xbox 360's Indie marketplace earlier this year. On the one hand, it's a fundamentally decent game that looks a lot better than one might expect from a $1 indie title. On the other hand, it's short and easy, all the stages look the same and what your'e paying for is only the first installment of a four-part series. Offering a verdict feels a bit like playing through Green Hill Zone and deciding I know enough about Sonic the Hedgehog to write a full review.

Except that's stupid, isn't it? All six of Sonic's worlds are available on the one cartridge, while if I want to get the full Oozi experience, I have to make four separate $1 purchases. Each piece is stand-alone, so it's fair to cover each one separately, right?

The biggest problem with that notion, really, is that even after I completed the game's first episode, I didn't actually feel like I had done anything significant. I felt like I'd cleared the rather mediocre first world of a much larger game, and things were just starting to head toward what might prove to be a decent overall experience. For that to actually wind up being true, though, each ensuing episode would need to build upon the first one's foundation, with the difficulty gradually scaling and new skills and abilities coming into play. To find out if that's the case, I would have to purchase three additional episodes and play through each of them. And I just don't have any inclination to utilize my time in that manner, not after what I encountered the first time around.

Oozi was uninspiring in a number of ways. Satisfied to do no more than ape popular 16-bit platformers, it's the sort of game only a true connoisseur of that genre is likely to appreciate. Five stages culminate with a boss fight against a giant spider. Each of these levels finds you advancing through a vast forest, jumping on critters' heads (or avoiding them, since a good number of them are invulnerable to this, your one attack) and collecting little stars for points in order to replenish life. There's a generic plot concerning an alien whose ship crashed on Earth. He has to find his gear and repair his vessel. By the end of this episode, though, very little of this has been accomplished. You'll have to take solace in the fact that at least poor Oozi isn't naked.

While each level does build on the one before it, adding a new ability for Oozi or introducing a new monster to kill or dodge, the overall experience is still repetitive. My chief complaint is that each stage is really long, so that no matter how much new stuff gets added to the mix at any time, you're still left repeating the same few tasks. And because the entire game takes place in the same forest, the redundant nature of it all is magnified. The closest thing you'll see to diversity is an increase in the number of instant-death bodies of water you must cross.

The game doesn't really offer anything beyond those five lengthy but easy levels, either. There are two modes, besides the standard one. In one, you head through the same few levels but are restricted by a demanding timer. In the other, you have to grab stars that have been placed around smaller "challenge" stages, again while working against a strict time limit. I spent a few moments playing around in each of the two supplemental modes after I cleared the standard zones, but they didn't keep my attention for long. They were there, they were mildly entertaining, and most of all they were more of the same when what I most wanted was something--anything--a bit different.

In a nutshell, that's my problem with Oozi and it's the reason I'm reluctant to give the subsequent episodes a shot: the design is generally competent where the basics are concerned, but instead of delivering a full game, the developers were content to break it into smaller pieces and sell one bloated chunk at a time. What you get, then, are five overly lengthy and linear stages where every single branching path is nothing more than a short diversion that leads to another cluster of stars. The five stages all look about the same and, with only minor changes, play the same.

It didn't take me long to realize that the stages would have worked much better if they were condensed and served as the first level of a proper game. A good programmer could surely have fit all the components and challenges from Ep. 1 into one superior stage. Then, assuming the subsequent three episodes offer more of the same but in different locations, he could have taken the same approach with those. The result might easily have wound up being a $3 or $5 game, instead of a collection of bland $1 games, and I'm confident the experience would have been both more streamlined and enjoyable. As it is, this game is playable but far too repetitive to justify your time.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (November 30, 2015)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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