OIO is a little guy made of wood who awakens after a long coma. He is
alone in this strange world and all his compatriots are still frozen
in time. OIO does not remember anything. During his journey he will
discover what happened to his people and possibly try to save them.
What We Think
OIO is a puzzle platformer from French developer Uncanny Games. It boasts a unique artistic style, with characters and backgrounds that look hand drawn, and vaguely reminiscent of chalk sketches. The theme reminds me of something in the Tim Burton or “9” milieu; simple, stylistic, not directly threatening but somehow vaguely dark. I’m a fan of the style, and I think the execution here is terrific.
There’s a minimum of exposition in OIO which I think works really well. The plot is revealed through collectibles called “fresks” which, when combined, reveal a sort of cave painting narrative. The lack of spoken dialog or extensive explanation fits the story nicely, and allows you to concentrate on the game without feeling that you’ve missed something.
Controls are pretty standard, but I took issue with the “running on butter” phenomenon common to many platformers, wherein holding down a directional key results in a logarithmic increase in speed. It’s supposed to allow for a pseudo-analog feel, but I’ve always found it unwieldy. Part of the problem is that the main character’s animation doesn’t change based on speed, so as soon as you start moving you get the “Scooby scrabble”.
The distinguishing feature, and perhaps the main selling point of the game, is the protagonist’s ability to grow (or destroy) wooden platforms by throwing seeds at special nodes located in various parts of the levels. Controlled with the mouse, you aim for a specific nodule, launch a seed, and a branch grows perpendicular to its surface.
Only three can exist at a time, with the creation of a fourth destroying the oldest branch and any branches connected to it. It starts as a fairly simple mechanic that allows you to get to places too high for the standard jump, but, in later levels, adds a surprising level of complexity. Eventually you will be growing branches off of branches, and timing the throw of a seed so that you jump from a dying branch to a growing branch just in time.
All in all, OIO is a terrific “thinking man’s” platformer. OIO moves past the typical run-and-jump gameplay of the genre, adding a level of puzzle solving that is a refreshing difference. Genuinely challenging levels and a truly unique artistic vision make OIO an easy recommendation.