A few years back, a wave of original games swept over the Xbox Live Arcade and developers realized that the XBLA was a viable market to distribute their own original games. This, along with the popularity of Steam, led to a steady stream of games from previously unknown developers. One of the games released for the XBLA was Cloning Clyde, developed by NinjaBee. It was a puzzle-platformer where you could switch between clones of the titular character, Clyde. Now, we have Ancients of Ooga, the spiritual successor to Cloning Clyde. In the game, the Ooganis have been enslaved by the evil Booli tribe. You must possess several Oogani tribe members to solve puzzles with the ultimate goal of freeing them from slavery.
Over the course of the game, the plight of the Oogani tribe is told through cutscenes by an Oogani as he dances around a campfire. The basic premise of the story revolves around the Booli tribe eating brain slugs in order to take over the Oogians. Some of the Ooganis wanted to fight against the Booli tribe so they summoned you, the Great Spirit of Ooga. You must go to each of the realms, revive the dead chief, and reunite the tribes. The dialogue can be funny at times though it is used far too often to guide the player directly to their goal. The missions can feel quite arbitrary and forced, but your motivation is usually clear enough.
One Trick Pony
One area Ooga struggles with is originality in gameplay. The game is a puzzle platformer where you can go into ‘spirit mode’ in order to switch between several characters to solve puzzles that one Oogani could not solve alone. This is the very same idea used in Clyde, right down to its lack of individuality in any of the playable characters. Unlike Clyde however, there is a decent amount of variety among the Oogani tribes; each tribe comes in a different colour and with a different special ability. At first glance, the abilities may seem pointless. For example: the green Ooganis have the ability to walk through bramble patches unharmed and the red Ooganis can do the same through lava. In the realm of the green Ooganis, the bramble patches are prominent while in the volcano home of the red Ooganis, well…it’s a volcano. This is a problem solved by including several colours of Ooganis that join you throughout each realm while leaving the main colour the most common.
One problem I had, though it may just be a preference, was that the default controls took a bit of getting used to. I automatically have a distaste for any game that uses the arrow keys for movement but after a while it works well enough. The puzzles themselves are a mixed bag for difficulty. Some can take a while to figure out, a few require some quick keyboarding, and others are either too easy or made obvious by the dialogue. There are a couple minigames throughout, like the dancing minigame in which you mash three buttons until you’re deemed successful, as well as the all too familiar racing minigame.
The game is full of collectibles: spices, bones, Ooganis to rescue, and food to swallow. Each collectible also has a unique purpose besides driving OCD players such as myself up the wall. The spices are used to eat food where each food item requires a certain amount of spices to swallow. The Ooganis usually become controllable after rescuing which is often necessary to complete a level. The food has no general purpose but many different food items have an immediate effect after swallowing such as the hover bean which will make your character float up in the air for a few minutes. The bones however present a bit of a problem that many platformers have: to play the final level, you must collect every single bone in the game. I know that for many players, this is more than just a minor annoyance; some will get to the last level, find they need to go back and replay every level to find collectibles and then just abandon the game, never to return. Each level is given a percentage score based on how many of the collectibles you gathered and how many times you die. To get 100% on each level you have to collect everything and play through the entire game without dying. Not consecutively mind you, it can be done one level at a time.
Graphical Consolitis At Its Finest
Ooga is a 2.5D platformer with an original art style. The Ooganis are full of personality and they are exceptionally done. The landscapes and models are all very nice with everything looking smooth and polished, along with smooth animations. There is plenty of variety among the levels, taking you from the heart of the jungle to the depths of a volcano. The biggest flaw with Ancients of Ooga concerns the lack of graphical options. There is no in-game option to change the resolution or play in fullscreen mode. In order to do that, you must go into the game files and directly modify the .ini file. This makes many users a bit uncomfortable and isn’t an acceptable method in the first place. NinjaBee has said that they may make additional resolutions available in the future, but for now you are stuck playing the game in a tiny window.
Tribal Beats and Ambiance
The game features music heavily reminiscent of the Crash Bandicoot games. It is full of tribal drums and other instruments, along with some ambient sounds which adds to the atmosphere. The music coupled with the art style of the Ooganis fits perfectly and is one of the strong points of the game. In some cases, the sound effects can be a bit irritating, from the grating lizard enemy death noises to the flatulent noises of the Ooganis.
Ancients of Ooga is a fun puzzle-platformer with a few gameplay flaws and even more graphical flaws. The game is full of challenging puzzles, funny dialogue, and good story. The hints can be a bit too much, often defeating the purpose of having puzzles at all and the mandatory collectibles are annoying when you aren’t aware of their existence from the beginning of the game.
ValueScore – Is It Worth Your Money?
The game is $9.99 via Steam, a standard price for most indie titles. NinjaBee is still working on patching the game although according to their Steam forum poster, they have only one person working on fixes. They have also said that at some point in the future they may add additional resolution support but it is not a definite. For now, if you were a fan of Cloning Clyde and want more of it, then this is a must-buy. If you love puzzle-platformers, by all means, give this title a try. Ancients of Ooga is not the best the genre can offer but definitely 10 dollars worth of fun.
Ancients of Ooga Summary
- Time Played – 4 Hours
- Widescreen Support – No
- 5.1 Audio – No
- Bugs – A few minor slowdowns, one crash
- DRM – Steamworks
- Control Scheme – Customizable keyboard, annoying defaults
- Game Acquisition Method – A gift from NinjaBee
- Worth your money – Yes
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