I’m normally a fan of retro-style gaming, taking the elements of old NES games and putting a new shine on them with modern graphics and gameplay elements. Unfortunately, Oozi: Earth Adventure may have stuck a little too true to some of the ‘old ways’ for me, and the result wasn’t one that I’m all that thrilled with. On the surface, you’ve got a cute character, simple storyline, and pretty basic play that’s reminiscent of old platforming adventures. For me, though, this wasn’t quite enough to get me into it, and some problems with how it plays out kept me from having an especially good time of it.
The first thing I noticed when I started out is that the controls are very, very sensitive; our hero, an alien by the name of Oozi, has only one movement speed, and it’s difficult to control. Throw in that it’s not very precise, and it’s very difficult to get certain jumps right, even when you’re doing well. The zany little creature slides and drifts, and since there’s a lot of precision jumping puzzles, this presents a pretty big gameplay issue. Jumping onto enemies’ heads to defeat them becomes as much about luck as skill, and often I’d miss by a pixel or two – or, even more confusingly, hit them when I’d clearly overestimated the distance. This lack of precision becomes more and more of an issue as time goes on, since the platforming ramps up in difficulty at a steady pace, and the cost of missed jumps soon becomes death with every leap.
Beyond the control issues, there’s a decent game hidden. Oozi’s quest to locate his crashed ship takes you through some interesting and cool-looking backdrops, and gaining pieces of his space-age suit to learn new abilities is kind of cool. The health mechanics are interesting, as well; you’ll start with up to three health, depending on the difficulty level, losing one for any damage from obstacles or enemies (except water, which kills you instantly), and regaining health is a matter of collecting enough star pieces. There are “secret stars” to collect in each level in order to unlock additional challenge levels, too, which means there are several different ways to play. I was surprised to learn that death doesn’t reset the level; enemies defeated or stars collected stay gone, even through multiple reincarnations, and there’s no apparent limit on lives you can use.
The bottom line is that the control issues really detracted from my ability to enjoy the game. Even without a limit on lives, I found myself careening to my death on tiny mistakes over and over, and it became very frustrating. It could be that I’m just terrible at the game, but I’ve done a fair amount of platforming action in my day, and rarely in this era have I struggled so much with those kinds of details; again, it was reminiscent of old, classic games where often mechanics were the lynchpin in making something difficult, and where we’re at in gaming now, I don’t think it’s necessary. For $10 ($8 on sale as of this writing), I think it’s priced a bit higher than allows me to recommend it; were it a $5-6 get, I’d probably say it’s worth a try if you’re a platformer fan, but outside of that, there’s not enough unique, interesting facets to keep me trying to best the difficult maneuvering.
[+Cute, rich graphics] [+Unintrusive story] [+Some interesting play modes and features] [-Irritating sounds] [-Downright bad controls] [-Priced above its worth]