Omno, from German sole indie developer StudioInkyfox, is an atmospheric puzzle and exploration adventure game. This new platformer carries a hero through a range of beautiful landscapes, with a variety of animals and even a dinosaur to meet on the way. It was co-published by Future Friends Games.
So, did our writers find it a welcome escape, or more concept than substance? Let’s find out…
Omno at first glance is the kind of game I enjoy. I have been calling myself a gamer since I was around 11 years old and I’ve developed a somewhat eclectic taste for what I will spend my time playing.
I value story and meaning behind the actions you take. I like an art style that I can look at and feel wonder. Music that adds to the experience. Overall, as much as I will spend six hours a day playing The Sims, I also value games that want to take me far far away from my current reality and let me lose myself in something wildly different.
Omno has that for me. Right off the bat there are beautiful landscapes for you to traverse, creatures for you to discover and learn about through a notebook system. I won’t lie, I did spend a startling amount of time chasing around Freglets and Shoobs.
But there’s more to this than just the wonderful reimagining of the animal kingdom. While you hop from zone to zone, exploring various different ruins and landscapes, you come across notes that provide some explanation for what may be going on in cryptid snippets of someone’s journal. The words you find bring a jarring but fascinating sense of intensity to an otherwise risk-less game. I have not yet played enough to definitively have an answer on this looming storyline, but I know I will be going back to find out what darkness is lying beneath the surface of this otherwise very innocent appearing playing experience.
Of all the amazing things Omno had to offer, there were a few minor things that did put me off slightly. Initially there appeared to be no tutorial, in which most games will spend five or ten minutes giving you menial tasks in order to acclimatise you with the controls. Omno simply loads and seems to wish you the best of luck on discovering which keys do what. It isn’t always the end of the world for most people, but I couldn’t help but wonder about anyone who is completely new to a gaming experience (especially a PC gaming experience) and may not already know that E is usually the interact button or that Spacebar makes you jump.
Second to that, was the controls themselves. Having to control walking and the camera independent of one another was frustrating to say the least. In order to turn you have to turn the camera, which for me often meant halting to a standstill, using my left and right keys to delicately shift the camera to the exact right angle I wanted to walk in, and then going forwards. It makes the platforming experience of the game almost impossible, and I spent far too long drowning in the swamp water because I wasn’t able to accurately judge my jumps.
Though I will say, after an hour of playing I then learnt I could control my camera with my mouse. Not just with the arrow keys. Isn’t it amazing what a tutorial could have shown you!
In the end though, my penchant for rage quitting when I can’t do something carries across all gaming experiences whether it is a game like Omno or a triple A title like Cyberpunk. So it hasn’t put me off returning and completing the story. In fact, if I had to give two very big contributors to my willingness to return it would be the art style and the music. It is utterly unique in its design, reminding me of Minecraft but more realistic. Blocky but beautiful. And the accompanying soundtrack is the kind of thing I’d love to listen to even in my down time. Gentle, epic, melodic. It sets the tone for an adventure while also hinting at something under the surface you’ve yet to discover and I appreciate the beauty in that.
Overall, Omno is a game for those who want to escape their current reality and find adventure. It is artistic and filled with an intriguing story, but be prepared to possibly swear a lot while you learn the controls amidst platforming for your life.
Omno is, to put my experience down to a word: frustrating.
At its core this game should be pretty good: a platforming puzzle game with cute and unique character design and a focus on exploration? Sign me up! And for the first few minutes of gameplay I enjoyed walking around and soaking in the world, but that fell apart as soon as I tried to do anything.
Omno’s keyboard controls are a complete disaster. They were imprecise and unresponsive, making it nearly impossible to aim my jumps or time my movement with any kind of accuracy. This would be irritating in any game, but when it’s a platformer, a genre that depends on tight controls, this oversight made Omno virtually unplayable. I only got through four stages before I stopped playing because the janky controls made it nearly impossible for me to get any further. The puzzle I was dealing with wasn’t challenging, I’d built the path I needed to follow, but I couldn’t follow it. I kept jumping between the platforms, but whether I would succeed was more or less random and there was absolutely no margin for error. I kept running and jumping from roughly the same spot and sometimes I would land just right and haul myself up, but other times I would just bounce off the platform and fall back to the beginning with no indication as to why. In another puzzle I had to use the dash to make a jump, and again it seemed totally at random whether I would land safely, slam into the stonework, or fly way over the platform I was targeting. I didn’t feel challenged, or that I needed to get better at the game, I was just repeating the same jumps endlessly waiting for my luck to break. Perhaps things would have gone smoother were I playing on a console with a controller, but this PC port was just agonising.
Even when I was able to play as the game intended it was rarely a pleasant experience. Despite running on low graphics settings on a decent computer there were constant frame rate dips, you would clip through terrain. and the camera would move erratically. This meant that even though there was a cute world and nice art style to explore, exploring wasn’t fun. And this was only made worse by the constant, hideous motion blur which cannot be turned off. In fact, this game has a noticeable lack of settings available: aside from motion blur, I couldn’t remap my controls, and there were no accessibility settings at all. I would normally forgive these issues in a solo developer, but when I was already fighting against the game it was disappointing that there was nothing I could do to make things easier on myself.
This is all a real shame because Omno does have its breathtaking moments. When you first unlock the surf ability you get a long, uninterrupted stretch of gliding down a snow covered valley, just taking in the scenery and listening to the score. It’s calm and graceful and showcases the game at its absolute best. I just wish the development had prioritised gameplay; at the moment it feels like InkyFox started with their set pieces and bolted everything else on to the side.
I will start by saying something that will become blindingly obvious as we continue through my review of Omno… I love this game. I. Love. It. Ok, now on with the review.
I had just finished playing AER: Memories of Old, by developers Forgotten Key, on the Nintendo Switch. Playing AER had reignited my enjoyment of getting lost in a game. It’s beautiful, immersive and uses interesting ways to convey narrative. Therefore, I jumped at the chance to play a game that seemed to have a similar ‘vibe.’
Much like AER, Omno has snippets of narrative dotted around for you to find, puzzles to solve and gorgeous environments to explore. I don’t want to detail what you do in each section, what discoveries you will come across or any of the specific moments that took my breath away because I sincerely hope you play this game and experience it for yourself. What I will talk about is the sense of discovery you will experience. The different environments you come across are all beautifully crafted, and it feels immersive. With lots to find and charmingly named animals moving around you, the game rewards you for exploring. I am a bit of a ‘completionist’ myself, wanting to find every box, every hidden corner, every secret. However, in this game, I wasn’t thinking about that in the same way I would in Skyrim, Assassin’s Creed or games of that ilk. Where not finding everything makes me feel like I have missed out or lost part of the game, but the act of actually going out and finding everything feels like a chore. In this game, it felt like that kind of walk, where you aren’t heading anywhere in particular, you have no time constraints, and you are simply wandering and finding cool stuff you didn’t know was there. When I reached 100% for a level, it didn’t feel like other games. Often, when I get 100% in other games, I disengage and look for what’s next. Instead, in Omno, I would keep exploring for a little while more, still discovering.
The music is simply stunning and swells at different times to emphasise moments and reward you as you explore. It supports everything else throughout the game. The game would have been good without it, but its subtlety and musicality raise it to another level. Add this to the sound design and my lovely new headphones, and you have a pretty amazing experience.
ALSO: This was made by a solo developer. Whaaaat. I mean! Jonas Manke knocked it out of the park.
The puzzles aren’t tricky. They do increase in complexity, but the game has more than prepared you for each one. Mechanics are introduced to you gradually, and the puzzles bring in the new stuff over time, and it’s great. Some of them are really clever and made me laugh a little at myself when I figured it out.
Most of all, our world is scary, and my anxiety is ever prevalent. I’m enjoying games like Omno, where the world isn’t threatening. Your character never feels like it’s in danger. You can try puzzles repeatedly without seeing the “Game Over” screen, and that feels nice. The game carries you with it. It feels safe, and I find I’m craving that kind of experience across all media right now. It’s clear with you what it is, and it sticks to it. It’s transparent with you from moment one about how it would like you to play, and it feels rewarding to do so.
Obviously, I highly recommend Omno. I hope you’ll play it.
Omno is available on Steam, Epic, PS4, XBOX and the XBOX Gamepass. Our writers reviewed free copies of the PC version available through Steam now.