STAFF REVIEW of Odium to the Core (Xbox One)

Tuesday, January 22, 2019.
by Adam Dileva

Odium to the Core Box art Remember the Flappy Bird craze from 5 years ago? You know the one, where you play as a... ummmmmm... flappy bird thing, and had to tap to go upwards and let go to go down? Odium to the Core is essentially the same style of gameplay, complete with single button controls, but it is much more stylistic and challenging. Come to think of it, my first experience with this genre was way back on my old Nokia phone where you controlled a helicopter or paper airplane, I can't remember exactly, seeing how far you can reach before ultimately crashing into a wall. Sounds easy right? You’d be dead wrong.

Gameplay progresses from left to right automatically, but you need to press ‘A’ to go up, and let go to go down. Keeping yourself level and within the confined areas is where the challenge comes in, especially when gameplay ramps up and is in sync with the electronic soundtrack. While Flappy Bird and others play in a straight left to right direction, Odium to the Core feels more like the world is revolving around you instead. Sure, you’re technically still maneuvering from left to right, but you feel as if you’re going up or down when the world rotates around you. It’s tricky to explain, but adds a sense of chaos and challenge.

Synced with the electronic soundtrack that has a Chemical Brothers feel to it at times, your and your enemy's movements seem to line up with the beats. For example, when it’s a slow portion to a song, the gameplay actually slows down and zooms in, adding an odd sense of challenge, as momentum changing so quickly can be quite jarring when you’re ‘in the zone’ to the fast beat and you're suddenly being brought to a near halt for a moment. It works though, and enemies will also ‘attack’ during beats of the music. Not so much attack, but pop out and need to be avoided.

You play a black spiked red eyeball, which I assume is a/the Odium. As mentioned, press ‘A’ to go up and let go to go down. That’s it mechanically, but don’t let the simplistic controls lure you into a false sense of comfort. Make no mistake, Odium to the Core is incredibly challenging, to the point where I had to stop playing with my Elite controller, for fears I was going to throw it across the room out of frustration. Yes, you’re going to become very frustrated the further you progress, but that’s not due to unfairness, but more your skill and lack of focus. Sure, it will feel unfair at times, requiring pixel perfect precision, but the elation from finally passing that level you’ve been stuck on for a half hour is gratifying.

Throughout the levels are red orbs floating around, which act as not only scoring points, but also the optimal 'safe' path that you’ll want to follow. At times you’ll only have a split second to react and figure out if you’re supposed to be closer to the top or bottom, and these orbs will give you a general idea of the proper path you should follow. Saying what to do and actually doing it are completely different things, and even with a guide, you’re going to die hundreds of times. Matter of fact, I’ve unlocked numerous achievements for dying more times than I’m comfortable to admit.

Even if you master a level or two, there’s a good amount of replayability, as each level also houses some hidden secrets that can be found for those much better than myself. Oddly enough, there’s a scoring mechanic in place that rewards more you for pressing the ‘A’ button less. So if you’re able to master the long button press and floating up and down at a sharper angle, instead of numerous and short button presses like myself to keep my Odium level, then you’ll score much higher.

New enemies and attack patterns are slowly introduced, allowing you to familiarize yourself with new additions as you progress. Eventually levels become so challenging that you need to essentially be perfect as you can to reach each checkpoint. Speaking of which, levels have a few checkpoints within, but far too few. You’ll be replaying what seems like 60 second sections over and over again due to deaths. More often than not, I’d finally beat a very hard section, only to die to a simple narrow passageway, thus restarting at the checkpoint far back. I do wish there was a slightly easier mode that offered more checkpoints, as hearing the same 30 second section of a musical track can become grating on the ears.

For those that excel at these games though, there is a Nightmare mode that lacks checkpoints and makes your runs require absolutely perfection. There’s even an Endless mode for those that want to challenge themselves with a procedurally generated level that’s unique each time they play. After every few levels you’ll encounter a Boss level. While you don’t technically fight it in any traditional sense, you’ll have to navigate and avoid their attacks that change of the pace from the typical gameplay. These are quite challenging and I just wish these bosses had something a little more to them aside from avoiding their attacks and movements.

Like most, I fell into the Flappy Bird hype when it released. Odium to the Core may have the same gameplay mechanics and principals, but it’s much more stylish and a million times more challenging. I am not ashamed to admit that I eventually threw in the towel, unable to complete the last handful of levels. As I mentioned before, you’ll become frustrated, and during my time with the game, more than a few curse words came out of my mouth quite loudly, but I kept wanting to try and complete it. There’s a breaking point though, and I eventually hit that wall.

As I reflect on all the time I spent playing this game for this review, I can't say I didn’t enjoy my curse-filled time with Odium, on the contrary, its addictive feel roped me in, but those that get frustrated easily will want to look elsewhere. If there was a mode that offered more checkpoints I would have gladly stuck with it longer and possibly beaten all it, but as it stands, this was a little too Odium to the HARDcore for me.

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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