STAFF REVIEW of OkunoKA Madness (Xbox One)

Monday, September 21, 2020.
by Adam Dileva

OkunoKA Madness Box art I’m supposed to write a bunch of paragraphs describing the game I review to entice you to either purchase or avoid said game. If I’m proficient enough in my writing ability, I can make you read from the opening words to the final sentence, so there’s always a trick to get you to ‘stay with me’ as I explain said game to the reader, always wanting to leave that punchline or final recommendation until last. Some games don’t need all of that though. Do you like super difficult and challenging games like Super Meat Boy? Then you’re going to love OkunoKA Madness.

OkunoKA Madness is absolutely not for the casual fans. While in the platforming genre, I’d further categorize it into the Masocore genre, not only meaning hardcore, but the difficulty is near masochistic at times, requiring the highest degree of skills and reflexes to complete. If you get frustrated dying over and over, OkunoKA Madness is absolutely not for you. If you enjoy having a serious challenge and want to prove yourself on the world leaderboards and showcase your skills, then OkunoKA Madness will be right up your alley.

Don’t let its colorful and fantastic visuals fool you either, as my daughter wanted to give it a go, and after a few minutes she declared she was done and couldn’t beat the level she was on. I have to admit, as a full grown adult, I had the same reaction by the time I got halfway through the 100+ levels and had to repeatedly tell myself to relax and that it IS possible to beat. Did I complete every level, get every secret, reach S rank on every stage and see the credits roll after the final boss? Absolutely not, and I’m ok with that, as I understood where I peaked with my platforming skills.

You play as KA, a small round blue creature that resembles Lolo (Adventures of Lolo from NES) that sets out to save the world of souls from the big bad guys, the Evil O’s. I know, I don’t really get it either, but alas, there is a small narrative to explain why you’re doing what you’re doing, but you play these types of games for their brutally and unforgiving difficulty more than any thread of story. KA is on the search in each level to find some black fuzzy creature so that he can digest it and I guess cleanse its soul? Again, it’s not going to win awards for its writing, but that’s the general plot set forth for your journey.

Each world consists of a bunch of individual levels, and as you progress one by one, slowly, you unlock the next, eventually facing off against a big boss before moving onto the next world. Again, everything will look cute and cuddly, but it’s anything but. At some place in each stage is a black fuzz ball creature thing, and when you do finally make it to the end and reach it, you get a quick cutscene showing KA eating it before pooping it out, changing it from black to gold. This is how KA is going to save the world I suppose. It’ll be easy at first, but you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into, believe me.

The premise is simplistic; get from point A to point B. Simple right? Hah! Okunoka Madness eases you into the mechanics of jumping, double jumping, dashing and eventually controlling different elements for various reasons, but eventually it makes you do this more and faster. As you make it from stage to stage, you’ll find a bunch of secrets if you have a keen eye, unlock new characters, fight bosses and hopefully beat the over 100 stages if you’re quite skilled.

Early on you’ll get to control an ice element. This will toggle any ice platforms, which is simple at first, but you’ll eventually need to toggle them on and off to either grab onto a wall where one is placed, or make it disappear so you can pass through unimpeded to the other side. Later you’ll also gain access to fire and lightning as well, so you’ll need to toggle back and forth on top of avoiding spikes, pits, enemies and more. Even though the learning curve is fair in the beginning, it eventually ramps up quite steeply about halfway through, putting your skills and patience to the test.

Okunoka Madness is meant to be a speedrunner’s heaven, so you’re constantly timed on every attempt. The better your time the better rank you’ll achieve, though good luck with the S-ranks and don’t even bother checking the world leaderboards, as they seem inhuman and unattainable. While there’s generally one path to your finish, there’s minor variations you can make in your gameplay to be just a little quicker and more efficient.

This is where the controls come in. In games like these, you need absolutely perfect controls or else the whole experience falls apart. I guarantee you’ve played a game at some point, died, and blamed it on the controls. Usually I wouldn’t agree with you, but it does happens when games don’t have precise controls. Luckily here the controls for Okunoka Madness are quite tight, though at times it can feel a little too overly sensitive, but that may just be me trying too hard. While I got frustrated when I died for a few dozen times in a row, I know it wasn’t because of the game, but my skill instead. If it was due to the game having poor controls, we’d be having a different conversation.

With over 100 levels to complete, there’s also three different types of speedrun modes as well; All Worlds, Single Level and Custom, so there’s plenty of content here to keep you entertained and more than challenged should you desire it. There’s even a Madness mode that kick the gameplay right up to eleven from the opening moments, so good luck.

While I’m really glad a leaderboard system is in place, and it’s great to see that my minute finish on a level doesn’t compare to someone else’s 7 second run, I really wish there was a way to download and race against people’s ghosts to see how they got these insane times, as some of them I simply don’t believe is legit possible.

Visually, Okunoka Madness is a delight to look at. The seemingly hand drawn aesthetic is super colorful, bright and simply pleasing to look at, it’s just a shame you can never stop for a moment to appreciate and take it all in. You’re able to distinguish spikes and traps you should avoid and looks beautiful overall, even with many thorny vines covering many of the pathways.

For a game that’s so gorgeous to look at, you wouldn’t assume that it’s one of the most challenging and anger inducing ones simultaneously. While it’s going to slap you across the face then kick your ass when it comes to its brutal difficulty, it’s also what makes Okunoka Madness so great for those that love the genre. Even though it’s deliberately designed to infuriate you, I still kept coming back for more and more. Yes, I eventually reached my limit and almost tossed a controller through a window, but I’m also not its intended audience.

Overall: 8.3 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 6.8 / 10


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