STAFF REVIEW of Omno (Xbox One)

Friday, August 13, 2021.
by Peggy Doyle

Omno Box art While having clear goals, direction and combat create player motivation in the world of gaming, there is something to be said about a low stakes/low stress gaming experience. Omno was created by a single independent developer, Jonas Manke, via Kickstarter back in 2017. Studio Inkyfox has created one of the most pleasant and laid-back gaming experiences I’ve had the pleasure of playing.

Omno puts you in the shoes of a little unnamed guy while he and his tiny green companion make their way through multiple biomes. Each chapter/biome has orbs and books to collect and as you enter the level you approach a platform to meditate. When you meditate, it will give you the direct to find three glowing orbs. As you collect the orbs you open the main pillar that creates the opening to the next level. Each book gives you some of the lore to explain the story of why the main character is maneuvering through the world and trying to get to his final destination. Omno is very simple, each level has meditate, collect orbs and lore, identify animals... repeat.

While progressing you will unlock abilities. First you learn to run, jump, interact with animals and then you learn to use his staff to dash, glide, surf or warp between touch pads. Finding the correct combination of skills will assist you in solving the puzzles and getting to all the orbs required to open the pillar and move on. None of the puzzles are particularly difficult and all were enjoyable. There is also a good variety in the puzzles. Whether you are using the warp pads to get through gates before they close or pushing block to obstruct beams, there is something new in each chapter. The abilities also help with movement in the game. As you start, the areas are quite small, but as you move through the game, they get larger in scope. The puzzles themselves are balanced perfectly – for me, at least – to never make you feel stupid whilst also managing to offer that sense of satisfaction once the solution becomes clear.

Each chapter falls into a biome category. Wetlands, lush green areas, desert, snow etc. The entire game was captivating and cozy, and I often found myself just panning the camera around and looking and listening. Because there is no combat or danger, and you can’t attack anything, the game is a calm peaceful journey and a simple joy to sit back and explore.

Jonas Manke manages to tell a heartwarming story of friendship and trust through brief interactions between the main character and their timid flying squirrel-like creature, which delivers an emotional story despite its lack of dialogue.

Omno is an incredibly refreshing title, one that I didn’t know I needed until now. Video games more often than not are filled with endless lists of quests, collectibles to check off, to do lists and monsters to defeat. In Omno, gentle giants are your friends, you can frolic and play with them or ride the larger ones to marvel at your scenery. Learning how to interact with the smaller creatures is a game within itself. Surfing with some of the small critters in the winter wonderland zone brought me massive amounts of joy. Some of my favourite moments were when you interact with ‘mythical’ creatures, and they move you between chapters. Omno is a visually beautiful game.

From the moment I started Omno I was greeting with a calm and blissful soundtrack that gave a clear indication that this would be a mellow and chill game. The soundtrack was composed and produced by award winning composer Benedict Nichols (The Falconeer). I enjoyed the music and, in fact, have the title page of the game up listening to it while writing this review.

If there is one negative for me about the game, it’s that it’s too short. My playthrough lasted between three to four hours and I wanted more. But I can also see that sometimes short and sweet is better than long and drawn out. If the game was longer, using the same formula in each chapter, it might have become stagnant. I really hope to see more from Studio Inkyfox in the future. Omno is pure escapism in a short and sweet package. Controls are simple and controls are intuitive. Fans of meditation and exploration games will find Omno charming.

**Omno was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.6 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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