Digerati / JoyMasher / Clickteam (studio)
24 December 2019 (released)
16 January 2020
Gaming has a funny way of repeating itself, doesn’t it? We see it every other day where there’s a remaster, a re-release, or a trip down memory lane with a game that pays homage to either the 80’s or ’90s. We’ve seen Var-Faris, Blasphemous and even Cuphead make a splash on the scene but these are newbies. There were those before and Odallus: The Dark Call which originally came out on PC in 2015. Only after 4 years has it arrived on consoles. Worth the wait?
I originally reviewed Odallus back in 2015 and thought it was the perfect call back to the 8bit era of gaming. One of the classic throwbacks to a time where most millennials were playing the Sega Megadrive and were carefree if not raging out over the insane difficulty old games had back then.
Odallus tells the tale of the old gods dying, new ones arriving and deciding they don’t like humans so much now. So with a lone hunter named Haggis (like the food) deciding to fight back and save his son, the fate of humanity is on the brink of destruction. So as Haggis, players will traverse the cursed lands, going through destroyed villages, creepy caves, dark forests and fortresses of madness, to save the day. It’s nothing complex, but a nice story with some neat mythos, creatures and creative locations.
Inspired by the likes of Ghouls and Goblins, you can take away that Odallus will give you intense difficulty, simple yet engaging gameplay, and pretty visuals.
So Odallus does a decent job at replicating the adventure gameplay from classic 90’s titles. Where players will explore several locations, fight many beasts and baddies and obtain items to make them stronger. Each location has alternative paths to take, to keep things fresh through multiple playthroughs. This is something that will happen as players will notice on the main map there are different paths to take towards the end goal. Some paths branch off to new locations which aren’t part of the main story yet have great loot and rewards. So the term Metroidvania being used in the description of Odallus is warranted in some way. Compared to other adventure titles like Rondo of Blood, Odallus has a lot of layers to its level design and overall world design.
Most enemies are simple and don’t strike much of a creative flare. But the bosses and some stronger enemies are pretty damn cool looking. There’s a beautiful blend of Lovecraftian and Hellraiser within creature designs and it’s awesome. Another aspect replicated perfectly from older, more twisted adventure games like the aforementioned Rondo of Blood. However, I would’ve loved to see this game goes full balls to wall weird with some of the level designs or even more of the monsters. By the end, we see nothing than what we’ve seen a million times before. Odallus is visually interesting and does capture the 8bit era of gaming well, but it could’ve pushed the boat a little more on locations and incorporated more compelling enemy designs.
But the gameplay is pretty solid, with players exploring complex locations, killing off said beasties and avoiding creative hazards. As you play more, the stronger Haggis becomes through natural progression and some extra hard work. Several set pieces are fun and massive bosses that are epic and look cool. All the while being extra challenging than your standard adventure game.
I will admit that the challenge here can vary from fair and enjoyable to tedious and unfair. Mainly it’s to do with certain enemies, their placement and a lack of calls to read, knowing when they might perform a certain attack. I often found that there were plenty of enemy positions next to ledges or on great vantage points, meaning they’ll always have the drop on you and to proceed, you’ll need to take some damage. This is something that even pops up in great games today, like Blasphemous. Enemy placement for a game that strives itself on the challenge is very important and missing the mark can lead to some annoyance. Thankfully it’s not to that level but you can tell the developers just wanted to replicate everything from the 8bit era, even the bad stuff. The cheap tricks which were only there to prolong and make games last that little bit longer.
Volgarr the Viking is a title which does it right, with great enemy placement and pacing to make sure you can learn pattern through trial and error. Odallus does this for the most part but there are times where enemies are placed in random locations or the most annoying just to ruin your day. Plus, certain hazards blend into the background/foreground that you’ll most likely accidentally run/jump into them a few times over. Again not too bad once you learn of their presence but annoying and come off as cheap.
Still Odallus: The Dark Call a great sense of exploration, cool bosses and nice visuals to make up for that. Odallus is great fun after all these years but not as fun as I once remembered. Since then we’ve had games like Blasphemous, Dead Cells and more which perfected the throwback/homage to classic 90’s games. Still, it’s nice to finally see Odallus: The Dark Call come to consoles for that extra trip down memory lane and one worth taking if you love the 8bit era of adventure games.
++ Great level design and exploration
+ Looks and sounds the part
+ Decent action and platforming
-- Some annoying and cheap enemy placements/hazards
- Story/monster design could've been much more
An Xbox One review code of Odallus: The Dark Call was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.