Waiting for something to happen?
Content Warning: This game, and thus the review, contains depictions and descriptions of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
Having been Kickstarted in 2014, Omori seems to have gone under many people’s radar, myself included. While at a glance, it may be easy to write this off as something chasing the popularity of Undertale. But that does this game an incredible disservice. Sure, plenty of similarities exist, and I do think that fans of Undertale will enjoy Omori, but man is Omori in its own category here, for better or worse.
Omori (Mac, Windows [reviewed])
Developer: Omocat LLC
Publisher: Omocat LLC, Playism
Release Date: December 25, 2020
Ultimately, Omori is one of those games where the less you know about the plot, the better. But it is important to stress the severity of the content warning and that knowing the game deals with suicide and depression doesn’t actually take anything away. In fact, it may lead you, as it did me, to jump to conclusions that never come to fruition. This is a game that deals with death but also has a character named Hot Diggity Dog. It is both a serious and silly game, and the juxtaposition will not be lost on most players.
The main draw here is the emotional plot, and anyone who prefers their games to be more, well, gameplay-focused, will come away disappointed. But anyone who gets invested in the story? Hoo boy, you are in for a treat. Please know this: all of the criticisms I am about to share about this game are almost entirely wiped away by virtue of the perfect finale. If you find yourself pushing to get through the middle chunk of the game, please continue. I promise it will be worth it.
I don’t know the last game that really hit me so emotionally like Omori did. I definitely cried while playing Persona 4, so maybe then? But the characters and events that transpire during a playthrough of Omori are unlike anything else I’ve experienced. Even while the last act was unfolding, I couldn’t believe what was happening. I refused to believe it. And to this day, I think about those events and want to know more. Trust me when I say: this is not a game you will ever forget.
While Omori has some incredibly serious themes of grief, loss, and guilt, much of the game is very quirky and wacky. Despite being Kickstarted before Undertale, it does feel like the influence of the indie darling is very much on the sleeve of Omori. Characters say goofy things and have even goofier designs, musical queues will play for two seconds before something zany happens, and all sorts of offbeat things take place throughout the approximately 25 hours of this RPG. The humor will absolutely bounce of some, but it mostly landed with me. There are some jokes that I think of on a weekly basis because they are that funny.
Overall, I found myself enjoying the world Omori had built. I wanted to talk to each person and see what they had to say. Even when the game started to get a little long in the tooth, I still found myself wanting to talk to just about everyone. Although sometimes those conversations would lead to more of the battle system which, toward the end, I wanted nothing to do with.
Gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played turn-based RPGs in the past. Players control four party members, each with their own stats and abilities, and take turns acting until the fight is over. Adding onto the basics here is the emotion system: anyone can be happy, sad, or angry, each coming with their own stat changes. Additionally, there is a rock-paper-scissors element to these emotions as angry beats sad, sad beats happy, and happy beats angry.
Taking advantage of this emotion triangle will yield extra damage, though it’s hardly necessary. For as long as the game is, combat is not nearly deep or engaging enough. Before I reached the halfway point, I found a strategy that worked and basically just repeated it ad nauseam for the rest of the game, with the exception of maybe some bosses and the end game…and I only switched it up toward the end because I was bored out of my mind with the combat systems.
Part of me still looked forward to every battle despite criticizing the systems, simply to experience the art of the characters and monsters. While the overworld art is sprite-based and of varying detail, the actual character and monster art is hand-drawn and nothing short of phenomenal. The level of detail and care put into every frame is masterful, and I applaud Omocat in every way possible.
The bosses do little to shake things up, other than forcing players to use Kel and his healing abilities a bit more. Still though, the aesthetic always kept me clamoring for more. Not only are the boss fights a joy to look at, but they come with some extremely good tunes. The music overall is an absolute treat, and while the boss music varies greatly in style, it never varies in quality. Seriously, these are some absolute bangers and I am very much looking forward to a potential vinyl release of the OST (note: there are no plans I am aware of for a vinyl release, but the OST is available on Bandcamp).
Outside of combat, there’s little in the way of gameplay. I guess there are some puzzles, but they’re so simple that I refuse to even mention them outside of that last sentence and this follow-up one. There are essentially two phases to the gameplay experience, but divulging any details would be a huge spoiler, so I’ll simply mention that the juxtaposition between these two phases is very well done, albeit poorly paced. The game ends up using the battle system mechanics in pretty unique ways at various parts of the story, and these are the moments that truly stand out upon reflection.
I do wish the gameplay and story meshed better together. At times, it feels like the systems do tell a story: an enemy will use an attack and then get the happy emotion indicating that they enjoyed it. Party members will yell at each other with specific moves and get angry. But these micro-stories quickly fade into the background and just become more gameplay elements as the game trudges on, and they never become more complex than these examples, which is disappointing.
There is also a lot in Omori. While I spent just over 25 hours in it, I found out after the fact that I missed an entire section of the world, complete with mini-games and bosses to take on. There are also, for lack of a better word, random elements that players will likely miss out on. For example, there is just a random tree in the overworld that, if you click on it, happens to be a boss fight. Like, what? Omori is brimming with optional content and various endings, some of which players will need to look up to ever experience. And even then, will likely just look up the differences on YouTube because actually playing Omori for more than 30 hours sounds rather unpleasant.
There is so much to love in Omori, though it feels like the unlovable items do their best to get in the way as much as possible. As the gameplay begins to feel rote and tiresome, more and more seems to be piled onto the player’s lap. Splitting the game into three acts, the second act is easily the longest and can only be described as a slog. The first does a tremendous job of setting up the world and getting the player hooked, and the third act is an absolute masterpiece. So really, the question is: what will the player come away with after finishing Omori?
Omori is certainly not for everyone. Someone who values gameplay much higher than storytelling will come away feeling bored and frustrated with the overall experience. However, those who value a game’s plot and the emotions that games can elicit will never be able to shake Omori from their headspace. It is a flawed game in many aspects, but I can’t help thinking about it throughout my daily life (especially while opening up the spice cabinet), even having finished the game over a month ago. While the entire middle of the game can be frustrating due to its poor design, the third act is well worth everything that comes before it. In the end, everything else faded away, and it all felt worth it.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]