A visual and auditory adventure across psychedelic worlds.
With few major games coming out at the moment, it's a good time to get out of your comfort zone and look beyond your usual type of video game. That's how I came across Onde, a "sound-surfing platformer" as the developers call it. What drew me in initially in the trailers were the colourful images and calming soundtrack, making me think Onde could be a relaxing game to let off some steam after a busy day. And I must say, it turned out to be exactly that and more.
Gameplay-wise, Onde is a platform/puzzle game where you're playing as a sort of wisp that sticks itself to spheres, which make up the platforms in Onde. It's best played with a controller, as your wisp is made up of four little circles that represent the four buttons on a controller (A,X,Y, and B, or Cross, Square, Circle, and Triangle). The circles of your wisp act sort of alike pets or attracting elements (I think you're free to interpret what they are) that will often move ahead and nestle themselves in other spheres. Pressing the correct button will unleash a spherical wave that your wisp can attach itself to. This is the basic way you move through Onde's world: creating pulses that push or pull your wisp further ahead, making sounds each time you create a pulse or touch a new sphere.
The sounds you're making while moving through the game add to its music playing in the background. The resulting symphony is one of the highlights of Onde. At times the music is light and your movement will feel exploratory, but this might suddenly transition into a dark and dangerous atmosphere as you move into an equally dark part of the game world, because there's also a darkness in the world that you'll be constantly evading. I like that your movements and sound pace vary a lot. They can be slow and cautious, or incredibly fast and melodic, riding beautiful plants and leech-like creatures made up of tiny spheres like a rollercoaster. The beautiful sounds that you're partially composing yourself are a treat to your ears, reminding me of music by the Greek musician Vangelis at times.
This is an ad:
The game's visuals are equally immersive, taking you from what feels like a deep underground cave up into primitive oceans full of life and even into space. It's almost a psychedelic experience. Again there's a nice change of pace in the scenery presented that keeps you engaged. Playing Onde feels like a real adventure, because you're experiencing lots of different emotions through the combination of sounds, colours and visuals. It proves to me that you don't need a complicated storyline, tons of dialogue or lifelike characters to get a true feeling of experience from playing a game. My only point of criticism would be that the ending was a bit underwhelming, because for me it missed the (visual and audible) spark that makes other moments in the game really come to life.
Coming to the game's difficulty, I think the platforms, puzzles and overall relaxing atmosphere are rightly matched. You'll struggle a little at times, but never to the point of frustration. Movement stays challenging, as you're not only pushed but also pulled or catapulted by spheres at times. In addition, there are dark spheres and areas that kill your wisp and require evasion. There are instances where you might feel truly puzzled as well. I took quite some time wondering how to move across a big, continuously pulsating green sphere for example, with each pulse pushing me back into place and seemingly no way to get around. Towards the end of the game, the platforming element also gets really challenging with difficult jumps between spheres, in tune with the events and exciting atmosphere happening in the game at that moment.
This is an ad:
In Conclusion, Onde is a very relaxing platformer offering a well-crafted visual and auditory adventure. The combination of colourful worlds, beautiful music, lots of atmosphere and appropriately challenging gameplay makes this a game with a wide appeal. Playing Onde gently touches you emotionally, and the game's experience will be a little bit different for everyone. It took me around 4.5 hours to complete over the course of a couple of evenings, which also seems the best moment to play Onde.
9 / 10
Great visuals and music. Relaxing. Right amount of challenge.
Controller more or less mandatory. Underwhelming conclusion.