Playing Oblitus will make you wonder why Sony or Microsoft didn’t attempt to nab this as an indie exclusive, not to mention give it the support and resources it rightfully deserved. Instead, this is an effort by a very small team lead primarily by Connor Ullman, and picked up for publication by Adult Swim Games on Steam. With the right support and promotion, this almost could have been Sony’s answer to Xbox One’s highly anticipated Ori and the Blind Forest. Wishful speculation aside, this passion project by a dedicated team has made it on Steam in mostly solid form. The thing about Oblitus is that it really has all the qualities of a truly fantastic game, but it ends up being a good game at best. That’s no consolation prize mind you, but there’s a fine and unique action platformer in Oblitus.
Quite simply, Oblitus has the mechanical flow of Mega Man but the overarching design of Dark Souls. You’re thrown into this mysterious world with no explanation of what it is or what you’re doing there, a world featuring distinct and interconnected locations that can be explored in any order you choose. The sense of vagueness immediately taps into your explorer instinct, and through trial and error you eventually work out the best way to tackle this unknown universe.
Oblitus is more like Capcom’s legendary Ghosts ‘n Goblins/Ghouls ‘n Ghosts than anything else, which is a far more refreshing semblance than the myriad of 8-bit/16-bit Mega Man, Castlevania, and Zelda lookalikes that have saturated the digital indie landscape. While the Dark Souls influence is apparent, the ambiance and feel of this experience, even in terms of gameplay, design, pace, and aesthetics, is more like Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver than anything else. A name which, much like Capcom’s platformer classic, hasn’t been uttered in a very long time. Having something like Obltius remind one of both these dormant classics at the same time, and in such a profound way, feels very special.
Oblitus has you take control of a masked warrior, armed with a spear that he can use to poke in any direction determined by the mouse cursor. The subtle nuances of this strike, and the sensitivity of the direction in which it executes, plays an important role in combat. This masked beast is also fairly agile, being able to leap at great lengths, climb around, and even roll and dash. His combat prowess also has some defensive elements, as an effective shield can be used to ward off some serious damage. Much like King Arthur did with his lance in the aforementioned Ghosts ‘n Goblins, the protagonist in Oblitus can launch his spear as a projectile, although it takes a fair bit of time for him to replace his weapon which makes him vulnerable in the meantime. All these little subtle mechanics make Oblitus a game that requires some intelligence to approach, as a button pounding action platformer it is not.
As nicely as the mechanics function, however, they never feel as smooth and precise as they should for something that is meant to be a challenging 2D romp. The inertia most certainly feels off, with the mobility and hit detection feeling almost uncomfortably loose. The combat also has this looseness about it, with hit detection during close quarter encounters feeling a bit off. The enemies too have this odd feel about them, with most of them floating about the levels and not really grounded in any sort of behaviour. That said, these flaws are not nearly glaring enough to deter any enjoyment you’d get out of Oblitus, but they are indeed apparent enough to cause undue friction in a 2D action game that simply demands refinement and precision in its mechanics and controls.
Oblitus may come across as an overwhelming adventure in the first instance when you explore its uncharted territories, but at its heart, it’s a tightly focused and replayable action platformer which, once again, brings those Ghosts ‘n Goblins comparisons to mind. In Oblitus death is the end, which means you go back and start over. Thankfully, this adventure has the appeal of making you come back again and again to improve your run. You understand the game’s clever boss battles better, you make better use of the abilities, and you get a better sense of your surroundings. In fact, the Steam achievements indicates that this is clearly a speed-runnable title that can be clocked within an hour with multiple endings to boot. However, with each playthrough things don’t quite stay the same as the layout of the levels alter slightly, but still retain a sense of familiarity. There are enhancement items too, such as being able to glide, and the interesting thing is that even the enhancements you find sometimes change with each playthrough. This light rogue-like element adds to the replay appeal of Oblitus.
It goes without saying that the artistic direction of Oblitus is nothing short of amazing, with the style coming together to create a haunting environment which is further complemented by the eerie, unsettling score that serves as some serious atmospheric music. Visually, this game looks stunning if not a little unworldly at times, but sometimes it leaves a little to be desired when it’s in motion. The character models have a paper doll like appearance and movement about them, which can feel a little flimsy considering how brilliant it looks when it you simply gaze at still images.
Oblitus has all the right elements of something special, and although some aspects of it fall a little flat in execution, it still doesn’t change that Oblitus is an unique and fine looking 2D action platformer that has all the right qualities in its gameplay and design. All the while sporting a haunting and unworldly ambiance that will certainly leave a lasting impression. In a perfect world Oblitus could have been a timeless legend, but even as it is now, Oblitus is a refreshing departure from indie norms in every way.