PSN Review – Okabu

Previously an iOS-only game developer, HandCircus has seen great success with Rolando and Rolando 2, but have now decided to move on to consoles, beginning with the PSN-exclusive Okabu as a part of Sony’s “Only on PSN” promotion. We’ve played through this charming-looking title, and have our final verdict in this review.

In Okabu, you play as Kumulo and Nimbe, a couple of Cloud Whales, an ancient race that lives up in the sky. The evil industrial complex Doza have polluted the planet to an extreme, and you have fallen from the heavens to help clean up the mess. Teaming up with a nature-loving tribe called the Yorubo, you fly around the world watering dirty plants, recycling waste from lakes, and generally acting environmentally friendly. Though the game may sound preachy on paper, it is anything but, as a lot of your time will be spent solving puzzles using bulls and rabbit-like creatures, along with the natives.

Okabu‘s art style is right in line with HandCircus’ previous endeavors with their Rolando series of iOS games. It features a cel-shaded, upbeat color scheme, and even the enemies look relatively harmless. In fact, the whole game seems very kid friendly. Although the Doza are apparently evil, there’s no fear of this game scaring any kids you may have – it’s a silly version of evil. The game’s framerate stays pretty consistently steady, even when moving your player as quickly as you can.

The audio in Okabu fits very well with the game, as the music is very tribal. However, the music tracks are actually incredibly repetitive. Seeing as this game is aimed towards a younger demographic, a lot of kids will not notice, but if you’re older it can get on your nerves. There is no custom soundtrack support, but seeing as how the audio in the game consists of a fake language that the natives speak and a couple of animal sound effects, this is one game which can be played with the volume down and your own music turned up on another system. There was a repeatable issue with Okabu where the audio would begin to cut out, and then completely stop for a few minutes. This occurred on more than one PS3 system that we tried, so it is an issue with the game and not our systems. Hopefully it will be patched in the coming weeks and months, though it is by no means a deal breaker.

Playing with two players is probably the most fun you can have with Okabu. You each control a Cloud Whale and work together to solve the puzzles before you. None of these puzzles are particularly challenging to an average gamer, though getting through each level under the “Challenge time” can actually prove to be, well, a challenge. With no real penalty for getting hit by an enemy – you only lose whatever character is riding you and a few acorns (the game’s main collectible/score method), those “Challenge Times” and online leaderboards are the main ways Okabu achieves replayability.

Throughout the game, you encounter new key characters who can ride your clouds to imbue them with special powers, such as a plunger gun to manipulate objects, a flute player to direct NPCs to perform certain actions, an RC controller, and more. The problem is, for the first half or so of the game you are only given the first two of these riders. The game has an incredibly slow pace, and some people may lose interest before they get to the more interesting abilities. Perhaps this is to ease younger gamers into the mechanics of Okabu, or maybe just to explore the different areas of the world HandCircus has created. Whatever the reason, the slow speed of the game might be off-putting for regular gamers.

Despite the slow pace, Okabu offers plenty of game for your buck. This game will easily take around 10 hours to complete, and longer than that for the completionists out there. Its charming world and creatures will keep most kids entertained, and playing with them as you explore the world can be rewarding. With most puzzles able to be solved in a few minutes’ time, Okabu can be repetitive and slightly dull, but if you can get past the slow start there is an enjoyable game to be found here.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Great art style, light and family-friendly story.

+/- Slow pace, a lot of time is spent with the first two riders.

– Occasional, repeatable audio issues, puzzles are not very challenging.

6 out of 10