There were also a few moments in the game where a scripted sequence had me falling through a broken platform, only to find that moving forward required me to backtrack to where that platform had been magically repaired. As in virtually any game, this kind of backtracking is needlessly tedious. Harpooning around quickly from floating eyeball to floating eyeball is never really required for the main story—it is for a few more challenging, optional sailor rescue rooms—but it feels awkward when you have to do it, and using the analog stick to change directions on the Nintendo Switch—Olija is available on Switch, Xbox One/Series X, Playstation 4/5, and for Windows on the Steam Store—Pro Controller feels imprecise. I found myself having to switch to the D-Pad for these sequences. Celeste, with its tight, easy controls, this is not.
Later in the game, Faraday gets a sword that has its own teleportation properties, and you can set up two transportation points à la Portal. Sadly, this only comes near the end of the game. I would have loved to see more puzzles that utilized both the sword and the harpoon. You also acquire two ranged weapons in the form of a shotgun and a bow, but their ammunition requires crafting. I found them to be extraneous and rather useless when matched with the enemy types that the game throws at you.
Finally, there are a handful of boss fights, but they each feel unique and are a nice culmination to their stages. The second-to-last one, in particular, has you climbing a tower while dodging the boss’ sword thrusts, and finding angles to surprise him with a smart warp or good harpoon throw. It combines everything that’s fun about using the harpoon, and lets the player figure out how they want to approach and defeat the boss. Overall, you’re waiting for a boss to show his weak spot—sometimes after launching standard Rottenwoods at you—and then going to town on it with your harpoon. They never feel cheap, but also end quickly. I liked that I could really fly around in open areas with the harpoon in these, but I couldn’t help wonder if the bosses also felt more cathartic because the game’s regular encounters are so effortless.
As a whole, Olija is on the easier side, and I found myself only really dying because of the aforementioned imprecision with the trickier airborne harpoon throwing parts. I died probably 4 times, and I never felt stuck, though one puzzle in the game had me scratching my head (in a good way.) You’ll find that you lose health very slowly outside of pitfalls, and you won’t feel overpowered by enemies. Rather, you’re compelled to keep moving forward. The levels themselves—you’ll sail to different to isolated levels in an overworld after leaving the home base—are petite. However, given that the game has no map, and it might be frustrating to try to remember all the different paths in the levels, it’s likely best enjoyed in a few dedicated sittings.
Olija is also quite short, lasting about 4 hours, but each bit of the game feels condensed to a fine morsel of quality, and you’ll never feel like the game’s run out of steam. Having said that, there isn’t much variety to the game’s combat, nor is there any sort of scoring system, variable difficulty, or New Game + and, as it is very linear, it’s unlikely you’ll return to play it again, unless you’re tempted to watch some of the game’s more beguiling story moments.
Olija is a truncated but memorable experience, one that’s worth a look from any gamer who wants to be swept away on a seafaring journey. It isn’t a trailblazing new entry in the platformer genre, but its details have a certain magic that makes it feel greater than the sum of its parts. At 15 dollars, it’s an absolute catch.
Z Lane Media Network