Ah, JoyMasher… as a fellow Brazilian gamer, you feel my heart with pride. In 2019, you brought to Xbox the amazing Blazing Chrome (available on Gamepass… If you haven’t played it yet, you really should give it a try!) and the challenging Oniken. But there’s still one more title released on the final days of 2019: Odallus: The Dark Call.
First released for PCs in 2015 and now brought to consoles under the wings of Digerati, Odallus: is an action platformer where you play as Haggis, a former warrior who has a single reason to live: his beloved son. Former warrior, now a hunter who ventures in the wild to provide for him. When one night, while sitting by the campfire, deeply immersed in his thoughts, he hears a strange noise from far, far away. Fearing for the worst, he runs back to his village and finds it being consumed by flames. Now he departs in an adventure to find his son and make the responsible for his disappearing pay for it. Grab your sword and prepare to explore a land forgotten by God in this retro adventure!
What do you do? In Odallus: The Dark Call, you will explore non-linear levels and fight men and monsters alike while searching for your son. Collect your enemies’ souls and trade them for items and power-ups that can help you survive against some grotesque monstrosities that can have some info about your son’s whereabouts.
What we liked!
- Metroidvania-like exploration: In Odallus you will venture through a menacing dark world while searching for your son. But no one will blame you for looking for treasures and exploring each level after secrets as you do it. When not facing enemies, you may even find alternative routes that can take you to secret levels and pieces of equipment. While in the level-select menu you can check for how many secrets a level yet must be discovered, helping those who aim to find every secret the game is hiding. You will need to do a lot of backtracking, returning to levels previously beaten after acquiring new weapons and abilities that will allow you to reach new places. Players who love this kind of exploration will rejoice with this game!
- Cosplaying: Our hero Haggis can use new skins that are an homage to some of the games it takes inspiration from: you can dress like a Royal Knight (Ghouls’n Goblins), a Vampire Hunter (Castlevania) and a Red Gargoyle (Demon’s Crest ). These are the ones I’ve unlocked so far, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are still others to find. It’s worth mentioning that not only your skin will make you look like the heroes from those games, but when using them you will jump as they did in each title. A little detail that may pass unnoticed for the younglings, but older players like me will remember.
- Visuals: The retro visuals of Odallus, like JoyMasher other titles, are a beautiful work of pixel art, a true homage to the great adventures we keep in our memory. Scenarios and enemies have a limited color pallet, like in the 8-bit era, and animations and visual effects are very simplistic, but the great level of detail in its characters and beautiful backgrounds tilt the balance in its favor. The different equipment our hero can use change his visual, summing a few more points to its positive score.
- Your arsenal: To someone in a search and rescue mission, I believe Haggi’s arsenal is very basic: he uses only the sword and armor he had in his possession while hunting in the woods. Thankfully, in his adventures, he will find new accessories like bracelets and boots that grant him new abilities like breathing underwater and dash. And besides the accessories, you can also count with secondary weapons you can find in chests or buy from the vendor. These include axes, spears, and torches that have two main uses: the first and more logic is helping you defeat your enemies. The second one is using them in your exploration. ‘But how?’, you ask. Well, think about melting an ice block by throwing a torch on it. Very clever from the development team.
- Audio: Retro visuals and pixel graphics are usually accompanied by chiptune music in most of the games. In Odallus it’s no different. There are some good sound effects and engaging music (like the songs during boss battles), but they feel very repetitive and unremarkable. Some more variation to its soundtrack would be welcome to this game.
What we disliked
- Confusing menu: I love when a studio develops a game stuffed with retro inspiration and/or references, paying attention to little details like your hud and items menu. But JoyMasher went a little further in the level-select menus in Odallus: The Dark Call. The navigation in it is very confusing, what pissed me off more than once. There is not much clarity with its navigation.
- Gameplay issues: Unfortunately, Odallus isn’t free of issues in your gameplay. But frankly speaking: what game is nowadays? Here we have two main problems: the first one when you need to climb something. First, Haggis will hang on the edge to climb it later. But constantly I had problems by not pushing the analog in the right angle, making him fall. It was especially frustrating in levels where you need to do it fast. I don’t need to mention I died several times, do I? The other problem is when you need to throw one of your secondary weapons and quickly turn. Sometimes the animation started when I was looking left, but the weapon was thrown right because I’ve turned right after doing it. Yes, there’s the possibility I moved before the weapon was thrown, but I find it hard to believe.
I must confess that when I picked two games from JoyMasher to review in a row (Oniken: Unstoppable Edition and Odallus: The Dark Call) I was afraid the similarities between them would somehow prejudice my judgment and experience with the game. And I was afraid I would end up repeating most of what I said in my review for Oniken (especially because I love retro games!). Now, after finishing my review, I can tell you this thought couldn’t be more inaccurate. The games carry some similarities, this is true, but their resemblances are only in the technical area (visuals, audio and retro feeling). Saying these games are similar is the same as saying COD and BF, FIFA and PES, Fortnite and PUBG, Pokémon and Digimon have no differences. We all know they carry some similarities, but these pairs are completely different experiences. And Odallus is an amazing experience. It is challenging, has an interesting story and a gameplay style I love – and most of Metroidvania fans will love it too. This is a game I can easily recommend for those eager for a challenging 2D adventure
With a history of gaming that goes from his old man’s Atari 2600 to his Xbox One, Rafael or RAF687, our Brazilian editor, has a love for games as old as he can remember. He has already spent countless hours in many consoles (Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega Saturn, PS1, PS2 and Xbox 360) and is always ready for more (as long as his wife is asleep). Raf has been writing for LifeisXbox since 2017, with a passion for games of almost all genres – though we know he has a special place in his heart for RPGs, racing games and anything that includes pixel art. Writing about games has always been a childhood dream to Raf, dream that he has fulfilled reviewing games for you here. You can drop him a message at Twitter, Facebook or Xbox Live at any time.