We’re happy to have Nick Westwood, creator of Retro Break, offer a Spotlight Article to coincide with one of his recent video reviews. The following has been adapted for our site. Watch Nick’s full review, which also discusses some of his critical thoughts on the game, here:
Every once in a while, a game stands out from the rest and makes me excited for homebrew all over again. ONI is one of those games. Made by Pierre Joshua, its an action adventure game for the original Game Boy taking heavy inspiration from the formula of games such as Metroid and Zelda.
Before I even booted the game up, it grabbed my attention thanks to the really cool use of a cassette tape holder to store the game, as well as the nice shiny Game Boy cart. Awesome packaging aside, what is the game like, and why is it one of my favorite GB Studio games so far? Let’s find out!
Instead of a long intro with text, you’re thrust into a spaceship flying through asteroids, before descending onto the planet in a fun and responsive mini game. When you land on the planet, you’re immediately free to explore, no long winded tutorials here.
The game starts off quite basic, with you only able to walk around, although it’s not long until you find a few dead ends with the typical Zelda / Metroidvania approach of “come back here when you’ve got a certain item”. The game is littered with these little areas that you’ll need to remember later on.
Early into the game you will find an energy orb. As you collect them, you’re able to power up your ship and visit other planets. The whole game revolves around finding these orbs. It’s a singular and focused game play system, and always makes you feel like you’re making good progress every time you find one.
The game world feels compact, but well thought out with each screen being easily recognizable. With a map you can find, it really helps you get your bearings, and even gives a few hints for where to go next. Before long you’ll come across a few upgrades and without giving too much away, this opens up the game a lot in terms of movement and being able to explore. It makes it a lot more enjoyable to backtrack to previous areas to uncover new secrets and orbs.
As well as the exploring and puzzle solving, there’s also a range of boss encounters, each one with a different method of attacking and taking damage. To see such unique game play in a GB Studio game was quite refreshing!
The game is top tier action adventuring. It is a little on the short side and with only three main areas to explore you’ll easily beat the game in less than two hours. There are also some bugs that still need ironing out, but the main adventure is thoroughly entertaining the whole way through, with fantastic pacing and great level design.
The graphics are simple and clear, and I do like the fact that the entire game is in black and white, apart from the energy orbs. It makes them feel special and helps them stand out as the main collectable in the game. The main character and enemies all have nice simple sprites, and are well animated too. Despite the simple backgrounds, the game does a good job of separating the three different areas and making them feel unique and it all adds to the sense of scale and adventure.
The boss fights, and their introduction screens look very impressive for the system! With big sprites and cool designs too. There’s some nice cut scenes throughout too, with the tiles used for the main areas looking nice and clean.
The audio, composed by clip tune aficionado, Scott Semanski, is a definite highlight of the game, each track is very catchy, and I found myself humming along as I was playing.
While the game borrows heavily from other classic franchises, the actual style of game here, and the pacing, hasn’t actually been recreated in that many games on the system. The closest examples I can think of are Final Fantasy Adventure, and the three Zelda games.
It’s not as intricate as something like Links awakening, but the game can definitely hold its own as being one of the best action adventures on the system. There’s a lot of really exciting developments being made in the Homebrew community, and new games coming out and improving on each other all the time. It will be interesting to see if ONI can hold its place near the top of the genre in the coming years!
In conclusion, Oni is one of the best action adventure games I’ve played on the Game Boy so far, homebrew or otherwise! Aside from some awkward platforming sections, it is a well paced and intricately detailed Zelda/Metroid inspired adventure, with catchy music, fun boss fights, and a great core game loop of collecting energy to be able to explore further into the game world!
It does only take a few hours to complete, but it will leave a lasting impression and is definitely worth checking out!
The limited physical release of ONI is over, but you can still play and download the game over on Pierre’s itch page.
Retro Gaming Content Creator, Game Dev Graduate, and Game Boy Homebrew fan! (He/Him)