Game Reviews

Review: Oscura: Second Shadow. A simple, silhouetted side-scroller

Back before it was trendy, bordering on trite, for games to feature a silhouetted foreground with a colorful background, Oscura was a side-scrolling game that featured that design.  While the original didn’t garner much attention (it’s sitting at 50,000+ downloads despite being a worthwhile play that’s been around for ~3 years), a sequel has been released called Oscura 2: Second Shadow

The game is set in a land that is lit by the Aurora stone. As explained in the introduction of the game, The story is simple. There is an evil creature that steals this glowing stone, only for this creature to see it shatter while in its grasp. Oscura, the guardian of the stone, must go forth to locate the shards of the Aurora stone that are scattered about, to restore the stone and repel the darkness that has enveloped the land. With that backdrop in mind, the silhouette style seems to fit.

The appearance is simple, but in a way that works. While the game seems to have a consistent feel throughout, each level is brightly lit by a single color in the background, against which the game is played. Some are orange, others are green or purple, so the variety of the game is mostly in the layout of the levels as the appearance of the game doesn’t vary much. The soundtrack is a simple and repetitive tune that doesn’t seem to stand out one way or the other. It fits in with the simplicity of the game (catching a theme yet?). It’s nothing I could really recall when I wasn’t playing the game, but it didn’t grate on me either.

The controls for the Oscura 2 are similar to the original in that there’s both swipe and gesture controls, as well as on-screen buttons, with the latter being my preference. The levels are much like the first game in that players are to dodge monsters and navigate around giant cogs or pits laden with spikes, while running, jumping, riding, and sliding through various platforms and terrain. Players are graded on how well they complete a given level, with metrics including time taken to complete the level, number of deaths (if any), and how many gear pieces are found out of the four hidden on every level. The sequel also carries over  from the first game, the ability to greatly slow time down for tricky parts of the game.

This game has added a few things that its predecessor lacked though, all of which are improvements. First, players can now restart their level from the pause menu; considering that players are timed, it’s a nice addition that the original didn’t have. Second, the levels contain new mechanics in addition to the ones familiar from the first game. For example, there are large crates that can be pushed around and used to solve puzzles. Second, there are large springs similar to the ones found in the classic Sonic games, both in shape and function. Both of these add new and positive elements to the gameplay.

The only detraction I can see in Oscura 2 is that the game is short. There are twenty levels and they’re fairly short, many of them can be completed in under three minutes if you play through the level without dying. Your “money’s worth ” comes from striving to achieve four stars on every level. Doing so requires multiple playthroughs as players work to shave seconds off their time or find the ever difficult fourth gear; those are hidden much better than in the first Oscura, by the way. I consistently found 3/4 whereas in the first game it was much easier to find all of them.

So if you aren’t burned out on silhouetted games yet, or especially if you enjoyed the original Oscura, do check this.

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