In the same vein as Abzu, Journey, and the recent AER: Memories of Old, Oure likes to keep itself a little vague. Developer Heavy Spectrum, best known for its work on last year’s Shadow of the Beast, has taken clear inspiration from the likes of thatgamecompany’s masterpiece – but does this help turn Oure into a memorable experience? Unfortunately, it’s one we’re hoping to forget.
You play as a boy who has the ability to turn into a dragon whom when he was young had dreams of a sprawling cloudscape up in the sky. Now a little older, the boy’s parents decide to take him there through a doorway where he is given the task of re-awakening titans, mythological beasts that used to protect the world. The boy then sets out on this quest, taking advantage of his dragon form to traverse the clouds.
The premise itself is fairly interesting, invoking the likes of Shadow of the Colossus, but the plot is told in so many fits and starts that it’s hard to grasp a real understanding of what’s going on. Upon every titan re-awakening the boy will hear from his parents as they encourage him to proceed, and collectibles spread throughout the world provide a small amount of context, but apart from that you’re left to your own devices. What starts out as inspiring quickly fades into obscurity as you’re not entirely sure why you’re doing any of it.
Oure takes place above the clouds, and it’s here you’ll spend the majority of your time. The core gameplay loop revolves around collecting blue orbs floating in the sky, which are then used to power up machinery found within the heavens, and it’s this equipment that will spawn a titan once switched on. You’ll find every tool and orb by performing a spin as the dragon and this will “hilight” (as the game puts it) every notable pick-up within your vicinity. This mechanic is essential to navigation as there are absolutely no memorable landmarks to fall back on if you’re unsure of where to go. The environment simply consists of clouds and generic structures, and it’s easy to get lost.
Once you do spawn a titan, it’s time to calm it. This is done by shattering small crystals upon their body, and you’ll accomplish that by solving incredibly simple puzzles. You must manoeuvre a square around a short maze in order to get it to the other end, and you only have so many turns to do it in. These brain teasers do get slightly tougher as you reach the latter titans, but they’re never anywhere near challenging. In fact, you’ll follow those same exact steps to re-awaken every single titan in the game. It gets tedious very, very quickly, and the only mechanic that can even begin to quell that monotony is the ever so slight twist each titan has to halt your progress.
Some will shoot laser balls at you, another has you lighting up gems in a specific order, and one more will task you with steering the boy around a big maze while the titan shifts from left to right. It’s this last spin and the titan that follows up on it that lead to some of the most frustrating moments across the whole game. The maze-like puzzle feels like it is down to sheer luck if you manage to grab hold of the crystals or not, and the follow-up titan is a lesson in how not to do to handle a conundrum. Every titan suffers from this, but these two in particular highlight the boring grind of the trial and error gameplay present.
While these faults are exclusive to the titan fights, there’s many more flaws that affect the entire experience. The biggest blunder are the controls, which are utterly diabolical. Actually controlling the dragon is a tougher test than anything the game throws at you thanks to their unresponsive, clunky, and imprecise nature. And the camera doesn’t fare much better, which frequently gets in the way of things and only causes more frustration.
The pastel colour art you saw debuted in the game’s announcement trailer may well look good on paper, but in practise it proves to be a bit of a hindrance. The entire game is very blurry, which makes seeing things past the immediate area you’re in a bit of a chore. The decision to go with this fuzzy look is a confusing one as it actively hurts the experience as a whole.
Oure’s campaign will take you around three to four hours to finish, and upon completion you’ll unlock New Game + which lets you re-enter the world in a search for orbs and collectibles. However if anything, this highlights yet another defect. There’s 750 orbs to collect throughout the world. Why you ask? We’re not entirely sure. You only need 150 orbs to complete the story, and outside of a few collectibles that require five orbs to unlock, they just seem to be there for the sake of it. It’s padding that has absolutely no worth.
Oure is a masterclass in how not to follow up on the success of Abzu and Journey. A seemingly interesting set-up quickly disappears, repetitive and frustrating gameplay dampens the experience further, and the abysmal controls make every second spent playing a depressing chore.