Review: Omega Strike

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Review copy provided by developer

The great scourge of Steam over the past few years has been the flood of low-effort indie games, titles that do the bare minimum of their genres and sometimes not even that much. Omega Strike is not one of those games, for it is far more polished and enjoyable than what you might fish out of the vast seas of dreck. But beyond the solid fundamentals there is little else to find, making it a victim of a very similar syndrome. As much as I like Omega Strike, it is an excellent example of how important having unique hooks is for your game.

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Doctor Omega apparently studied at the Doctor Wily School of Villainy because after gifting the world with all sorts of scientific and military advances, he took it all over with his army of loyal, mindless mutants. The resistance has been whittled down to a squad of three, Sarge, Bear, and Dex, each possessing unique skills that will prove valuable in the battle for freedom. But Doctor Omega wouldn’t be a global tyrant if he ignored such details, and quickly whisks away Bear and Dex to break the back of the resistance. As Sarge, you must reassemble your team, work through Omega’s officers, and take the battle to the mad doctor once and for all.

Omega Strike is a traditional metroidvania, from the gridded maps all the way to the intro that briefly lets you play with your full team before locking them up. Ostensibly what sets this one apart is the three-man team you play as, with the ability to swap between them instantly. Sarge starts with a long-range assault rifle, and can learn to roll shimmy along pipes, and shoot out certain walls. Bear has a bouncing grenade launcher and can push heavy blocks, and later can bomb out some floors. Dex wields a close-range shotgun and can double-jump, with an air dash available near the end of the game. The gating and platforming challenges are all built around these abilities, with extremely obvious arrangements of hazards telegraphing what you should do where.

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“Extremely obvious” isn’t a bad way to describe the entire game, really. Once you get stripped of your powers and start hoofing it around as the lonely Sarge, there’s not going to be many places to go besides straight on. You’ll come to the one town in the game, Tumbleweed, fully stocked with an upgrade vendor, food vendor, plot NPC, place to grind money, and guy who trades collectibles for health upgrades. From there you take a helicopter to the other levels in the game, each one conveniently gated by a specific power you need to recover in sequence. Your first two sojourns will get your comrades back, and after that you’ll be piecing together all your powers to access the rest of the world. There’s some token exploring to do alongside, but it’s entirely taking side routes to find health upgrades or money.

The problem with Omega Strike is that that’s it. That’s all you do. Enter level, follow roundabout path to boss, maybe stop for collectibles, beat boss, get power for next level. Repeat that seven times or so, backtrack to other stages for 100% completion if you must, and then do it in one last stage to win. The lack of compelling secrets is absolutely killer here, because there’s simply no respite from the samey running and gunning. No weapon upgrades besides the stat boosts you buy, no treasures besides money you won’t need past the halfway mark, and no items besides extra health kits. The combat itself is entertaining as long as you don’t get sick of it, but spreading powers out between three characters was a mistake. I played almost the entire game as Dex because he’s got the double jump, air dash, AND a shotgun. I mean, come on.

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It’s not a hard game, either. I never died once, and only got close in the very final battle because it was unexpectedly three phases. The soft pixel graphics are befitting the gentle journey, along with the understated sound effects. And y’know, there is some neat stuff here like how enemies always pop a head or something off when they die, which you can shoot (if your timing is good) for a second chance at an item drop. But in the end, Omega Strike has the opposite problem from most indie platformers. A lot of games out there have grand ideas but poor executions, whereas Omega Strike has a wonderful execution but pretty vapid ideas. It’s a great template for a metroidvania but it feels like the hooks, the really compelling parts, were never filled in. I enjoyed it enough to finish it, but hopefully the team at Woblyware has a more ambitious chaser in the pipe after this.

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