I’ve been playing Owlboy on the Nintendo Switch for a majority of this past week and I find it to be such an incredibly charming game. From very early on, the music, aesthetic, and the game’s sympathetic protagonist Otus draws you into the world that it has created and fills you with a sense of wonder.
What I did not expect, however, was for Owlboy to have such a stark dichotomy between these elements and the path that the narrative takes. For a game filled with such peace and beauty, Owlboy isn’t afraid to navigate some dark, and incredibly realistic, themes. I think a lot of this stems from Otus himself, as he is a character filled with many flaws.
The most apparent of these issues that Otus deals with is that he is mute. While most other games would create a silent protagonist with no explanation for their lack of speech, Owlboy places this absence of verbal communication at the forefront of Otus’ personal and mental struggles. In addition to this adversity to communicate with others, Otus has been filled with constant doubts as he consistently disappoints his mentor, Asio. All of these conflicts in unison fill Otus with self-doubt that is central to his character’s arc.
Otus is a character that you want to root for. He’s someone that you so desperately want to see succeed. This desire to see Otus save the world and prove that he isn’t a failure is what has made Owlboy so compelling for me. I also want to endlessly give credit to D-Pad Studio for finally doing something unique with the silent protagonist angle.
What’s arguably the most beautiful thing about Owlboy to me though is what it says about friendship. At its core, friendship is the main theme of the game, not to mention the main game mechanic as well. With the help of his closest friend Geddy and a handful of other characters that he meets along his journey, Otus finds the strength to pick himself up and learn to harness courage, confidence, and bravery. This doesn’t just extend to Otus though, as he is also there to pick his friends up and be a shoulder–or wing– for them to cry on when they are grieving.
As I mentioned, this working in tandem with friends feeds directly back into the gameplay of Owlboy and is unlike anything I’ve really seen in a game before. While Otus himself can’t do much other than fly, he can carry his friends around the world and have them aid him to shoot down enemies or solve puzzles. Friendship isn’t just what’s used to overcome personal struggles for each character, it’s what’s needed to beat every boss, collect every coin, and earn each collectible.
The one thing about Owlboy that has perhaps surprised the most is how compelling I’ve found the world to be. While the overall narrative of the game is rather straightforward, what I wasn’t expecting was how much time would be spent fleshing out the history and lore of the world. There are some really interesting twists throughout Owlboy that I didn’t see coming and as a result, they further piqued my interest in this world and the backstory to it. I’m unsure if D-Pad Studio would ever make a sequel to Owlboy, but I would definitely like to see other stories told in this land.
Nintendo Switch’s version of Owlboy is an incredibly well-done port. I’ve noticed no issues whatsoever and the graphical styling and color palette of Owlboy make it feel inherently like an old-school Nintendo game. I’ve also played Owlboy exclusively in handheld mode so far and the game feels so very natural this way. Between the throwback graphics and method of playing in handheld, Owlboy has reminded me greatly of titles I used to play on my Game Boy or Game Boy Advance as a kid some fifteen years ago.
Reading back on our original review of Owlboy, I find myself generally agreeing with our reviewer Steven Santana on all aspects of the game. After hearing the many praises of Owlboy for the past few years, I had my doubt that it would live up to such lofty expectations. While I still have a bit more left to finish in my own playthrough, so far I’ve found Owlboy to be just as good as it has been made out to be. If you’re looking to finally check it out for yourself, I can definitely recommend the Switch version of the game, especially if you’re looking for a dash of that Game Boy era nostalgia.