Olija review: A stab at the dark

Devolver Digital
Devolver Digital /

Title: Olija
Developer: Skeleton Crew Studio, Thomas Olsson
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed on), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Release Date: January 28, 2021

2021 is finally here and with a new year, there are new experiences and what could be newer than a Metroidvania with pixelated graphics. Haha, I jest. But luckily Olija has a couple of features that help it stand out from the crowd.

Olija is a game that has been done by one man, Thomas Olsson, of Skeleton Crew Studios. In the game, you take control of a man named Faraday who gets shipwrecked in a land named Terraphage and must deal with the unimaginable evils that you can only cultivate when you name your land, essentially “land virus”. Shame on the people who colonized that town in the first place, what did you think you were going to invite?

Olija review
Devolver Digital /

Luckily…or unluckily…Faraday has found a legendary spear that has drawn all sorts of attention to him.

The game is animated in an art style that immediately makes me think of ancient games of my youth like “Out of this World”. It’s not bad-looking, especially considering that this game is the grungiest looking game ever. Almost every enemy is just some dark glob with random teeth. It’s like the game takes place on the floor of an oil change facility.

Olija review
Devolver Digital /

Despite the fact that the game has a minimalistic graphic style and a limited color pallet, Olija, especially during cut scenes or dramatic moments. I had several cutscenes (and oddly the title screen) where the game slows down so much I worry my Switch was about to freeze.

The game itself controls pretty well. You have your spear for basic attacks and then, hitting L will let you switch which of your secondary weapons your secondary attack button uses. This can be anything from a rapier to a shotgun. The third attack button allows you to throw your spear. And you will be throwing it a LOT.

The spear, in addition to being a weapon, is also your main mode of “transportation”. When you throw the spear, hitting the throw button again will call it right back into your hands. But if you hit enemies or any of the stage’s globby bits, you can summon yourself to the glob essentially teleporting you around.

You’ll know you hit something you can teleport to when you see the “thread” like energy bean like you can see in this picture showing I hit a thing directly above me.

Olija review
Devolver Digital /

You get other abilities as time goes on, like an ability for Faraday to absorb electricity into his spear…oooooh, I get his name now. Doing so will allow you to transform electricity into switches to open them.

Over the course of the game, you save people who move into your strange little dock down you built after being shipwrecked and you witness the town grow and become more colorful which is nice because outside of the town this game is dark. Not like evil hellish dark but like…sad and depressing. There will be people walking around who are just empty inside and staring blankly. People just walking into spikes with little care, not even making sounds when they die.

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This game is remarkably depressing so the gradual growth of your little makeshift town is a welcome oasis from the brooding. But the outside world was sad enough where I honestly weighed out if I wanted to even dock back out there.

6.5. Solid controls and fun exploration mechanics are somewhat marred by graphical slowdown and constant darkness — both in lighting and in depressing visuals and themes.. Devolver Digital. . Olija

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.