If you’re a fan of survival horror games, then chances are you’ve played one where the lead character finds some sort of evidence or key item. Oftentimes, these pieces of evidence or items are in the form of a child’s drawing. The drawing looks like it’s been made with crayon; hastily scribbled to show dark imagery that encompasses what was seen through the eyes of said child. I’ve always liked this. It adds an extra level of terror to a game since a child witnessed something no child should have to. In Omori, a modest chunk of the game feels like one of these creepy drawings. The game has been described as a psychological horror RPG, so this ambience feels correct. I went into Omori expecting something like Corpse Party with turn-based battles. While there are scary moments, the kick in the pants is that game has more similarities to games like Earthbound. I don’t recommend Omori as a result, even if the story is one of the highlights.
Omori features the titular character living in White Space – a blank canvas of a room. The only other occupant is Omori’s cat. There’s also his sketchbook, a computer, and a box of tissues. Omori is able to leave White Space so he can spend time with his favorite people. There are his friends Aubrey, Hero, and Kel. There’s also his sister, Mari. The most important member of the posse is Basil, a sensitive soul that loves flowers and has a special bond with Omori. Unfortunately, Basil has gone missing. One moment Omori and his friends are looking at Basil’s photo album. The next, Basil panics and causes Omori to pass out. Now, Omori needs to journey together with his friends to bring Basil home.
The story’s setup is fascinating. Within the first hour, we not only learn about the overall objective, but we also see that White Space is only part of the bigger picture. In other words, there are parts where you’ll play as Omori and his friends, and there are parts where you’ll explore a more realistic setting. The way the story is often told through well-written dialogue between Omori’s friends and any relevant NPCs. There’s also a solid chunk of morbid imagery and symbolism. Unfortunately, with this setting comes jump scares. I still don’t get why creators use these. The story’s tonal shift often feels contrived, too. One second there’s a heavy depiction of trauma and suicide. The next second you’re fighting snot bubbles. But, I think the biggest issue is the amount of game time it takes for the game to get the point. The big reveals are dangled in front of the player constantly. Getting to the point took too long.
A quick look at Omori shows a presentation similar to Pokémon Red and Blue. You move Omori and his friends through strange worlds that are filled with discoveries and enemies. Omori can Tag his friends to change the leader. Each character has a unique action that they can perform that’s used for clearing puzzles and dungeons. Also, each character has a unique weapon and is able to equip one accessory to improve their combat performance. It’s standard stuff, but exploration is similar to the story in that there’s too much of it. Tiny 2D sprites navigate massive areas. It takes far too long to get from point A to point B. Reaching the finish line feels like an endless endeavor.
As Omori and his squad move through junkyards, underground caves, the belly of a whale, and more, there are enemies on the field ready for a fight. Omori’s combat is turn-based and moves at a snappy pace. Here’s a Kashell Tip – play this game on the highest speed setting. The battle system is easy to grasp. Simply input your commands (attack, use a skill, use an item) and watch the action unfold. It doesn’t take long for the other features to open up. As Omori and his friends take damage, they’ll build up Energy. For three points of Energy, you can have a friend take an action immediately after someone else’s. For instance, having Hero give a follow-up command to Aubrey will cause Aubrey to recover some health and allow her a free attack. When the Energy meter reaches 10, Omori can have everyone perform an all-out attack for high damage. The game starts rough since skill and equipment options are limited. The fun reaches its max potential after everyone grow more powerful; this doesn’t take long, either. It really makes your team feel like a cohesive unit.
One aspect of combat that never felt like it reached its full potential is the Emotions system. Your friends and the enemies can become angry, sad, or happy. Supposedly, happy beats angry, angry beats sad, and sad beats happy. Happy characters have higher lucky and speed, but a lowered hit rate. Angry characters hit harder but take more damage. Sad characters take less damage, lose both HP and MP from attacks, and have low speed. I hardly paid attention to any of this. After a certain point, combat becomes a simple, button mashing affair. Boss battles weren’t that much different: just use items (you get plenty from treasures and simple side-quests) to recover and use team attacks to deal extra damage.
Along with writing, it’s clear the developers wanted to do everything to get that M rating. With a cutesy 2D look with and lots of dark moments (again, think of something like Corpse Party) it makes for an interesting dichotomy. Character art is expressive, and the enemy designs are creative. Real life photos often get transposed into the game which makes for fascinating look. I mentioned that the areas are too big, but another problem is how nine out of ten times the images have twitchy movement. It’s annoying and distracting. Really, the only area that doesn’t have any issues is the music. The soundtrack delivers at every instance. If the text didn’t have blips for every letter, then the audio would be perfect.
To be honest, I should have known that I wasn’t going to like Omori before I even started it. The constant comparisons it got to Undertale and Earthbound (two games I strongly dislike) and the footage I saw made it look like another artsy-fartsy indie title that tried to be edgy while delivering biting humor. The sad thing is that I really liked how the game started. I saw glimpses of promise in getting the story across in a dark, unique way. It just took far too long to get to the good stuff. There was too much reading the same thing. There was too much wandering. Everything about the game felt so pretentious that it made appreciating those moments of greatness difficult. Ultimately, I don’t recommend the game. It’s not because of the game’s themes, but because it’s a drag to play.
Overall, 4/10: What could have been a zippy dive into psychological terror turned out to be an exercise in patience. Omori isn’t worth monotony.