MTV Networks is not really known for releasing quality gaming titles. Potty Racers, Ski Runner, Bigby: L.A.P.D., these games are not exactly going to end up on any “Top” lists. But with their latest release of Oscura, a platformer developed by Viacom+Chocolate Liberation Front, they might just be thinking of jumping into the high quality iOS gaming ring. And hopefully, they make a big enough roar that they’re pushed to keep going.
The game takes place on an island where dark creatures are tucked away by a magical light held in a lighthouse outpost. Inevitably, the power crystal that harnessed this magical light exploded, scattering shards of the crystal all over the island, and covering the land in darkness. Oscura, as the light keeper, now has to embark on the dangerous task of collecting all of these shards, and restoring the light.
The controls are simple enough, touch on the left side of the screen to move left, the right side of the screen to move right, and touch both sides of the screen to jump. To jump while standing still, you’ll need to tap on both sides of the screen. If you hold down, you’ll end up going in one direction or the other. You are also able to double jump, and swipe on the screen to slow down time once you have enough power in your time gauge, which fills up as you collect shards of light. Generally, most platformer fans are not very big on games that don’t have virtual controls, but with the recent releases of Bring Me Sandwiches, Bean’s Quest, and the controls used here in Oscura, we’re quickly learning that platformers don’t need virtual controls to have controls that work wonderfully.
The graphics in Oscura are done in silhouette style, and along with the animations, character models, physics, colors that are used, and music (by Matt Murphy, and Chris Sullivan), all comes together to create an incredibly immersive, beautiful environment. As for level design, towards the beginning of the game, it’s a little bland, and pretty linear. But as you move on into the last half of the game, the designs get a lot better, using enemies and hazardous objects to reach platforms, and hidden areas you’ll need to find if you want to collect every item in the levels opens up quite a bit of options with the design, and Chocolate Liberation Front has done a great job taking advantage of that.
You’re able to collect 4 stars at the end of each level, one for time, one if you do not die, another for collecting all of the light shards, and lastly, one for collecting all of the gears. This is basically where all of the replay value is within the game, as collecting all of these stars will take gamers multiple playthroughs. There is no OpenFeint or GameCenter support, but with the star ratings, it doesn’t really take away from the replay value, but it is something that would be very welcome in a future update.
There are presently 7 levels, each taking about 1 to 3 minutes to beat, meaning that you will probably finish the game in about 15 to 20 minutes. This is where a lot of gamers will get turned off, and probably end up passing up this great game. Thankfully, as I mentioned, there are star ratings that you can try and grab once you complete the game, and grabbing all of them is a pretty nice challenge. There are 5 more levels that are said to be coming in the future, and hopefully the onslaught of very low ratings in the AppStore will not discourage the developers, and cause the game to never get updated, because even though there’s an ending for the game after you beat the 7th level, it’ll drive you crazy knowing that the developers had more in mind. There’s obviously more to the game, and Oscura is an adventure that deserves to be complete.
For $1.99, Oscura being Universal, and the amazing look and gameplay in this title, it’s definitely a game that platformer fans should check out. Chocolate Liberation Front has created an incredibly beautiful and well rounded game that is sure to grab quite a few extremely loyal fans. But, if you are not a gamer that goes after star ratings for levels, and is done with a game after they beat the last level, then you will probably feel like your $1.99 was not spent very well. Hopefully there are enough gamers out there that do play certain games to completion, and will try and step up to the challenge of getting every star filled in every level, because it would be a shame if Oscura faded into the pile of thousands of monotonous games floating around the AppStore.
Oscura gets a score of 4.5 out of 5.