While using the word “wholesome” to describe a game can at times be overly twee or bring to mind notions of toxic positivity, there is value in applying the word to certain games. Omno, the puzzle platformer from Studio Inkyfox, being one of them.
As a reviewer, I’d tell you that Omno is deserving of the ‘wholesome’ label as it is a soothing game that, through its low-stakes and highly unique world, asks you to put aside your worries and just explore. But I’d rather tell you as a player: Omno is like a warm bath, or that feeling you get when you fall back on your bed after a long day and don’t have to think about anything for just a little bit. Omno is just charming.
You play as a nameless figure, waking up in a strange world without memories, but called forward towards the light. In platforming your way to this final portal leading to who knows where, you encounter strange creatures living across the lands as snatches of the world’s history, as well as the story of the character’s people, are uncovered.
This wordless and ambiguous way of storytelling has understandably lent Omno comparisons to Journey, Abzû, and the like. From the use of stone-carved glyphs to depict important moments in time for the mysterious civilization, to more mechanical elements such as the staff-surfing, it’s evident that inspiration was taken from these games.
Yet while Omno doesn’t quite reach the same emotional heights as Journey does, it never gives a sense that it was trying to. Omno’s sense of scale is one of its strongest elements. It’s clearly ambitious in the way it has been crafted over the past five years by solo developer Jonas Manke; the sheer amount of creatures, puzzles, and world elements that are so effortlessly fixed into a 4-5 hour long game make that clear.
But at the same time, the game never over stretches itself. Omno seems self-aware enough to know its own limitations and doesn’t try to be more than it is, ultimately creating a gameplay experience that is peaceful and enjoyable – evoking the spirit of Journey, without attempting to replicate it.
This is underpinned by the soft, colourful style of the game. The flora and fauna that you meet are unique in design and provide some really heartwarming interactions. The creatures that wander through the levels with you do have some mechanical purpose – each animal can share light with you which can then be used to release larger orbs of light that help unlock the portal to the next area. But there are other ways to attain this light, meaning that these creatures could go unmet without repercussion. However, with their individual and adorable designs, I’d be surprised if any players finished the game having not met all 41 of them.
Mechanically, Omno’s puzzles and platforming run smoothly. Areas are expansive enough that adventuring through them is satisfying and yet limited enough that you’ll leave with the satisfaction of having seen everything. Similarly, the puzzles themselves find a balance between being substantial and yet undemanding, though they are at times a little too repetitive across chapters. Still, there’s something about the ease at which you can play this game that only builds on its wholesomeness.
Underscoring the atmosphere of the game is the original soundtrack from Benedict Nichols. The music leisurely follows the character as they move between environments, fading in different songs to match the achievements of you as the player. On collecting enough light to open the portal in one stage, I was met with a joyous piece of music as I jumped onto my staff to surf my way back, filling me with a sense of accomplishment.
Of course, it’s not a new thing for celebratory music to play when unlocking a feat or finishing a level. But the music is so evocative of otherworldly adventure while the gameplay avoids high-stakes or greatly complex puzzles, that you are given a huge sense of accomplishment over relatively small completions. Only adding to the soothing atmosphere, reminding you that not everything has to be a grind to be worthwhile in the end.
Omno is a special game. Not ground-breaking, not enlightening. But it doesn’t need to be and it’s not trying to. The finished result is all the more meaningful because of that. Omno is a game about finding comfort in the journey. With its visuals, gameplay, story, and score, the game successfully becomes a reflection of that goal. And I know I’ll be revisiting it for a long while to come.
Tested on PS4
Also available on PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Developer Jonas Manke
Publisher Studio Inkyfox
Disclosure a copy of Omno was provided by Future Friends Games