With all the massive open-world adventures that have found a happy home on Switch so far, it’s equally nice to see indie developers crafting compelling experiences on much smaller scales. OPUS: The Day We Found Earth, a narrative-driven mobile port from indie studio SIGONO, certainly fits into that category, and it’s an excellent addition to the Switch’s library of smaller gems. Taking digital stargazing as its central conceit, Opus is a brief but lovable adventure that’s definitely worth a closer look.

At OPUS’ outset, you’ll meet Emeth, the sweet, WALL-E-like robot that you’ll control throughout the game. Emeth is getting his first lessons in Earth-finding from Dr Lisa, the kindly scientist who built him. This serves as both your introduction and tutorial: Dr Lisa is part of the Opus mission to find the mythical human homeland of Earth, and Emeth’s job is to search the cosmos meticulously, orb by orb, until he finds a match.

We won’t spoil anything that comes next, both because OPUS is quite a short game (our playthrough takes about an hour and a half) and because it's a joy to discover for ourselves. After a presumed-predictable opening and some below-par writing at the start, OPUS’ narrative blossoms into a tale that kept our attention to the very end, to the point where we become genuinely invested in its tale.

In terms of gameplay, OPUS is - for want of a better phrase - a ‘telescope-based adventure’ — the basic flow of play involves looking through Emeth’s high-powered telescope, scanning a two-dimensional representation of space, finding certain planets (based on their similarity to Earth), and naming them whatever you wish, before returning to the ship to watch more of the story unfold. Interacting with objects around the ship point-and-click-style leads to new insights and clues, and discovering new planets can likewise open up new areas of the ship, so there’s a pleasing cyclical rhythm that keeps momentum strong throughout.

The telescope itself is fun to work; the left analog stick pans your view around the beautiful vastness of space, and you can inspect and interact with any celestial body you see by pressing the ‘A’ button. You’ll unlock various filters and upgrades for the telescope as the story progresses as well, all of which are simple and satisfying to use and which can help you on your quest. Being able to name each planet also adds a surprising amount of personal investment to the expedition, and coming up with suitable names based on the brief descriptions of each planet is a real treat.

Our only gameplay complaint is that the transitions between the ship and the telescope feel like they take longer than necessary, but here the game’s length works in its favour; in a 50-hour RPG, that would feel incredibly tedious, but in this movie-length adventure, it’s much more forgivable. Aside from looking for Earth-like planets, there are also a small set of ‘sidequests’ which see you searching for galaxies, stars, and supernovas. We really enjoy these, because while the story objectives are generally quite straightforward (it’s hard to really ‘miss’ any important planets) the hunt for galaxies and stars embodies the needle-in-a-haystack we imagine of actual astronomy, and finally zeroing in on your goal after searching the endless starry sea is a real thrill.

Though the core experience doesn’t change or evolve much through the experience, OPUS is short enough that deep-space telescoping doesn’t overstay its welcome. And while we won’t spoil exactly how it ends, the final act features an extremely effective blending of gameplay and story — so much so that we spent the last 20 minutes absolutely glued to the TV, almost unaware of the outside world. It’s immersive and affecting in the vein of Attack Of The Friday Monsters — as a small, self-contained story, we felt fully drawn into Emeth’s adventure.

Visually, OPUS’ art style is simple but cute - almost Playmobil-like - and cutscenes and stills have a hand-drawn charm. Out in space is a different story, however, and we loved looking at the stars, galaxies, and empty quadrants that make up this Milky Way map. It’s a smart choice for a game such as this, because while it’s not doing anything to put the Switch through its paces, it’s still gorgeous to look at by virtue of space itself.

The music and sound effects are equally important to that atmosphere, and the soundtrack in particular is very well done; it’s subtle and carefully employed, staying in the background during exploration but swelling powerfully to the forefront during dramatic scenes. Overall, OPUS is a great example of how relatively low-budget games can still shine in presentation; not only through technical ambition or unique art, but also through smart themes, charming details, and thoughtful touches.

Conclusion

Opus: The Day We Found Earth is a lovely little game. At more or less the length of a movie, it’s not going to keep you entertained for the weekend, but it’s perfect for a quiet night in. Digital stargazing is a surprisingly compelling pursuit, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with OPUS - it’s charming, affecting and proof positive that the Switch can be a wonderful storyteller.