Omno is an easy game. It’s unchallenging in every sense of the word. You already know the controls. You’ve seen this general graphical style before and can quickly read the environments. The gameplay loop is familiar: explore, platform, do a sliding-block puzzle, reach a new area. The story is simple and doesn’t dig very deep. There are no enemies; you have no lives and can’t die. It’s pretty to look at and gentle to listen to. It’s fairly short. It’s an easy game.
It’s easy by design, and commendably easy in practice. There are no intended hindrances, and almost no accidental hindrances like weird clipping or overlong checkpoints. The platforming sometimes loses its footing slightly – jump distances occasionally fall irritatingly between your normal range and a boost ability, and it’s not always clear if a route was intended to be climbed or you just fudged it.
The feel of the gameplay starts off airy and imprecise, failing to create a sense of traction with the proudly showcased landscapes. However, abilities introduced later on absolutely do deliver a palpable grip on the world, making simple traversal of open plains and toppled relics much more entertaining.
The scenario is of the vaguish style deployed by the likes of Ico and Journey, with things kicking off mostly unexplained. You’re following guiding lights – on a pilgrimage, it gradually transpires. Rune-covered stones along the way deliver cryptic snippets of wisdom, but it’s all fairly weak flavour that takes a while to taste of much. An unfortunately persistent trend among PC-sourced games on Switch continues here: minuscule text. The sparse story is perhaps for the best when players without 20:20 vision may struggle to read it.
There’s an obvious comparison with 2012’s Journey on PS3 – a thematic similarity and a quiet focus on open environments and epic vistas. The macro-level scenery holds its own, but the simple graphical style means there aren’t details to be compounded to build a rich, weighty world. Likewise, the feather-touch storytelling can’t generate the emotional investment until, through sheer persistence, the latest stages of the game start to feel meaningful.
The lack of threat to the player further softens any impact. Something like Planet Alpha makes you feel scale through dangerous interactions with the huge entities around you. Omno’s giant canyons and creatures can’t hit home in the same way. That’s a necessary trade-off for a relaxed, peaceful experience – you’ll need to decide if you’d rather have your cake or eat it in this regard.
If Omno does click with you, there’s an encyclopedia of creatures to discover and plenty more puzzles to find and solve beyond what’s necessary for progression. All that may just bump your playtime up to double figures.
Solo developer Jonas Manke has aimed for the comfort of an easy-in-every-way game and hit the mark. The play feel of the later game and gorgeous environments are what lift it above a paint-by-numbers explore-em-up. It will test neither your skill nor your patience, with solid execution that respects the player’s time. While there’s little to blow you away, there’s lots to impress, delivered confidently and without asking much in return.