Paleozoic's Olympia Rising initially started as a campaign on Kickstarter in 2014. Fans were drawn in by the nostalgia of old 2D platformers and hoped Olympia Rising could live up to expectation. A unique mix of Greek mythology along with the classic genre, this game definitely delivers in terms of visuals and story, but is lacking in terms of control and execution.
Olympia Rising follows the story of Iola, a young warrior hero who meets an untimely demise at the hand of a monster and is cast to the Underworld. Rumours say she is able to escape during the time of the 'The Purge' when wandering souls are consumed by acid pits. Lola decides to take the risk and must defeat various bosses and obstacles in order to exit and reach Mount Olympus.
The game appears to follow a fairly simple formula as you simply clear levels in order to progress; Iola comes face to face with various levels including fire, ice, etc. However, she must collect enough coins in order to progress to the next level, and this is where it's a little complicated. Obolous coins are scattered around the levels and you must collect enough in order to please Charon, the gatekeeper. These levels alternate, so sometimes you will be able to just collect coins at your leisure, and sometimes you will be on a timer trying to collect coins and reach the top before you are struck by lava. The coins would be OK if they amounted to anything more than progressing to the next level, but here they just seem a little pointless. It would be more fun if there was a Super Mario style level up at a certain amount of coins, or if you could cash them in for weapons.
Iola uses a sword to battle enemies, and is able to use power ups to help her in combat. Fire is a useful mechanic - it allows you to shoot flames and get at enemies from a distance. Then there is water, which creates a defensive bubble shield around you and will not let you get hit. Lastly, there is a lightning power which can strengthen the sword. All the power ups are relatively useful, but some more care could have been taken with the sword itself. It's fairly short, and means you have to get super close to the enemy in order to strike a hit. The hit area seems a bit biased as well, with enemies managing to get a hit in way more often than Iola, which can get frustrating. You can also perform combos in order to get extra coins, again quite a fiddly execution but fun once you get the hang of it.
Olympia Rising is not a necessarily difficult game, only in terms of its limitations which could have been rectified before release. The controls are hard to get the hang of - Iola has a lot of momentum but this means you end up missing jumps or knocking into a wall and falling back down to the bottom. There are also blind jumps, which are particularly jarring. Sometimes you will have to fall down in order to progress further, and sometimes this can lead to you dying. It would have been good to be able to look down, as a lot of these deaths feel unjustified. The lava levels can also be frustrating; if a game is to have a timed level, it would fare better to be a very minimal and bare section of the game in order to allow you to focus on escaping. However, with Olympia Rising the timed levels are just as well designed as the leisurely levels, meaning that you feel a bit cheated not being able to explore and collect coins at your own pace.
The pixel style of the game is a fantastic and welcome nod to other platforming greats from the NES days, and the characters are designed and executed wonderfully. A lot of them have great personality, and the setting is lovely to look at. Sometimes, however, the background blends in with the platforms, meaning that you don't really know what is able to be interacted with and not. This takes a little bit of trial and error to get used to. The only characters which could have used a little work are the bosses. We all know how it works with games such as these - the boss has a pattern which you get used to and you try and dodge their attacks and get a hit in where possible. In Olympia Rising there isn't really any such depth to the bosses, in fact you just have to hit the heck out of them and hope for the best. It would have been a lot more enjoyable if the bosses had slightly more distinction than just regular enemies.
The music is pleasant, and you can tell that a lot of care went into both this and the art. These are definitely the game's strong points, and will reel people in with these two charming qualities. The sound effects are also great, although one small gripe is that the sound of being hit matches the sound of an enemy being hit, so you will have to check your heart meter to see who is in trouble!
Olympia Rising is a rather short experience lasting about 6 hours in total, but it of course depends on when you get all your coins and how long you take to complete a level. It is also fairly inexpensive, so quite a good bargain overall. There isn't much in the way of replayability, which is why it would have been nice for the coins to be worth a bit more, as it would be worth going back and collecting those as an extra challenge.
Olympia Rising is a good platformer, but in such a saturated genre it needs to impress more than in does. The characters, story and visuals contribute to the positives, but more care needed to be taken with controls and hit points to make the game less frustrating. There is much to be enjoyed if you are able to look past the negatives, and if that's the case with you it is a worthy addition to your library.