Deep in the stillness of underground caves carved into rocks and crystal, removed from the world, there is an empty shell. Yet, life finds its way through the darkness, and by filling the shell, sparks a light. With the light comes a sound, and the waves of this communion propagate in all directions. In Onde, you inhibit this shell and set forth on a journey of light and darkness, discovering a world of wonders in the process. I played Onde’s demo during the Steam Next Fest – and I really enjoyed it. Today, we’re going more into detail on this beautiful title!
Developer: Lance, 3-50 Publisher: Mixtvision Genre: Atmospheric, Indie, Puzzle, 2D, Platforming, Adventure Release Date: March 17th, 2022 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC, Switch, iOs Copy was provided by the publisher.
Onde is a smooth “sound-surfing” platformer where you ride waves in an ethereal world. After inhibiting this aforementioned shell, you set out into this dark world and swim through various areas, each introducing new mechanics to the game. The jellyfish you control is accompanied by four smaller fish that can inhibit nearby plants, producing bigger sound waves on a simple button press. In this game, you don’t really move around yourself and rather let the waves and tides move you. Yes, you can navigate to the left and right on the waves themselves but for the most part, it’s about creating waves and letting them move you in a way that allows you to reach new heights, avoid obstacles, or get out of perilous situations. As you move on, you’ll find yourself discovering new mechanics that then tie into various puzzles and just when you thought that a game like this can’t be taken further, the devs surprise you with a new mechanic that challenges you – in a good way!
I really enjoyed the experience of Onde. It reminded me a little bit of games like Flower and Journey, as well as GRIS and ABZÛ. All of these have in common that they’re beautiful to look at while also providing you with unique mechanics that make the game fun and unique. Onde is no exception to this and while I found myself reminded of those titles there, Onde seems unique in its own way, providing you with rather challenging puzzles and interesting platforming segments. Visually, it’s a stunning game with a rather simple art style depicting elegant and abstract artwork. The waves that you ride in Onde are bright and colourful while the areas around you often seem very alien and dark, which makes for a lovely contrast. But even after the darkest depths comes a light at the end of the tunnel and as you follow it, you’ll be surprised by the beauty presented to you. Another part of the great experience is the wonderful soundtrack providing you with relaxing melodies and even more electronic rhythms in the background as you move through the different areas. Each area has its own theme and hence the music changes with it. Similarly, the journey overall feels very “zen-like”. Moving around and bouncing on waves creates sounds as well, seemingly giving you some reign over the soundtrack as well.
Meanwhile, the pacing is pretty on top, too, with plenty of slower areas followed by faster-paced sequences that then are, again, followed by slower areas that are prettier to look at. At times, I actually wasn’t so sure if I’m actually doing anything or if it’s a cutscene of sorts but the game doesn’t really have too many cut scenes, I’d say. At every moment in the game (apart from some loading screens), you can move around, make sounds, and enjoy the world. There are times when you’ll get to ride a wave for a longer time, which at first is quite satisfying but once you see it happen again, it loses a bit of its magic. Personally, I didn’t like that all that much. Yes, it was satisfying, and this may sound contradicting, but I’d like to play the game as well and have more control over my character… at the same time, though, I’m an incredibly impatient person and Onde is all about Patience. There are times when you’ll have to wait for a cycle to begin or for a cycle to end before you can really do anything. Being impatient or too eager can then result in everything taking longer than before. Hence, waiting a bit longer or going with the flow can be very beneficial and often hasten the solution to a problem. In that way, I feel like Onde can be best described as a journey or a trip of sorts – and instead of eagerly waiting for the goal to appear in your sights, Onde entices you to actually enjoy the journey while it lasts and rather see the journey itself as a goal.
But even so, some areas feel frustrating. I’m not incredibly good at platforming and hence, it might actually be me that is the problem here… but I would have loved to see a feature that lets you skip a level or that shows you how to do it. Near the end here, there was a rather spacey area that I just couldn’t navigate, making me tilt a little bit. I made it through that eventually but it took a while. I then really enjoyed the levels that came afterwards and then near the very end of the game, I got stuck in an encounter that I still find incredibly difficult, personally. I won’t say that the game is difficult. It is not. It challenges you. That’s all. It’s just that right now I’d love to play the game and get that last achievement, completing the journey (yes, contradicting myself here) but the game put this roadblock on my way and I can’t really go past it. My only option now is to quit and then come back to it with a fresh mind… but I’d rather have an option to just skip to the next checkpoint. Just a suggestion because I’m bad at games!
Apart from that though, I loved the experience. Onde is rather minimalistic in its art style but it really works well for the game. The jellyfish you control resembles a speck of light in the darkness and as you explore the intimidating depths, you’ll learn more about yourself and you’ll find out that the darkness is what exactly makes your light shine so bright. Atmospherically, it’s a great game as it has its zen-like moments where you relax and just vibe while the threatening and darker areas leave you in suspense. The visuals, the soundtrack, the puzzling – all of it really works in Onde’s favour and personally, I’d love to see more games like this. If you’re into games like Journey, I’m sure you’ll love this due to its similar vibe. GRIS has had its more challenging platforming bits as well and Onde’s sound-surfing kind of reminded me of that, in a way. The soundtrack is phenomenal, too, though, so I’d recommend giving that a listen, too! Onde’s a great game overall that I highly recommend – and I’ll try to talk about the ending in another post once I’ve beaten this area at another time.