Ancients of Ooga

ancientsofooga
What we liked:
+ The storytelling scenes
+ Exploding chickens, eating Oogani, puking rocks
What we didn't like:
- Weak puzzles
- Co-op is offline only
- Unnecessary foreground and background
DEVELOPER: J. Kentworthy Entertainment   |   PUBLISHER: Xbox Live Arcade   |   RELEASE: 06/30/2010

An homage to god-like power and mastication.

Ancients of Ooga is spawned by NinjaBee, better known for their Keflings, and has some of the same quirky charm and fascination with god-like power. As the great spirit you possess different Oogani to direct their actions thereby solving puzzles, completing tasks and even the occasional sacrifice – of the same Oogani you possess.

According to the Oogani pleading for your intercession they got themselves into a bit of a pickle with some nasty folk called the Booli. After getting drunk on slugs the Booli brought them, they destroyed their own chiefs and ended up as slaves. Now, the slug munchers want your help in resurrecting those same chiefs so they can use their power for an emancipation effort.

A side scrolling puzzle platformer you use the Oogani you possess to free yet more Oogani, collect items, carry out sacrifices and pull levers to access additional areas. There is a bit of depth that allows you to hop from front to back on the levels, but it isn’t particularly well represented and can cause needless confusion from time to time.

Swapping possession between Oogani, however, is a breeze and your primary puzzle solving tool (it even allows you to float around the screen and check out areas you need to gain access to). As you collect items and complete tasks for the various Oogani they’ll believe that you’re the demon spirit they asked for and join your cause, putting more Oogani at your disposal for possession. The object is to solve all the puzzles and bring the tribes and their respective skills together. Each different type of Oogani is suited to particular tasks, like the Harvest Oogani that can survive walks through brambles hazardous to other Oogani , or the Firelings that can breathe fire and brave smoking hot surfaces.

There are some items to collect like bones, and spices so that you can eat less pleasant things. You see, all the items you pick up the Oogani are willing to put in their mouths. Many of them they’ll even swallow, and anything you pick up and chew on while you navigate the platforms can then be puked out at will – including other Oogani – miraculously unmasticated.

Using levers, gates and ladders, Ancients of Ooga is like an easy Toki Tori. Puzzles aren’t particularly puzzling, and the approach here seems to be quantity over complexity as the downloadable packs nearly a dozen hours of gameplay at $10. You can tackle levels with a friend in splitscreen co-op, but it slows the game down graphically and practically – it’s just plain hard to get around with a buddy.

Graphics are solid, but many early directives appear in flashing low-contrast text that is nigh unreadable, and at times the music is downright annoying. The points system is a bit obscured by the puzzle solving. You pick up points as you complete levels and are awarded more for things like minimizing the number of times you die as well as picking up items. Since dying and finding different ways to kill an Oogani was half the fun of the puzzle solving I abandoned high score as a personal goal.

Ancients of Ooga’s winning moments are playful and charming, but its low points will put you to sleep. The vibrant sillyness just isn’t enough to make you want to keep playing, and all too soon I was wondering not “What’s next?” but, “How much longer?” When just after you’ve had a romp blowing up some chickens you’re stuck completing a level that has you fetching potatoes, it strikes me that this game has filler. Still, you did get to chew, puke and blow up a chicken.

Review copy provided by publisher.