Olija is an action-adventure platformer with a stylized look reminiscent of classics like Another World and Hyper Light Drifter. Developed by Skeleton Crew Studio and published by Devolver Digital, the title is an homage to cinematic adventure games and the swashbuckling genre. You play as a young lord named Faraday who is stranded in an unknown land after a shipwreck. He soon finds out the area is hostile. Using a mysterious harpoon he comes across, Faraday must traverse multiple levels in search of his missing crew and a way back home.
If everything is trying to kill me, I must decimate them in self-defense
Early on, Olija establishes itself as a violent game. Even at the start, when Faraday is marooned in the land of Terraphage with nothing but his fists, he just beats the crap out of monsters who explode into bloody bits. Throughout his journey, Faraday will come across other weapons, including a sword, crossbow, and shotgun, which are a pleasure to use. These come in handy while fighting the Rottenwood Clan, whose members grow in difficulty the further you progress. By far the most important armament you discover, however, is the harpoon.
Faraday’s harpoon is in a class on its own. Not only is it a proficient weapon, but it is also used as a teleportation device (and something even cooler by the midway point, but I’ll leave that as a surprise). Attach it to an enemy or grappling point, and you can teleport to their location with the press of a button. It’s important to throw the harpoon into open ceilings, too, because there may be hidden collectibles waiting for you (ships in bottles and record players). Also, a word of advice to fellow players, since the game does not bring these two factors up: One, you can build your combo to such a point that your next teleporting harpoon attack will cause major damage. Two, you can perform a roll dodge with the ZR button.
Brief moments of tranquility
Olija isn’t just combating and platforming. Your home base, Oaktide, is a place where you can rest and talk to the local inhabitants. You can also upgrade your health, pay a boatman to search for rare treasure, mix powder to create shotgun shells, and ask the Hatmaker to create special caps for you. The headgear is especially helpful since each piece has its own attributes you can equip before sailing to a new location. Do you wear the hat that protects against acid and deals poison damage to foes, or equip the one that spins your harpoon like a saw blade? The deadly choice is yours. It’s imperative you visit Oaktide every chance you get to capitalize on its many offers.
Besides Oaktide, there are also areas where you seek the titular Olija, who returns to her people after you free her early on. Faraday is enamored with the royal lady, and she provides vital keys you need to progress. The sections featuring Olija are a welcome breather from the more chaotic action of the main levels. You get to witness her subjects’ aversion to you and your cursed harpoon, play a stealth section just to get a glimpse of her, and enjoy a particularly fun activity I won’t spoil here. It’s well implemented into the main game.
Not all smooth sailing
There are some issues I have with Olija. For starters, I have no idea what the aforementioned collectibles are for or if they even impact the ending. Even worse, some sections become sealed after you complete them, meaning if you missed an item, you’re out of luck. This is a problem for someone like me who seeks out 100% completion.
Secondly, Faraday’s journey is too short and too easy. Gamers can complete the game in a matter of hours and not encounter significant difficulty outside the final boss. This isn’t to say the various enemies, minibosses, and main bosses aren’t fun to fight or have fascinating designs, because they do. Especially the main antagonist, who gave me the willies. It’s just the game would be a lot stronger if it were longer and had extra difficulty options.
Lastly, these are more minor nitpicks, but the title screen stutters and the last boss battle crashed on me twice. Thankfully, Devolver is aware of reviewers’ issues, and a patch may soon arrive that will address these problems.
An intriguing escapade through an unfamiliar place
At the end of the day, Olija is a voyage that is quite a blast, even though it ends quickly. Swapping out various weapons while building a combo that ends in a devastating harpoon explosion is quite a thrill. Additionally, the denizens and missing crewmates you find along the way contribute to a mysterious tale that will keep you guessing as to what is truly going on. And I enjoy any title that brings the seminal Another World to mind. As long as you don’t mind a compact trek that is a bit on the easy side, you’ll find Olija is well worth a look.
A review code was provided by the publisher.