An Eye, Forever Peering
HIGH Pleasantly compact and poignant.
LOW The planet location system is too vague and useless.
WTF I missed 40% of the content? Where was it?
In the far-flung future, humanity is living among the stars and exploring the universe. Unfortunately, the gene pool has become corrupted, and scientists need to add fresh genetic material to fix the damage done by inbreeding. The problem? They’ve been among the stars so long, they’ve forgotten that Earth was real, and they have absolutely no idea where it would be – if it’s not a myth, that is. In this context, the player takes control of a helper robot designed to use a telescope to search the universe for the birthplace of humanity.
In general, Opus is split into two parts. The first is the narrative — every so often, the robot will have a dialogue with the scientists on the ship, and of course, things happen along the way that will upset the apple cart. I found these dialogues to be simple and brief, but they were effective at what they were going for, and they do a good job of telling the tale. There are no plot choices to be made and it only unfolds one way, but I enjoyed it.
The other major part of Opus is actually scanning the universe for planets that could be Earth, and it’s here where the game falls into some trouble.
While Opus sticks to its premise and stays focused on it, the problem is that simply looking around a starfield isn’t very enjoyable to begin with. Then, as the game goes on, it goes from being non-additive to something that’s actually a drag on the experience.
At first, the player gets coordinates which are fairly easy to follow when looking through the telescope, although it’s made more complicated by the fact that the player can’t see the entire map at once. While it’s possible to zoom in and out a tiny bit, the player is generally seeing the galaxy with tunnel vision, one screen’s worth of real estate at a time.
As the story goes on, Opus begins to add complicating factors to the search. Filters are added, then it’s general nudges, and eventually the player needs to identify things by visual matching. Since the player can never see more than a tiny patch of space at once, it’s too easy to get disoriented and lose position. It may be analogous to using a real telescope, but it’s not a great mechanic and not engaging.
Clearly the developers knew they were in trouble with the searching aspect of Opus because after the game senses the player has been lost for a while, it provides hints that point the way to where they’re supposed to look. I ended up relying on these hints constantly, but they’re just a Band-Aid covering up the problem. In lieu of more engaging systems here, I would’ve preferred that they let the player go through this part of the experience with as little friction as possible and get them back to the story quickly, since that’s what the real draw is.
Opus is a small-scale experience, and I find that to be totally appropriate. While the story didn’t end on the strongest of notes, I enjoyed the ride and thought it was not only a positive experience, but a great fit for the Switch. However, I was only tolerating the telescope portions in order to find out where the plot was going, so basically half of this game was a wash. Since the entire thing can be completed in two hours or so, it’s not too hard to put up with actually searching for Earth, but fans of small games and indies should expect to show up to Opus for the narrative and nothing else.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Flyhigh Works and Sigono Inc. It is currently available on Switch, iOS, Android and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via paid download and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 2 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E. While the specifics could not be found on the ESRB’s site, I would say that it’s appropriate for anyone. There is no salty language, no sexual situations and no violence of any kind. It’s just a sweet story.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All dialogue is subtitled and there are no auditory cues needed for play. It’s fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:
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