For such a small game, Onde is a difficult game to pin down. The game, published last year by Mixtvision, hovers somewhere between rhythm game, puzzle platformer, and interactive song visualizer. It hasn’t garnered too much attention since its launch, which surprises me a bit, considering how beautiful and interesting the game is. While probably technically a platformer, the movement and puzzles in the game are very fresh and fun, although the game does not always pace the time between them terribly well.
The first thing the game makes sure to convey to you as the player is just how gorgeous the game is. The opening frame shows a black and white tree, made of the main rings in the game, and the camera pans around the tree, highlighting all of the beautiful elements of the game’s visuals. Every moment of this game is carefully crafted to look as impressive as possible. In addition to having fantastic color palates, lighting, and effects, Onde frequently plays with the scale of the game as well, tracking in and out of the scene, to show either the intricate details within the grand landscapes or the grand landscapes surrounding all the intricate details. This scale also impacts the pace of the gameplay as well, as the player moves more slowly around the larger, scaled-up rings (because the player is smaller in comparison), and they move much faster through the clusters of tiny rings.
To explain the gameplay a bit, the game has the player take control of a little token somewhat in the shape of a four-leaf clover. The player’s token clings to the edge of brightly colored rings and can move around the circumference of them. The only way to change rings initially is to come into contact with other rings, transferring your control from one ring to another. As the player comes close to certain nodes, though, the leaves other their clover may move from the token to the node, and pressing the corresponding button on the controller will send out a ring from the node that the player can then cling to. The first few minutes of the game have you moving around a large tree made of these rings, before going into a kind of “Don’t touch the bad thing” section, where the player uses the mechanics so far to move through a more restricted area, avoiding the constricting walls and other bad objects.
The game further evolves this gameplay as the game progresses, introducing new kinds of rings and nodes, such as rings that expand until they touch the player, rings that expand and contract rhythmically, among other kinds as well. All of these different kinds of rings, alongside a few other mechanics the game adds in over time, create the core system of Onde, which centers around using the rings to solve puzzles that allow the player to move through the world. The game is very linear, and each puzzle has just about one solution, but the game is, generally speaking, paced pretty slowly, considering the potential that this system has for old-fashioned platforming speed-run levels.
This slower pacing stems from the importance that Onde places on the score of the game. The pace of movement in the game always closely follows the pace of the score, which shifts between fast and slow-paced segments every few minutes, to the point where you could almost mistake the game for a rhythm game. While the movement in the game does, at times, match up to the beat of the music, because the puzzles can, at any point, stop the player’s forward progression, the rhythm is more a suggestion of the pace than it is an actual gameplay guide. This isn’t a negative, I should mention, I just find it very fascinating the way that the game bakes the music so tightly into the experience of the game. At times, even elements in the game do match up to the beat of the song, one-to-one, though the game never requires the player to move at that pace.
For as interesting as Onde looks and sounds on paper, it does often struggle to actually grab the attention of the player. A large part of Onde involves the player more or less just kind of watching their token float through the ocean-like environment of the game. This is great the first time because the visuals, sounds, and pace all make the experience very pleasant, but these segments often happen at the start of puzzles in the game, meaning that if you need to restart a puzzle, you will need to rewatch the intro every time. I timed one of the longer puzzle openings I experienced early in the game, and the opening alone took a little over 20 seconds, which doesn’t sound like a terribly long time, but considering that the entire game only takes up to a few hours to beat and I had to redo the puzzle at least a dozen times, the length of the game really starts to pad itself very quickly.
Aside from that, the only other issue I particularly encountered with Onde had to do with some of the puzzles, which I found didn’t always adequately communicate what needed to be done, or sometimes the camera wouldn’t show all of the important elements of the puzzle at once, essentially requiring you to move in a random direction and hope you find what you need. These are just somewhat the experience of puzzle games, though, so they didn’t bother me too much, and no puzzle took enough time for me to really get frustrated with the game.
All of Onde’s elements come together pretty neatly to create a nice, tight, experience that you can pretty easily beat in one sitting. The visuals, sounds, gameplay, and concept are all very unique and interesting, and the overall ocean/nature aesthetic makes the game very interesting. It’s not going to blow your socks off, and the relatively short playtime might make it a bit of a weak value to some players, but Onde accomplishes everything it wants to very well, and if you can play it, I’d recommend giving it a go.
Score: 7 out of 10
Reviewed on PC