I am generally a big fan of indie games. Yes, I am aware they are no longer the “in” thing in the gaming stratosphere. Yes, I am also aware that even shovelware is being labeled indie just to find a place in digital marketplaces. However, that “indie” charm is starting to fade. Not for the lack of any relevant offering from studios, but rather that indie games are video games. AAA games have been in a constant cycle of disappointments, to the point that preferring indie games over them currently is as beneficial as professing your preference of bottled water over tap water from a third-world country.
The reigning question on my mind, and that has been on my mind for quite some time now, is the validity of a game labeled as indie when it is being published by a AAA studio like Ubisoft. Supporters will be quick to raise their picket signs, claiming that Ubisoft only offered guidance, or that smaller indie studios are still indie even if they were bought by a bigger studio.
Here’s my two cents on the matter: hogwash. If a AAA publisher releases a game, it’s not indie, it simply plays and feels like an indie game. Remember, “indie” is a short form of “Independent,” as in free of financial and creative control.
That says nothing of the quality of the game, however. Ode, regardless of its indie status or lack thereof, is still a game, but is it any good?
It’s worrying when we are contacted to review an otherwise unheard-of game that is exclusively being launched on a very small platform, Ubisoft’s own Uplay. Doing so is akin to signing its death warrant before it had any semblance of time to prove itself as a potential game, which it is, though it is not too good, which justifies why it was launched so discretely.
It’s like Ubisoft is telling us: “Hey, we have this little game that we would like reviewed. It’s nothing special, and we aren’t too hot on it, but we may as well launch it. Also, if it indeed does prove to be worthy, we’ll think of porting it.”
So what’s Ode about? Well, if you can imagine Super Monkey Ball and Flower having a love child, this game would be it. Sounds fun until you discover that your main antagonists are the horrendously floaty controls and the camera that seems to act according to its own guidelines.
A quick hint to all developers and would-be developers who are interested in creating a 3D platformer: If your name is not Nintendo, stop what you are doing and go back to the drawing board. Save yourself the time and money. You will not get it right, and even if you do, it will not be perfect. Just stop. Please?
The charm of Ode lies in the improvised music that will play as you or your collected spheres interact with various parts of the environment. Uncovering the unique sounds that each plant or organic blob creates is interesting, but unless there is a purpose that binds this mechanic, it’s just an auditory experiment. Ode is closer to the latter. While there are levels for you to traverse, the controls are wonky and floaty, and your interest to see the game to its completion will wane. Soon.
Should you play Ode? I’m not sure I can suggest that you do. There are superior games out there, and though it may have its moments–brief as they may be–you are probably better off playing the developer’s previous title Grow Home for a quick fix.
Ode is available on PC. A review code was made available to us via Ubisoft.