From small indie team Skeleton Crew Studio in Kyoto, Japan, we have the magnificent gem that is Olija (pronounced as “Oh-lee-ya”).
It’s styled like an Amiga classic, using 8-bit graphics and archaic gameplay elements. All retrofitted with some fancy modern gaming mechanics to make it a most excellent platforming experience. Rather!
Ominous Oddities in Olija
Launched in January of 2021, you can harpoon this thing onto your Steam account or PS4, Switch, and Xbox One. Whatever floats your boat.
The plot is a fanciful romp. You take control of the fisherman Faraday, who becomes shipwrecked on the mysterious country of Terraphage. He tools himself up with a superpowered harpoon and must try to leave hostile location and return home.
Oh hey, there’s a story trailer for just that thing! How very handy.
Olija steeps itself in a sense of mystery, with many intertextual nods to classic forms of literature and video games.
It’s no surprise Skeleton Crew Studio’s founder, Thomas Olsson, based many of the game elements on Herman Melville’s classic Moby-Dick; or, The Whale (1851). Prince of Persia was also a major inspiration and, as we’ve noted.
You can see from its first 18 minutes, helpfully provided by IGN below, the level of atmospherics and attention to display here.
Basically, it’s a hack-and-slash type jaunt at its heart. And one that reminds us a bit of the outstanding roguelike Dead Cells.
But we found Olija to be a great little game in its own right.
Yes, it’s only around two hours long. But as we’ve said various times on this site before, that’s one of the reasons why we play indie games. We don’t have much free time. So, these fantastic slices of creative gaming action are perfect to cram in.
And Olija’s beautiful mix of atmospherics, alongside a homage to pioneering Amiga games of the early ’90s, is rather fantastic to harpoon in the face.
Olija’s Mysterious and Fantabulous Soundtrack
Olija is yet another indie game with a fantastic soundtrack by Thomas Olsson. This one really adds a lot of heft to proceedings.
We’ve earmarked the above clip so if you click play, it’ll start on one of the numbers we particularly like—The Boatman.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any individual posts for each composition. But the whole soundtrack is there above and it’s rather impressive.
There are elements of lo-fi hip-hop, but into the mix is added all sorts of world music, including a Japanese saxophonist and shakuhachi player (that’s an Asian longitudinal end-blown flute).
It’s pretty orchestral in its sweep and, yes, it was all composed and arranged by Olsson. Who designed and created the rest of the game.
As incredible as that is as a creative effort, it’s really not uncommon in the indie game scene these days. But always worth flagging up the talent.