OMORI is like a mix of the emotional JRPG Rakuen and the psychological comedy horror Happy Game. And that’s quite the combination.
From American indie team OMOcat, it’s a mental health RPG with advanced and adult themes about depression, suicide, and other such stuff.
It’s a much-celebrated indie game and we finally took the time to catch up with it during a recent week off work.
Battling Inner Demons in the World of OMORI
OMORI is one of many emerging video games about complex mental health topics. The likes of 2018’s Celeste helped got the ball rolling.
When we mention that, it reminds us of a woman we dealt with in an old job. She rounded on us angrily when we suggested video games were therapeutic—she worked for a mental health organisation and we wrote a guest post for her.
She was really narked about it, “Video games are not good for mental health!!” It highlights how some people, particularly the older generations, still seem to think gaming is about 12 year old boys with social problems becoming warped by dumbed down video games packed out with juvenile violence.
All while they could be off getting a girlfriend or paper round.
Anyway, anecdote aside, OMORI is an example of how video games can tackle difficult subject matter with intelligence. They can do it through creativity and developing out intriguing narratives.
The RPG is about Sunny, who uses the alter-ego Omori as his preferred moniker. However, he has hikikomori—acute social withdrawal.
Taking control of him, you wake up in White Space (an infinitely looping void), but enters into a vibrant Headspace world to catch up with his friends.
What happens next is a type of Zelda: Link to the Past (1992) concept. Sonny/Omori wakes into the real world, having found himself to be dreaming. And he begins to alternate between the bizarre Headspace world and reality.
The choices you make during the game will determine the ending. This is an RPG, so there’s a lot of text to wade through! But do so carefully if you want to get an ending that suits your state of mind.
To go with its exploration aspects, you’ve got a unique battle system. It’s turn-based, but includes status effects depending on characters’ psychological makeup.
No denying it’s an intriguing game. OMORI has an Earthbound (1994) on the SNES feel to proceedings, which ’90s gamers will spot immediately.
Its compelling story is essential to its enjoyment and it dares to depict some traumatic events in compassionate fashion.
Those SNES era graphics may hint at a delightful world of juvenile excellence, but the plot begs to differ. This has some serious themes at its heart.
Something reflected by OMORI’s excellent soundtrack (more on this further below), which veers between melancholia and upbeat SNES era JRPG ditties.
OMORI is a slow burner. With 20 hours of gameplay, we had a long slog across it gradually over months. And that’s kind of the best way to play it.
Despite the fairly standard “What the hell do I do?!” confusion commonplace in RPGs like this (i.e. getting a bit stuck), committing to the game is rewarding.
There’s a heartfelt story in there, an intriguing battle system, and it’s true strength is that ability to depict anxiety and depression in an intelligent way.
It’s an ambitious RPG and one we wouldn’t say is a classic. But the above merits make it stand out on the indie game market, especially for anyone dealing with traumatic issues. They’re find it particularly therapeutic.
The gaming press handed it an average of 8/10, but you can see on Steam reviews gamers love it. Currently it’s on “Overwhelmingly Positive”, indicating the impact it’s had on people across the world. And that’s to be celebrated.
You can get OMORI on everything. All consoles, Steam, macOS.
OMORI’s Melancholic Soundtrack
OMORI’s soundtrack was a collaborative work between Pedro Silva, Jami Lynne, and Bo En. They put together 179 tracks altogether for the RPG.
We think it’s a great piece of work and really adds a sense of innocence, illness, and naivety to proceedings. The thing with anxiety and depression is the belief people with these conditions must be a real bore to be around.
Yet these people tend to be the most upbeat, putting on a stoic front and coming across attentive and chipper (attentively chipper, even).
It’s within where they’re struggling. The soundtrack represents that battle, as it’s just a bit off. Upbeat, yet nodding towards something being very wrong.
There’s lots of piano in there along the lines of Chopin, so it’s this merger of some classical piano elements alongside the jangling of SNES era RPGs.
It works very well. Gets you in the right frame of mind for everything, especially with some of the fabulous set pieces you come across in the game.
The graphics may be simple, but they have that elegant 16-bit charm that makes so many Super Nintendo and Mega Drive games a joy to play. And with these sounds to back them up… bonus!
The soundtrack covers melancholia, joy, wonder—all the feels! And it works a treat with a great game, although one we feel still falls a little short of being a classic.
Nonetheless, it’s a notable effort and a worthy entry into the Mental Health Video Games catalogue.