OCO arrives on PC after spending a couple of years building up a cult following on mobile. Having not played the mobile version, I wasn’t aware of just how artistic, engrossing and exacting OCO was going to be. Several hours later – I’ve learnt my lesson. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
OCO is a one button (or click) platformer. You control your block in a forever rotating circular level. Each level has yellow blocks called bits to collect and once you’ve got them all, the level is over. Most levels are micro levels. Everything is fit into a single screen and looks like a cute mash up of Thomas Was Alone, Maddening Overload and Tron. You must be exacting in your timing of that one button though as these levels are tricky to complete. Whilst the visuals have a beautiful clean feel to them, as you move music is made too. Bounce pads trigger a note depending on where on the level they are triggered and it evokes Sound Shapes vibes as you create a minimalist synth track moving around the level. Utilising walls to bounce off of and move in the opposite direction is a key mechanic you’ll be using from the get go too. The platforming feels spot on and the timing is precise enough to punish the sloppy without feeling over the top.
Each coloured block in the levels represents a game mechanic. Blue are bounce blocks, red crash blocks (insta-death), green boost blocks (which boost your jumping capabilities too) and orange let you hang underneath like a monkey. There are also glide blocks, fade blocks and warp blocks. Each mechanic is introduced across 15 level worlds to show you how they work and can be interlinked with the other blocks. Completing a level gives you some credit, as does beating or matching its time limit and click goal. This means speed, precision and forward planning is key to get maximum points. The main mode acts just as much as a tutorial as it does a main game because once you’ve unlocked enough of OCO’s main story to get a good understanding of the game, over 77,000 user built levels await you!
Online is teeming with user levels and you’ll need to play OCO to earn credits to unlock different types of user created levels. You’ll start off small with the smaller, easier levels and then as you conquer them, build your own and complete daily challenges, you’ll be able to unlock the harder tiers. Here, users have shown little to no mercy and the levels are extremely punishing. The online search for levels allows easy curation too with the ability to search by difficulty, type and by best rated creators too. As you complete levels you can choose to heart them like a thumbs up of approval and gamers actively do so, letting the cream rise up. You could spend all day just playing levels as the chime in and I was never bored or wanting for more.
The huge jewel in the crown is OCO’s level creator tool though. It is so simple to pick up and put together something playable. It works like colouring in blocks in a painting by numbers book – select your block type and away you go. Once you’re finished, drop in the bits where you want them and test the level. As OCO is all about rotation it does take a few tries to make sure you’ve made a level that can be completed but the barrier to entry for experimentation is so low, I was hooked. Here OCO’s currency plays a vital role too. Each block type, colour palette and any visual customisation has to be unlocked either through playing other levels or receiving hearts from levels you’ve uploaded. The whole game is focused on ensuring you mix with the online level crowd and take part in the community so that only then you can gain all the bonuses to make your level stand out. It is a model that largely works although lots of very cheesable easy levels are out there as low hanging fruit.
One oddity that blew me away was how other players and creators have made artistic levels. The colours are turned into painting, faces, rainbows, skulls, animals and so on. Others focused on trying to make music using all the sounds the block made as you move across them. Then I found the ‘auto’ level section – levels that you just watch unfold. These are beautiful and remind me of Spirograph. This is because as you move, a small vapour trail is left behind you and players are making cute patterns and fancy calligraphy with it.
OCO is easily one of the best games I’ve played in 2021. Engrossing, artistic and addictive, I was hooked immediately. It is simple to understand and difficult to master and anyone with an itch for level creation can spend anything from 5 minutes to 5 hours perfecting some of the most satisfying platformer levels I’ve come across in ages. Do not sleep on this absolute gem. Get it now and spin the wheel.
Review copy provided by developer.
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