Describing Onde in words is more tricky than watching it in action. Think about riding bubbles and soundwaves that trigger musical sound effects as you ride them. It is a unique and fun approach to movement that stands out but its the way Onde synergises everything that left the bigger impression with me.
You control a microbe like character who can only move when tethered to orbs. You can move all the way around them – gravity is usually sucking you inwards – and then as you grave another orbs wall you can move off them. Following you around are some weird jellyfish butterfly creatures and these are mapped to the buttons on your controller. These creatures will sit inside slots in various orbs mapped to your controller. Press their button and a blast wave of sound pulses out and as it touches you, you’ll be swept away on it propelling you forward. You’ll be using this to ride across gaps, aiming yourself to land on another orb before the wave fades away.
Very quickly Onde ups the complexity of its puzzles and constantly uses this same ride the wave mechanic in different ways. You’ll need to trigger various waves to glide across different puzzle corridors. Then some waves will pull you rather than push, meaning you can catapult yourself to new places. Jumping is a thing in the game but its usually quite tame and only really kicks into use properly until the second half of the game. Chase sequences and bosses exist in Onde too but it is often more about survival rather than fighting. What I love about this, is that often the game springs into movement and it feels like Spirograph come to life. All the circular orbs you speed past are such simple art structures on their own but layered together – its quite mesmerising.
Usually when you get a game that is all about music or a journey, the gameplay element is minimised or ignored. Onde is easy to pick up but it certainly hasn’t left gameplay behind – this is a proper platform puzzle game. It is also extremely immersive. The graphics are stunning – especially when you end up in lush alien gardens and oceans. Its bright, colourful and vibrant. Add to that the musical quality of everything and Onde has a synergy to it that you just don’t get elsewhere. There are moments where pulses of music are taking place in front and behind you like a rhythmic graphical disco and then you can press buttons to add notes to the mix. All whilst platforming too. You can tell this has taken 5 years of development.
My only minor niggle I had was that although most of the game is very intuitive, a couple of times I either managed to trigger an end state where I died and respawned in a puzzle after I’d died or I respawned in sections where I didn’t understand where to go next. This was rare though. Checkpoints usually set you backwards but on a few occasions it jumped me forward!
Onde is ultimately a stunning game. Memorable, fantastical and abstract enough to be a curious oddity whilst giving enough of a framework to not be too weird to alienate mass audiences – this deserves a lot of love.
Review copy provided by developer.
Onde is a synergy of music and movement in an ethereal world you just want to explore. Beautiful.
Perfect synergy of music and movement.
Unique gameplay that feels intuitive.
One simple game mechanic that constantly evolves.
A few rare occasions where what you need to do next doesn't feel obvious.
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