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Review: Oscura: Second Shadow – A brilliant, atmospheric platformer

by Wessel Minnie (Sillicur)  Posted Thursday, September 04, 2014 1:30:12 PM


Oscura: Second Shadow is a 2D platformer and is based on the 2011 prequel called Oscura, developed by Chocolate Liberation Front and presented by Surprise Attack Games. The game is a brilliant, atmospheric love letter to old school platformers designed specifically for mobile gaming.

The Story – An unlikely hero

The game takes place in a gothic-styled world called the Driftlands. The player takes on the role of Oscura, the keeper of the world’s Lighthouse, possessing a mysterious glowing hand and no fighting ability, he is an unlikely hero.

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An evil, shadowy creature sets out on a path of destruction, stealing the Lighthouse’s Aurora Stone, which is a crystal that keeps the lighthouse lit. In doing so, the creature plunges the entire world into darkness, as the Driftlands now face darkness and utter destruction unless the stone is reclaimed.

During the theft, the creature accidentally drops the Aurora Stone, shattering it into thousands of small pieces. Oscura, as the keeper of the Lighthouse, must set out to recover the Aurora Stone shards in order to save the world. While the backstory is surely interesting, it is a shame that the developers did not incorporate the story throughout the game’s 20 levels and I would love to see a few story images between levels in a future update.  

Graphics and sound – Atmospheric darkness

Oscura: Second Shadow is brilliant in its graphical design, creating a dark, atmospheric environment through menacing backdrops that provide a deep and sinister gaming experience. Aesthetically, the game looks much like Limbo, with big silhouetted objects and an imposing landscape.

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For me, the best feature of the game is the art style of Oscura himself, a silhouette figure in a silhouetted world looks so absolutely wonderful. The only sources of light come from the hand of Oscura and the background.

The splash of color in the backgrounds looks fantastic and changes color throughout the levels which creates a dynamic atmosphere. This little touch of variety within the game truly makes the graphical elements shine.

This atmosphere, coupled with perfectly smooth animations of Oscura, the environment and the dark, menacing creatures you encounter create a living, breathing world that I could completely get mesmerized by, which is very a very difficult thing for a mobile game to achieve.

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The soundtrack is haunting, beautiful and fits in perfectly with the dark atmosphere of the Driftlands. There are only a limited number of tracks throughout the levels, by my count five, yet each and every one of them just stuck in my head.

Sound effects and enemies screeching in the darkness are incorporated throughout the levels while background noises finish of a brilliant audio experience that works incredibly well with the exceptionally fun and responsive gameplay.

Gameplay and Controls – Exceptionally fun and responsive

The gameplay revolves around running and jumping to avoid any contact with enemies, traversing a dangerous environment filled with spikes, pits, moving platforms and crumbling ledges to get to the end of each level, all while collecting shards and cogs. Although simplistic in nature, the gameplay is exceptionally fun and responsive, making Oscura: Second Shadow an addictive experience.

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Shards are used to fuel Oscura’s one power, which is to temporarily slow down time, which is accompanied by the screen turning black and white. I found the time slow ability to be pivotal in getting past later levels, which become more and more difficult. However, players should attempt not to overuse the time slow ability, especially in less difficult situations, as it runs out quickly. I found that I used it too much, and then when I actually needed it, the ability power was depleted, leaving me to die a horrible, dark death.

The game only offers 20 levels, yet replay value is added through the fact that when you get to the end of the level, your score will be tallied based on how many shards you have collected, how many cogs you have found, and how long it took you to get to the end. You will earn additional points for getting through a level without dying.

Players can earn up to four stars for getting all shards and cogs, finishing within a certain amount of time, and escaping the dangerous level without losing a life. Getting all four stars is exceptionally difficult. After running one of the first level 15 times, I finally completed it with four stars and I am currently attempting to finish more, as I am completely addicted to the game at the moment.

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The player controls Oscura using the left and right buttons on the left side of the screen and the jump button on the right side of the screen. Tapping the jump button while in mid-air to get higher, which I found to be extremely handy, getting to those high ledges or jumping across wide gaps. When the time slower power is ready, it will appear just below the jump button to let you know it is ready.

In Oscura: Second Shadow, a player relies on skill and timing to get through the levels. Therefore, responsive controls are a must and I am ecstatic to say that the controls work flawlessly. Game controls in mobile gaming has been a big frustration for me from time to time, yet not once did I feel that frustration, as every missed jump or quick death was my fault, not that of the controls.  

These responsive controls make the gameplay even more fun, as completing a level or trying to get to four stars is completely up to the player’s skill and not some random movement lag or failed touch input, which is a wonderful and refreshing experience.

Closing Thoughts

The game is a testament to how fun and engaging mobile gaming can be if done correctly. Oscura: Second Shadow delivers a great backstory, exceptional visuals and sound that create a ton of atmosphere. Difficult and engaging gameplay coupled with flawless, responsive controls finish off a near perfect game.

I only wish the game had more of a story throughout the levels and that there were more levels to enjoy. The 20 levels can be completed in around 3-5 hours depending on how good a player is, yet the gameplay is so fun that I found myself chasing that perfect level run long after I have completed the game. Therefore, I believe it is well worth a small price tag.  

Oscura: Second Shadow has been recently released for Android and iOS. The game costs R37 to download and can be found on the Playstore here and iTunes here.

It requires a small download of around 27mb as well as Android OS version 2.3 and up, so it works on a wide variety of devices. During my time with the game I used my Nexa Orion 10.1, a powerful yet affordable Quad Core 10 Inch Tablet to run, jump and survive in this brilliant, atmospheric platformer.

Score: 9/10

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd  

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