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Ashes of Oahu

Game review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
Ashes of Oahu Game Poster Image
Culture-driven island shooter comes just short of paradise.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Although there's a heavy focus on the beliefs of native Hawaiian mythology and culture, it's still used mainly as little more than a reason to shoot, stab, and otherwise kill bad guys while not getting killed in the process.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Players run into a variety of NPCs with a wide range of personalities, motivations, and personal moral codes (or lack thereof). In the end, all of these people are trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic society, it's just a matter of how far they will go to do so.

Ease of Play

Although it's not particularly difficult, especially for those familiar with third-person shooter games, there's a lot of micromanagement involved. This includes things like skill use, inventory management, reputation with various factions, etc. Technical hiccups can occasionally throw off the flow of the game.

Violence

Violence is constant, with plenty of killing and death but surprisingly little onscreen blood. But there are still intensely graphic scenes, including coming across blood-soaked corpses and seeing a character's face getting carved up and mutilated before being turned into a minion.

Sex
Language

The game's dialogue occasionally makes use of mild profanity, such as "bastard", "damn", "hell", etc.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ashes of Oahu is an open world, third person shooter game available for download on Windows-based PCs. The game's set on a post-apocalyptic Hawaii, after evil forces have been released and the islands have been battered by massive floods. The story has a heavy focus on Hawaiian mythology, culture, and beliefs, though much of it is adapted in such a way as to provide a backdrop for the fighting and a source for the supernatural powers. Violence is central to the action, with players fighting using various melee weapons, firearms, and magic powers against brainwashed and possessed humans, as well as other undead and/or evil demonic forces. Although there's little blood shown when actually fighting, there are still scenes with corpses shown in pools of blood or characters getting carved up and mutilated. There's also occasional mild swearing, such as "bastard," "damn," and "hell." Otherwise, there's no inappropirate content included.

User Reviews

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What's it about?

In the not too distant future of ASHES OF OAHU, the Hawaiian Islands have been ravaged by floods, leaving its surviving people to try and rebuild. Unfortunately, an ancient evil has also risen, determined to reclaim the land for itself. You are Kai, an unknowing descendant from a long line of powerful warriors charged with protecting Hawaii and its people. You're pulled into this supernatural war after an attack by occult ravagers leave you on the brink of death and your son is taken prisoner. Guided by your aumakua spirit guide, you must unlock your potential and tap into the mana of the island to save what's most important to you. Will you go it alone, or recruit others to fight by your side? How far will you go and what are you willing to sacrifice? Every choice you make dictates how your story unfolds. The island of Oahu reacts to your decisions, and its fate lies solely in your hands.

Is it any good?

Video games often take certain inspiration or thematic elements from different cultures and mythologies, but this one falls just short of fully taking advantage of its settings. Ashes of Oahu takes influence from native Hawaiian beliefs as the backdrop of the story. While it’s interesting to discover some of the terms and ideas that make up the mythology, it's something that's not really expanded on in any real meaningful way. Instead, it winds up feeling like an afterthought used to cover the same ol' supernatural gaming tropes in a different, and oftentimes confusing, wrapper. Without any additional context, phrases like "aumakua," "pono," "mana," and "aina" are just labels for guide, karma, magic, etc. On the one hand, the game wants to use the Hawaiian culture to stand out, but on the other, it never quite dives deep enough to give the story unique substance.

Ashes of Oahu is set in the huge open world of the titular Hawaiian isle of Oahu, but it still feels small due to repetitive textures. As big as the island is, it generally cycles through the same three or four basic looks. There are a few interesting twists on the standard shooter formula, the most fun of which is Kai's ability to shapeshift into various animal forms. But these forms serve very specific functions in very specific situations, leaving the bulk of the action falling back to its standard, somewhat generic action movie motif. Even the freedom of choice and balancing of relationships with core factions feels a bit forced. Most of the time, Kai winds up coming off like a bit of a jerk no matter which side of the moral compass you follow. Ashes of Oahu feels like a game with a lot of potential, but one that never quite lives up to what it's truly capable of.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the impact of the violence in Ashes of Oahu affected by the way that violence is shown during combat? Is it possible to be too graphic without constant bloodshed?

  • What are some of the ways that different cultures are portrayed in games, TV, and film? How can different cultures and beliefs be represented in a positive manner, and how can it inspire people to learn more?

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